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Columbia 'food desert' promised a farmer's market

The State Legislature has approved funding for a Farmer's Market along Bluff Road.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — The state legislature has approved funding for a new farmer's market on Bluff Road in Columbia. This area is not far from where the old farmer's market used to be for many years until it moved away.  

"This area is a food desert, people do not have access to the fresh food they need out there," said Farmers Market Design Leader Diane Sumpter.

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The state amended its annual budget to give $4 million to build this new farmers market along Bluff Road.

An estimated $9 million in funding was originally set aside last year to make improvements to the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center. When the funds went unused, Mayor Daniel Rickenmann said they could be disbursed elsewhere, which lead to the approval of the farmer's market funding. 

According to Diane Sumpter the Farmer's Market will be designed like the one in Florence. It will include spaces for local farmers to sell their products and produce, and will hopefully include a grocery store as well.

However, resident Peggie Funny says you do not need a government official to tell you how hard it is to find food in her neighborhood, all you have to do is drive down the road.

"We have Dollar General but I can't go there to get the food I need, I have to have healthy food," Funny explained.

The nearest grocery store is a 10-minute drive from Funny's home which she says sometimes seems like a lifetime away.

"I'm a cancer survivor and I have to take 5 medications a day, and one of the side effects in one of the medications limits the use of my legs it feels like my feet have ice blocks around them," Funny explained. "I have to take Lyft or get people to drive me to go get what I need to and most of the time when I need to go, people I would ask are at work."

She says her daughter usually helps with going to the store, but even then, there are only so many fresh options available in close proximity.

This issue caused people like Diane Sumpter to support the state Legislature's decision to fund a new farmer's market along Bluff Road.

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"This project will be able to support local farmers, bring in a grocery store, and hopefully help people living in this area find fresh food, we're really hoping that this lifts up the community," Sumpter said.

The farmer's market would also be within walking distance to Peggie's house, right next to the Bluff Road Recycling Center. 

"If it's going be that close, I could walk over all the time to get something to eat or pick up things I need," she said.

According to Sumpter, the land for the Farmer's Market has already been purchased and surveyed. However, there is no set timeline for how soon the area could see construction on the project right now.

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