In Bamberg County, many hands have been at work to provide food to local residents during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Several of the community agencies that are a part of the Bamberg County Health Coalition (BCHC) worked together this spring to make fresh produce available to families in the community.

Southeastern Housing and Community Development is the coalition backbone organization, and led a volunteer effort to tend to the Bamberg School District 1 and 2 school gardens after schools statewide were closed in March.

“We have harvested an average of 100-plus pounds of produce from the school beds each week, and distributed with front porch drop delivery,” said Coalition Coordinator Lara Buss. “The families have been thrilled!”

At the same time, the BCHC was working with FoodShare and ACE Basin Growers and other local partners to establish a Bamberg hub for food distribution.

“Because the planning was already underway before the start of the pandemic, these community partners were able to quickly mobilize to respond to the crisis when food access channels were compromised by statewide shut-downs,” said Andrew Chandler, a program manager for the Community Health Transformation team at SCORH.

Community members donated money to FoodShare Bamberg to provide “Angel” food boxes to those who couldn’t afford them. The boxes were packed by volunteers and distributed at Richard Carroll Elementary School. The volunteer force included teenagers from the Saltcatcher Farms youth leadership program. Saltcatcher Farms is a community teaching center & gathering space located in Denmark, SC, where residents can cultivate food sovereignty through education & access while securing economic empowerment through green jobs.

The Bamberg County Health Coalition is part of the SC Office of Rural Health’s Blueprint for Health initiative, an 18-month planning and leadership development program. BCHC is also a partner of the Tri-County Health Network, which is supported by SCORH’s Healthy People, Healthy Carolinas program. Both Blueprint for Health and Healthy People, Healthy Carolinas seek to address the root causes of poor health at the local level.

“The Bamberg County Health Coalition has made significant progress in identifying and addressing barriers to good health, and they are laying the groundwork for sustainability and long-term outcomes as they develop their Vision for Health document,” Chandler said. “We’re proud to see partners come together with a common vision, and collaborate to make their community stronger and healthier.”