Grants awarded to support various food projects

Published 1:35 am Monday, May 23, 2016

A series of grants have been awarded to several organizations in Beaufort County to support food projects.

The Conservation Fund, a national nonprofit established to protect working land/waterways and promote sustainable economic development, awarded grants to three organizations in Beaufort County through its Resourceful Communities Program (RCP). Among the awarded grants were: $7,500 to Beaufort County Schools; $3,400 to Eagles Wings food pantry; and $3,400 to Lydia’s House for the Aurora Farmers Market, according to Kathleen marks, associate director of Resourceful Communities.

The program supports grassroots “triple bottom line” projects, which have social justice, economic development and environmental stewardship benefits, according to Marks. Through its Creating New Economies Fund, it awards grants up to $15,000 to nonprofits, school, municipalities and other organizations throughout the state, through support from the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust, the Oak Foundation and the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation, according to Marks.

“We awarded these grants because there is an amazing amount of community-led work going on in Beaufort County to help improve health conditions, to help ensure the most vulnerable populations are eating healthier and having access to exercise and other healthy lifestyle activities, and we’re excited about what we see as an incredible opportunity to help people help themselves — to make sure families have a better chance at a healthy lifestyle and a long life, and we’re excited about partnering with that many groups in Beaufort County,” said Mikki Sager, vice president of the Conservation Fund. “It’s a real indicator of how much energy there is in Beaufort County.”

With the loss of its only grocery store in spring of 2015, the town of Aurora has had limited access to fresh produce and meats. Through support from Lydia’s House and the Resourceful Communities grant, Aurora has started a farmers market, which will offset the loss of the grocery store, according to Eve Hemby, founder of People For a Better Aurora/Richland Township.

Over the past three years, the RCP has poured well over $20,000 of funding into food projects, including a community garden project, in the Richland Township to create healthy eating and active living strategies.

This year, the grant to support the farmers market will go toward hiring a market manager and the coordination of healthy-eating recipes and educational tools the community will be exposed to through the market, Hemby said.

The grants awarded will also support Beaufort County Schools Summer Feeding Program and be used to fund enrichment activities during the program, which will provide food to all kids age 18 and under, according to Michele Oros, director of grants and development at Beaufort County Schools. The money will specifically be used to pay for books, games, physical education equipment, arts and crafts, Oros said.

“When you provide fun activities, enrichment activities at the same time as food, you will have more kids interested in attending food sites,” Oros said. “The children can do fun things, see their friends, eat nutritious meals and have educational enrichment activities. This grant will also pay the salaries of the people who will feed the kids and do these things with them. I’m hoping we will have a good group of kids throughout the summer.”

Both projects will actively work in coordination with the community garden project to help increase Aurora’s access to healthy foods.

Eagle’s Wings will use its grant from RCP to host a series of cooking classes before the end of the summer, according to Ann Marie Montague, director of Eagle’s Wings. Clients at the food pantry will be invited to participate in the classes, which offer a two-prong approach — nutrition and hands-on cooking components. The classes aid clients in education with regard to reading food labels and making better food choices to accommodate their health needs, Montague said.

“Eating impacts health,” Montague said. “Good nutrition is really a health issue, and when you look at statistics for Beaufort County, you see the need for people to take better control for what they’re eating and how they’re preparing their foods so they have a healthier outcome. Learning how to cook in nutritious ways and eating healthier foods can have a positive impact on a person’s longevity and health outlook.”