Food Desert Neighborhoods in Greenville Impacted by COVID-19, Increased Food Insecurity

Believe it or not, food deserts do exist in urban areas. Why? Because all neighborhoods in cities are not equal. Grocery stores don’t want to put down roots in low-income neighborhoods because they fear they won’t be successful. In Greenville, Mill Village Farms is changing that landscape and stepping up their efforts to make sure residents get fresh, locally grown produce during the coronavirus pandemic.

“With the Eat Smart Move More Rapid Response Mini-Grant funding, we were able to purchase the produce for 300 FoodShare boxes. Each box contains enough produce for a family of four for about two weeks,” said Dan Weidenbenner, executive director at Mill Village Farms.

They partnered with 24 partner sites in priority locations throughout Greenville County and their drive-thru site at the United Way of Greenville County to distribute an average of 1,300 FoodShare boxes in the month of May to SNAP participants and those who self-identified as in need. In addition, they gained at least 20 new partner agencies (churches and community organizations) throughout Greenville County who are interested in partnering to distribute FoodShare boxes in the community.

“Since receiving the Eat Smart Move More Rapid Response Mini-Grant, we have raised an additional $100,000 through a virtual culinary concert fundraiser and have partnered with produce suppliers to distribute 500 additional fresh produce boxes per week through the USDA Farmer to Families Food Box Program,” said Weidenbenner.

Mill Village Farms transforms vacant properties into bountiful gardens to grow locally sourced produce for communities that often have limited access to fresh and local foods. Their goal is to empower youth with experiences in basic job skills, sustainable agriculture, and entrepreneurship. The produce grown in their gardens is shared with youth and residents and used in FoodShare boxes. For more information, visit the Mill Village Farms website.

FoodShare South Carolina is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to ensure access to fresh produce for everyone in all communities. They want to enhance the quality of life by creating access to fresh affordable food, quality cooking and skills education. There are five locations around the state: Columbia, Greenville, Orangeburg, Spartanburg, and Lee County. For more information about FoodShare South Carolina and their locations, visit their website.