Food insecurity is a growing problem in and around Columbia + is due, in part, to the multitude of food deserts in our communities. Food deserts, or low food access areas, are defined by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) as “regions of the country that often feature large proportions of households with low incomes, inadequate access to transportation and a limited number of food retailers providing fresh produce and healthy groceries for affordable prices.”
Columbia-area food desert map (red areas represent food deserts) | Map image via DHEC
According to a recent report by the City of Columbia Food Policy Committee, 65,000+ Richland County residents are food insecure – which the committee defines as “lacking access, ability, availability or income to acquire healthy, safe, culturally-appropriate food.”
In recent years, six grocery stores have closed in lower-income Columbia areas, leading to increased food insecurity. The Piggly Wiggly on West Beltline closed in 2016. In 2018, three Harveys locations around Columbia closed, including North Main Street, Decker Boulevard and Broad River Road. Both the Save-A-Lot on Harden Street and the Walmart Neighborhood Market on Broad River Road closed in 2019.
These grocery store closings have left nearby communities to rely on local convenience + dollar stores, which often only provide highly processed, unhealthy food options.
Check out this map from DHEC to see just how prevalent low food access areas are in our city.
Who’s making a difference in the community?
- This social justice nonprofit held a drive-thru market on Harden Street last month. With the help of Every Black Girl and Good Trouble, and donations from FoodShare SC, EmpowerSC was able to provide fresh food and health supplies to 300 families.
- A program established through a partnership with the USC School of Medicine and Prisma Health, FoodShare SC provides food to low food access areas. Its programs, such as Fresh Food On-The-Go, partners with The COMET to increase the accessibility of fresh food to transit riders in the Columbia area.
- Harvest Hope has actively fought hunger in our community since 1981. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the organization has continued to host mobile food pantries at their Shop Road location where community members can drive up and receive food donations.
- Each Wednesday from 1:30-3 p.m., Pinehurst Farmers Market is hosted by April Jones on School House Road. Fresh produce from local growers is available to anyone who stops by.