A mobile food pantry is scheduled to deliver groceries to anyone who wants them from 1 to 4 p.m. Friday at Steele Street Park.
This will be the first of three food giveaways sponsored by the Fort Mill Advisory Council of the Springs Close Foundation in partnership with Second Harvest Food Bank and the Fort Mill Care Center. Grocery bags with canned and boxed goods, produce, meat and nonfood items will be handed out to everyone who shows up.
Advisory council member Chantay Bouler of Fort Mill said no one who shows up to receive a free food package will be asked to show proof of need or residency.
“We decided not have people identify themselves that way because of the fact that we do have homeless people in Fort Mill and might not be able to demonstrate residency, so we won’t be turning away anybody who comes to us,” she said.
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The Springs Close Foundation, which previously provided grants for a wider range of organizations and individuals, narrowed its focus to help meet critical needs, such as food and housing aid and paying for prescriptions, after the recession. The unemployment rate in Fort Mill, though consistently lower than than the state and national average, ranged from 4.6 percent in 2007, to a high of 16.9 percent in 2011. It’s now 6.7 percent – slightly above both the state and national averages. The York County average is 6.9 percent.
“Three or four years ago, the foundation board decided to give the advisory committees the discretion to find something within their local areas that they can support as a way of having a direct impact in the community,” said Bouler, a former longtime Fort Mill School Board member and the town’s finance director.
“We have helped local churches that have (food) ministries and we wanted to do something a little outside of the box. We’ve supported the lunch and learn summer program and this year we decided to the mobile food pantry will have an impact in the way of hunger.”
It’s a community effort, she said, crediting the town of Fort Mill for making Steele Street park available, the fire department and chief Jeffrey Hooper for donating the tables for the distribution area, and the Fort Mill Care Center, which runs a food pantry, for providing volunteers to package and hand out the food. She also recognizes the Fort Mill-based Springs Close Foundation for approving the committee’s recommendation and funding the project.
Foundation President Angie McCrae said focusing on critical needs has a residual effect, such as helping students succeed.
“We know in order for students to learn, they have to have a fully belly and roof over their head,” she said. “You can spend all this money to buy books and computers but they won’t do any good if the students aren’t fed enough and clothed enough.”
The foundation sponsored a similar mobile food pantry in Lancaster County.
“When you see the lines that from when these mobile food pantries show up...people don’t just stand in line to get food unless they’re hungry,” McCrae said. “You know they’re there to get something to feed their families.”
Second Harvest CEO Kay Carter said the mobile pantry will bring between 5,000 and 7,500 pounds of food. Some of it was purchased by the Springs Close Foundation and the rest was donated from sources in the greater Charlotte area. Carter said the pantry should have enough food to accommodate between 250 and 300 people.
Two more mobile pantries are scheduled for March 26 and April 11. The locations and times have yet to be determined.