Food insecurity takes center stage during COVID-19 pandemic

Since March 13, Eat Smart Move More South Carolina (ESMMSC) has worked with more than 100 statewide partners to provide emergency preparedness materials and healthy food source locations to partners and the public in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

ESMMSC has been working with organizations such as local school districts, farmers, food pantries and community coalitions, SC Department of Education, SC DHEC, SC Farmers Market Association, Carolina Farm Steward Association, senior services, SC Hospital Association, SC Office of Rural Health, Healthy Learners, Food Research and Action Council, and SC Food Policy Council to identify needs, available services, capacity, and connect partners who normally would not work together.

“As a result of the food insecurity partnership during the COVID-19 pandemic, gaps in food distribution services that include staffing, equipment, transportation, physical distribution, public-private partnerships, and planning have been identified,” said Meg Stanley, executive director at ESMMSC. “As food insecurity needs increase, convening and connecting continues with all levels of consideration being presented.”

Part of the solution to the food insecurity issue is the Food Insecurity Resources webpage, which contains funding opportunities, guidelines, food system support, food insecurity data, and low- or no-cost healthy food sources for communities and organizations across the state. Since the webpage went live on March 20, ESMMSC has experienced an increasing amount of traffic to the website. Nearly 6,000 people from across the country have visited the page with 1,588 people clicking on the various links on the page.

“While we are thrilled the webpage is valued by partners and organizations, it is not the end-all of our work related to this crisis. We are assisting other organizations by addressing food delivery barriers and we’re seeking new funding to support community-level organizations with sourcing healthy food,” said Meg Stanley, executive director at ESMMSC. “We also continue to update the webpage daily with new and updated information, including information in Spanish.”

ESMMSC worked with Healthy Learners and SC PASOS to translate a portion of the page into Spanish. The Local Activity section, as well as the SC Food Banks and Farmers Markets spreadsheet located under Statewide Activity, will help the Latinx community find local healthy food.

“Our Latinx community is just as important as any other group. They make up a large part of the food insecure population,” said Stanley. “Because ESMMSC has a strategic focus on equity and inclusion, we felt it was imperative to provide a Spanish translation.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has put a spotlight on emergency preparedness within organizations and the importance of partnerships in addressing food insecurity during this time of crisis. Luckily, ESMMSC has a strong network of partners who have been working tirelessly to ensure South Carolinians have access to healthy food and organizations have access to best practices.