City of Clinton, YMCA and others partner to feed the community

Clinton High School students build the fueling station structure.

Residents in Clinton and its surrounding areas have limited opportunities to be active and obtain nutritious food, however, local leaders are in the process of changing that. Wholespire recently awarded the City of Clinton a healthy eating and active living (HEAL) mini-grant to build a fueling station housed at the YMCA of Clinton.

According to their mini-grant application, the City of Clinton is partnering with the YMCA of Clinton to create an onsite fueling station that will supply nutritious foods to the community free of charge. They recruited students from Clinton High School to build and assemble the shelving unit located at the YMCA. High-quality and nutritious food will be gathered, gleaned, and purchased from local food partners including local farms, grocers, and donors.

“The most common complaint shared by guests of the YMCA is the high expense of food, especially healthy food. They try to balance a healthy lifestyle by working out, but more often than not, they will go home and eat something that is not very healthy,” said City of Clinton Community Relations Specialist Lacresha Dowdy.

Residents have access to only two grocery stores, but they are both on one side of town, which puts many of people at a disadvantage in accessing affordable or good-quality fresh food. Data from the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control indicates that Laurens County has a 26.2% higher food insecurity rate among children and 24.1% among adults when compared to the state average. Health outcomes are also poor with high rates of diabetes (13.8%), obesity (38.5%) and elevated child BMI demonstrated in school surveillance data.

Clinton High School students are ready to get started on the fueling station structure.

Dowdy added, “The data tells us that the problems of hunger and food insecurity and the epidemic of diabetes, obesity and obesity-related chronic disease have become daunting concerns. The statistics speak for themselves in that 100% of middle and high school students are eligible for free or reduced lunch; and 13% of adults record having limited access to healthy foods, higher than 9% rank for SC.”

Providing free food to the community isn’t the only purpose of the fueling station project. In addition to providing produce and other food items from their farm, LushAcres Farm will allow gleaning field trips for Laurens County School District students. This experience will allow youth to be more conscience of healthy food environments and increase their understanding of the larger food system.

Another component of the project includes educating the community on nutrition, proper food preparation, kitchen safety and cooking skills provided by Clemson Youth Learning Institute SNAP-Ed. Classes will be held for youth, teens, and adults.

The City of Clinton is one of 13 communities that received funding for projects that support populations in need of community resources like the fueling station, playground equipment, school gardens, and hydration stations.

The HEAL Mini-Grant initiative is made possible by a grant from the BlueCross® BlueShield® of South Carolina Foundation, an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association.