Fort Mill Times

Second Harvest, Clover Area Assistance Center adapt to new roles

Volunteers distribute food Friday at Unity Presbyterian Church in Fort Mill, through the Second Harvest Food Bank of Metrolina program that will bring more events to Clover this year.
Volunteers distribute food Friday at Unity Presbyterian Church in Fort Mill, through the Second Harvest Food Bank of Metrolina program that will bring more events to Clover this year.

Two groups, both responsible for feeding the hungry in Clover, are adjusting to life without each other.

Clover Area Assistance Center and Second Harvest Food Bank of Metrolina severed ties in March. Following a grievance hearing, Second Harvest placed CAAC on a one-year probation with terms the Clover center’s leaders couldn’t accept. The Clover center voted to end the relationship after more than 15 years. The most immediate fallout was who would distribute federal food allocated monthly from Second Harvest – a task that used to be handled by the CAAC.

Second Harvest still has an obligation to provide the federal food, or TEFAP food, in the Clover School District boundaries where CAAC operates.

“We have been working with Second Harvest partners and their group of many churches in York County for years now,” said Kay Carter, CEO of Second Harvest. “They host mobile pantries throughout the county to ensure people are fed not only in the summer but year round.”

Second Harvest began hosting hunger relief events May 14 at churches. Of 23 distributions in York and Lancaster counties through December, seven come to Clover. Green Pond UMC hosts the first June 3.

“When Clover Area Assistance Center made the decision to no longer partner with Second Harvest this was a logical fit for distributing TEFAP food, in addition to other food items like produce,” Carter said.

Green Pond, which sits less than quarter mile from CAAC, will distribute food five times. New Beginnings Baptist partners in July, and Clover Chapel UMC in October.

“The church partners and the community partners, that’s what makes it happen,” said Joy Ayers with the Catawba Area Agency on Aging, which assists Second Harvest at distribution sites.

Karen van Vierssen, CAAC director, said clients have been talking about the changes with federal food. About 62 percent of all CAAC food came from Second Harvest before the split. More than 60 percent of that amount came from the free TEFAP program, with CAAC buying the rest.

The director worries about once monthly distributions compared to CAAC, which is open three days a week. For clients often lacking access to reliable transportation, the new system could be hit or miss.

“Can people get to that?” van Vierssen said. “They have to distribute the same amount, but it could be going to a lot fewer people.”

Established food pantries also have more detailed records on client need, she said, compared to someone showing up with only an ID.

“When a church is distributing,” van Vierssen said, “that’s all it takes.”

Ayers took information at a distribution site in Fort Mill on May 29, which her agency can use for follow-up help on prescription drugs, health insurance, food stamps and counseling. Working with church volunteers is a reliable way, she said, to provide aid.

“They just jump in and help,” Ayers said. There’s never a question.”

Concerns at CAAC are not limited to federal distributions. The nearest food bank similar to but unaffiliated with Second Harvest is in Columbia. CAAC inquired about purchasing food there at 19 cents per pound, up from the 16 cents volunteers paid at Second Harvest in Charlotte.

“We found out we were not accepted there due to distance,” van Vierssen said. “We are so far outside of the area it does not fit their business model.”

The Columbia facility is support-based, so van Vierssen understood the desire to keep efforts within the 20-county area it serves. Still, the decision leaves CAAC without options.

“There are no other food banks to go to,” van Vierssen said.

In coming weeks, CAAC will launch a Keep it Local campaign. Leaders want continued donation of nonperishable food items, so the center can buy meat and dairy wherever volunteers can find the best deals. During the summer they will lean on produce donations from farmers.

“We are moving forward,” van Vierssen said. “For us, we keep in mind what we’re here for, to help clients get food. And that’s what we’ll continue to do.”

John Marks •  803-831-8166

Want to go?

Federal TEFAP food distributions will begin June 3 at the following locations. All events begin at 9 a.m. Recipients must meet USDA eligibility income guidelines. For more information, call 803-329-9670.

▪ June 3, Green Pond UMC, 983 Bethel St., Clover

▪ July 22, New Beginnings Baptist Church, 708 Old North Main St., Clover

▪ Aug. 24, Green Pond UMC

▪ Sept. 28, Green Pond UMC

▪ Oct. 1, Union Baptist Church,1195 Hands Mill Highway, York

▪ Oct. 6, Clover Chapel UMC, 405 Kings Mountain St., Clover

▪ Nov. 3, Green Pond UMC

▪ Dec. 1, Green Pond UMC