Editorial: Helpful new map should guide people through SC food deserts | Editorials

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Food insecurity existed throughout South Carolina before the pandemic, but has worsened during and even since, particularly due to rising food prices this year. Meeting the challenge of meeting it requires a holistic approach to identifying gaps in our for-profit and nonprofit networks for delivering healthy foods across the state.

That’s why we applaud the new interactive map of statewide food resources unveiled Tuesday at Clemson University; the mapping project began as a way to help Pickens County meet the challenges of COVID-19, but eventually expanded to include the state’s other 45 counties.

Available at tig.rs/foodmap, the interactive online resource shows the location of more than 900 meal and grocery options, as well as the location of DHEC, Department of Social Services and United Way offices.

While many of us live near an abundance of grocery stores and other outlets selling fresh produce and healthy foods, many others don’t. And while the notion of food deserts can be debated, there is no doubt that residents who live not only in rural areas such as Jasper, Hampton and Williamsburg counties, but also in urban areas such as southern North Charleston, often have to travel farther to buy food. Food pantries and mobile distributions have been created to help fill these gaps, and the new map is yet another way for people to find them.

Nick Osborne, CEO of the Lowcountry Food Bank, which helped create the map, tells us he hopes the project will raise awareness. He noted that the Lowcountry Food Bank has a similar online tool to help residents in its 10 coastal county service area find food. “There is no one organization that can tackle all the issues that communities face,” he says. “Anything that gives insight or information about where people can go to get the food they need is positive.”

Keisha Long, DHEC’s director of environmental justice, told Caitlin Herrington of The Post and Courier that the map should ultimately improve public health: “We’re trying to empower environmental justice communities to prepare to respond to deserts. and to have an interest in risk reduction measures.

So the new map should not only help residents find available food, but should also help policymakers identify — and ultimately resolve — communities where this challenge is greater than it should be.

The larger and more complex challenge is how to help the many low-income families who are stressed about having to make daily decisions between buying healthy food and paying for housing, healthcare and transportation costs. to and from work.

No new menu could ever promise to end that stress, but helping more people find options for their next meal can only help.

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