COLUMBIA, S.C. — FoodShare South Carolina, an initiative of the University of South Carolina School of Medicine, was awarded a $5.8 million grant to be used over five years. The aim is to improve access to fresh produce, helping decrease the impact of diabetes across the state.
Cheryl Simmons says a nurse introduced her to FoodShare in 2016. "I had gotten sick, and I had to have an at home care nurse," Simmons said.
Then in 2018, she was diagnosed with breast cancer.
"I am a recent cancer survivor," Simmons said. "FoodShare has helped me regain my strength, my health."
She says buying fresh produce was out of the question, "Yes, I work, but I am on a single person budget," Simmons said. "I am thankful, and I am blessed for what Foodshare has done for my life."
FoodShare South Carolina is aiming to expand its headquarters while ensuring people have access to healthy, fresh fruits and vegetables.
Associate Director, Gordon Schell says fresh produce is critical to decreasing the impact of diabetes across the state.
"The grant will allow us to establish food packing points in 30 additional counties," Schell said. "The FoodShare program allows a family to purchase fruit and vegetables, fresh from the farmers market at a very discounted price."
Work is underway to renovate the old Circuit City building on Columbia Mall Boulevard to serve as a hub, which is expected to be completed in the spring.
"It's where our produce from the farmers market will be delivered. It's where our volunteers will gather," Schell said. "It's also where our teaching kitchen will be located."
780 boxes of fresh produce were packed and delivered to 650 families this week alone.
As for Cheryl, she's now a FoodShare employee, and she's on the road to recovery. "Chemo is done, I have five treatments of radiation ... once that's done, I am done."
According to the American Diabetes Association, more than 500,000 adults in South Carolina have diagnosed diabetes. Last year alone, it was estimated 26,000 South Carolinians were diagnosed with diabetes.