SC BlueCross Foundation Presents $500,000 Grant to Increase Healthy Food Access Statewide
The BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina Foundation will present $500,000 today to the South Carolina Community Loan Fund (SCCLF) to provide a revolving source of low-interest loans for the creation of healthy food access points in “food desert” communities in South Carolina.
The Foundation will present the check at noon today at the Food Access Summit in Saluda Shoals Park, Lexington. The summit is designed to provide advocacy tools, training and action-oriented ideas to educate and organize participants to support local and state efforts to make the food system equitable for all.
Community health needs assessments conducted by multiple organizations point to the lack of access to healthy food as a key issue for the state. South Carolina has a higher percentage than the national rate of urban neighborhoods and rural towns without ready access to fresh, healthy and affordable food (a food desert). Approximately 16.4 percent of South Carolina’s population lives in these areas, compared to 10 percent of the nation’s population as reported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
A large portion of the grant will be available as low-interest loans for healthy food retail projects in underserved communities. Typical projects might include the construction or renovation of grocery stores, corner stores, farmer’s markets, food hubs and mobile markets. The loans will be repayable to SCCLF and reused for additional food projects. Another portion of the funding will support SCCLF’s “Feeding Innovation” program, designed to provide training to entrepreneurs in the development of viable business plans to expand healthy food enterprises in underserved communities.
“Recognizing the importance of healthy food access to creating sustainable, vibrant communities, South Carolina Community Loan Fund expanded our program area to include healthy food retail in 2011. We admire The BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina Foundation for not only acknowledging the connection between individual health and community health but also for becoming the first South Carolina foundation to give to our healthy food program. The grant funds will be a huge boost for retail entrepreneurial efforts, allowing us to provide low-interest loans to borrowers who seek to increase healthy food access in underserved communities throughout South Carolina,” said SCCLF’s Chief Executive Officer Michelle Mapp.
“This grant is one of the ways we are working to bridge health and health care, offering help and hope to those who need it most,” said Foundation Executive Director Harvey Galloway. “The Community Loan Fund is an excellent resource for communities in need.”
The foundation has awarded more than $71 million in grants since 2003 to address health care issues affecting the most vulnerable in South Carolina.
About the South Carolina Community Loan Fund
The South Carolina Community Loan Fund (www.sccommunityloanfund.org) is a nonprofit organization headquartered in Charleston. Its mission is to advance equitable access to capital by providing loans, technical assistance and advocacy for affordable housing, healthy food retail, community facilities and community business enterprise.
About the BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina Foundation
Headquartered in Columbia, the foundation is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. Its mission is to promote and support healthier South Carolinians, particularly the economically vulnerable, by supporting solutions to address gaps in health care and serving as an agent of change to support innovation and value-added public-private partnerships.