In Berkeley County, South Carolina, Mary*, a 56-year-old woman, found herself living alone this summer when her husband unexpectedly passed away. This left her without income or insurance, and she was not yet eligible to access her Social Security benefits. These financial constraints heightened Mary’s health struggles, as she is unable to eat gluten without getting sick, and fresh foods were now proving to be cost-prohibitive. She first reached out to local food banks but found many of the items offered didn’t support her dietary restrictions.
Mary isn't alone. Food insecurity, defined as the intermittent lack of access to sufficient food for an active, healthy life, looms large in Berkeley County, South Carolina. Census data and other studies indicate that 56% of those food-insecure qualify for SNAP benefits, yet only 8.1% utilize this assistance. Feeding America reports that over 22,000 people in the county grapple with food insecurity. Furthermore, 24% of residents find supermarkets out of easy reach, and a significant 34.8% contend with obesity.
Seeing this critical need, Trident United Way rallied the community, launching the FoodShare Berkeley County program. This initiative provides a sustainable pathway to preventive healthcare and financial stability.
One day, Mary was shopping at a local resale store when she happened upon a flyer for FoodShare Berkeley County. She reached out to learn more and was able to sign up for a large box of fresh fruits and vegetables for just $20 (equivalent to roughly $40 of produce at a grocery store). With the support of Trident United Way’s staff, she also applied for SNAP benefits. A few weeks later she was approved and began receiving the same large box of produce for just $5.
Each box included a recipe card, aiming not only to instruct but also to foster a healthy eating culture. Trident United Way aligned with the community, streamlined logistics, sourced resources, and marshaled volunteers. They collaborated with community members like Mary, ensuring the program met genuine needs.
“In the first several weeks since launching FoodShare Berkeley County we’ve already surpassed the milestone of 10,000 pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables packaged for our community!” said Laura Fogle, FoodShare Berkeley Manager. “We are off to a great start, but it’s just that…the start. We are packing more and more boxes each week, and we intend to continue growing and expanding our reach to support as many community members as possible. Access to fresh, healthy foods should not be a luxury conditional on income or location. It should be available to everyone. We intend to make that happen here in Berkeley County and beyond.”
Now, Mary’s kitchen boasts a range of nutritious dishes that support her budget and her dietary needs. In fact, the box holds so much produce she is able to share it with a neighbor who is living in a similar situation to her own.
“It was a lifesaver,” said Mary, “Fresh food that is affordable to me, healthy for me and helped me to not get sick has been so incredible. I share flyers with as many people as I can. I want everyone to know about this program.”
This personal transformation mirrors the broader influence of the program. The FoodShare Berkeley County initiative addresses food insecurity and fosters a sense of collective accountability and community empowerment. Hundreds of households have already benefited from this program since it launched on June 28, underscoring its breadth and efficacy. United by shared goals, Trident United Way's aspiration for health, education, and financial stability materializes, one Fresh Food Box at a time. This united approach to systemic challenges ensures people like Mary stand on a foundation of hope and resilience, eyeing a more promising future. Those interested in a parallel endeavor should contact their local United Way.