South Carolina Tour Highlights Innovative Approaches to Economic Growth through Local Food Systems
|ARC's July 2013 Jobs and Local Food Systems Tour in Appalachian South Carolina included a visit to the Hub City Farmers Market in Spartanburg, which operates a "mobile market" that brings local produce to area communities, increasing both demand for and availability of fresh, healthy food. (ARC photo)
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ARC officials completed a two-day South Carolina leg of the Commission's ongoing Jobs and Local Food Systems Tour on July 12, visiting programs using a variety of innovative approaches to creating jobs and economic growth through local food systems. The South Carolina tour was the eighth ARC has held in the Appalachian states since late March to examine how communities can realize the potential local food systems hold to create economic opportunity.
The tour began July 11 with a visit to Clemson University for a discussion of its sustainable agriculture education and outreach programs, which include a student organic farming project aimed at helping develop more profitable and environmentally friendly farming enterprises. Officials then visited Project Host in Greenville, a hybrid soup kitchen program that provides culinary job training to unemployed and underemployed clients; runs an onsite garden that provides fresh produce for the culinary students to use; and cooks nutritious meals served to the soup kitchen's clients as well as to low-income children enrolled in local after-school enrichment programs.
Officials later met with staff of the Hub City Farmers Market in Spartanburg to discuss its efforts to raise awareness about buying locally produced food, including its "mobile market" program. The mobile market brings local produce to area communities to increase both demand for and availability of fresh, healthy food. Hub City Farmers Market is also working to develop the Northside Healthy Food Hub, which will host a garden, a community kitchen, a culinary training program, and a cafe, in addition to providing a permanent home for the farmers market. It will create both jobs and healthful food options in an area with high obesity and poverty rates.
On July 12 tour participants visited Greenville's Swamp Rabbit Trail, a 17.5-mile trail system developed along an unused rail line to promote tourism and physical recreation opportunities. Opened in 2009, the trail has also had a significant impact on the area's local food economy, helping spur development of numerous independent food-related businesses—including restaurants, cafes, grocery stores, farmers markets, and gardens—in close proximity to the trail to serve hikers and other recreation seekers.
The tour also included a stop at the Culinary Institute of the Carolinas at Greenville Technical College. The institute offers comprehensive certificate- and degree-level culinary and food-service training programs and has launched a training program for county elementary-school cafeteria employees to help them prepare fresher, more nutritious and locally sourced meals for students.
ARC launched the Appalachian Jobs and Local Food Systems Tour in Asheville, North Carolina, on March 20 at a conference of the Appalachia Funders Network, an informal association of national, regional, and local foundations that has identified local food systems as a priority for funding. The tour has since then included visits to New York, Ohio, West Virginia, Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi, in addition to South Carolina. A Maryland visit is planned for late July.