Lowcountry Food Bank to buy produce with grant

rlurye@islandpacket.comFebruary 9, 2014 

For the Lowcountry Food Bank, finding fresh vegetables can involve a lot of casting about.

Its trucks scan the region, picking up overstocked or nearly-wilting produce, and some local farmers donate to the Yemassee center. But a steady stream of nutritious food is never guaranteed.

A recent grant aims to change that.

The Coastal Community Foundation's Beaufort Fund has awarded the food bank $13,000 to purchase 65,000 pounds of food from Beaufort-area farmers. That produce will feed more than 41,000 people in Beaufort, Jasper, Colleton and Hampton counties, food bank CEO Pat Walker said.

"This grant means so much to us because the produce we will purchase will be shared in an area of the Lowcountry that truly knows realities of hunger," Walker said.

Thirty-one percent of those who will be served through the program are under 18, said food bank communications manager Holly Shinn. Seventeen percent are older than 65.

The food bank received the award Friday, along with 63 other grantees. The foundation considered applications from more than 100 organizations, regional vice president Edna Crews said.

Crews said the foundation was drawn to the food bank's ability to support other local nonprofit groups, such as the food pantries, churches, soup kitchens and BackPack Buddies programs that distribute items directly to individuals in need.

And since the economic downturn, that need has skyrocketed 90 percent, Shinn said.

"Everyone deserves access to healthy, fresh food," she said.

Purchasing vegetables straight from small-scale farmers also stretches the food bank's community impact, she said, by supporting local agriculture. And with the items making their way from ground to table, thousands of residents will enjoy not only fresh food, but seasonal choices, Shinn said -- especially potatoes, zucchini, squash and tomatoes.

"Typically the foods you can buy on a much more limited budget tend to be the shelf-stable items," she said. "This is really a treat for someone."

Follow reporter Rebecca Lurye at twitter.com/IPBG_Rebecca.

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