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FoodShare SC increases online access, reduces food insecurity

FoodShareSC volunteer carries a box of fresh produce.

FoodShare South Carolina received approval from the USDA Food and Nutrition Service to accept SNAP online for purchases of fruits and vegetables sold through its Fresh Food Box program. FoodShare SC is one of only a few community-based organizations in the nation selected to participate in the online purchasing program.

Background: Launched in 2015, FoodShare SC is a program of the School of Medicine Columbia. It has nonprofit partners in 19 counties operating hubs and distributing Fresh Food Boxes to local communities. 

Why it matters: Many communities in South Carolina do not have access or financial resources to eat healthy on a daily basis. Barriers include where people live, age, income and whether reliable transportation exists. Without healthy options, numerous health risks can arise.

By the numbers: One in 10 people in South Carolina (approximately 515,000) face hunger. More than 20% of children live in “food insecure” homes, meaning there isn’t enough food for every family member to lead a healthy life. According to Feeding America, 48.3% of South Carolina households that receive SNAP benefits have children.

The solution: By accepting SNAP/EBT benefits, FoodShare SC ensures that recipients can routinely access healthy and affordable food. A 20-pound box, packed with up to 11 varieties of fruits and produce can be purchased for $5 using SNAP/EBT instead of the cash price of $20. 

The 2014 Farm Bill laid the groundwork to test the feasibility and implications of allowing vendors to accept SNAP benefits through online transactions, stating “individuals who receive SNAP benefits should have the opportunity to shop for food the same way more and more Americans shop for food — by ordering and paying online.”

What they’re saying: “New USDA data indicates that the level of food insecurity in S.C. is higher than the national average,” says Omme-Salma Rahemtullah, FoodShare’s interim executive director. “Access is integral to lowering this rate, and the ability to order affordable produce online increases the options families have for buying nutritious food.”

Now available at the Columbia site, SNAP online will expand to additional FoodShare SC county hubs in early 2024. Participants can purchase Fresh Food Boxes and learn more about the online ordering process at the FoodShareSC website.