Timmonsville is the poorest town in South Carolina, characterized by unsafe water and crime levels four times the state average. The town’s economy is suffering and more than half of its households are making less than $20,000 per year. The local school district, Florence 4, rates 82nd out of the state’s 82 districts. Students grades K-12 share the same school building and cafeteria and 72% of students receive free or reduced lunch. 86% of the student population are considered socially disadvantaged.
Truluck Farms, a woman-owned and operated for-profit grower, is working to make a difference in the Timmonsville area by providing fresh greens to local school districts, including Florence 4, as part of the farm to school movement. Farm to school programs not only improve the quality of school meals and nutrition education but they also support the local economy by keeping more of the money the school district spends on fruits and vegetables (which totals more than $17 million annually), in the hands of local farmers. Truluck Farms will be providing local greens to two school districts that have been a part of these farm to school programs in the past as well as Florence 4 school district which has never sourced directly from a farmer.
Truluck Farms’ Weatherly Thomas participated in SCCLF’s Feeding Innovation Midlands program alongside four other entrepreneurs. After eight weeks of training and planning, the entrepreneurs gathered at the Cecil Tillis Center in Columbia on June 16th to present their healthy food business plans to a panel of judges. The entrepreneur with the strongest business plan received $12,500 in seed capital for their business.
Thomas was awarded the funding based on her business plan for Truluck Farms which will increase access to healthy food and vegetables in Timmonsville, beginning with their farm to school program. The funding will help Truluck build a turnkey shed that is necessary in order to process and bag the collards before selling them to the school district. This program is expected to increase the farm’s sales, make much needed improvements to food security and nutrition, and provide additional job opportunities at the farm for Timmonsville residents.
Feeding Innovation is a comprehensive technical assistance program designed to support entrepreneurs interested in developing or expanding healthy food enterprises in underserved areas of the state. The goal of the program is to increase access to healthy food while supporting the development of strong, local entrepreneurs and community-based businesses. Support for this program came from the Kresge Foundation, Boeing, and BB&T.