Last September, CLF partnered with the SC Food Policy Council to host “Growing Food & Opportunities in South Carolina,” a one-day workshop that brought together government officials, non-profits, farmers, corporations, students, and citizens for a discussion on creating healthy food access for underserved communities across the state.

From the workshop came five general recommendations for addressing food deserts in South Carolina:

1. Form a Food Desert Task Force: The consensus of the group was that in order to be successful in eradicating food deserts in the state, there must be a centralized organization with a defined lead agency to spear the discussion. The task force should meet on a regular basis to develop and implement programs and policies designed to increase fresh food access and economic development in both rural and urban food deserts.

2. Engage Stakeholders: To be successful with this initiative, the task force must solicit the support and financial assistance of government officials, community leaders, non-profit organizations, and grocery retailers.

3. Increase Financial Resources to Local Farmers and Businesses: Many local farmers and small businesses do not have the financial resources to meet the needs of underserved communities. Therefore, the task force needs to increase access to loans and grants; increase working capital; and provide opportunities for technical assistance in applying for funding.

4. Reduce Operating Barriers for Retail Food Vendors: There are several reasons why supermarkets may be reluctant to open shop in a food desert: lack of transportation; the perception that the population is too small or too low-income to support a grocery store; and limited support from the local government. To reduce these barriers, the task force needs to gain community support; engage local and national grocery stores; and create incentives such as grant and loan programs.

5. Initiate Public Policy to Address Food Deserts: When addressing food deserts and food insecurities in South Carolina, the public must be engaged. The task force will need to create local research and data to establish the need and potential models for solutions; collaborate among private businesses, governments, and community members; and develop innovative solutions to the complex issue.

On Friday, June 14, we will re-convene to discuss program outcomes as well as recommendations for the next steps towards the elimination of food deserts in South Carolina and we invite you to join the discussion.  For more information and to register, please visit our website at www.sccommunityloanfund.org.