The South Carolina Food Hub Network helped S.C. food distributors buy and distribute more than $1.3 million of state-grown food in 2020.
Four state distributors successfully applied for contracts through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Famers to Families Food Box program, funded by federal COVID-19 relief money. The distributors bought, boxed and distributed more than $5 million in fresh food, including $1.3 million from S.C. farmers, according to a news release from the S.C. Department of Agriculture.
Distributors Limehouse Produce, Senn Brothers and Taylor Boys’ Produce, along with Charleston food hub GrowFood Carolina, secured USDA contracts. Also, Blythewood-based food hub Axiom Farms Cooperative won a state agriculture department contract to distribute 887 boxes of food worth $30,000 to Midlands families, while Charlotte food hub Freshlist secured a contract through a Carolina Farm Stewardship Association program called FarmsSHARE to buy 1,897 food boxes from S.C. farmers.
“This year put the power of the network to the test and demonstrated how investing in the local food system increases our resilience,” Nikki Seibert, South Carolina Food Hub Network facilitator, said in the release.
Food hubs connect farmers to buyers such as restaurants and grocery stores and identify market opportunities to help support crop planning. The S.C. Food Hub Network coordinates resources and education among state food hubs while increasing each hub’s buying power and selling capacity.
South Carolina has six food hubs, including established operations GrowFood Carolina, Swamp Rabbit Cafe and Grocery in Greenville and Catawba Farm and Food Coalition in Chester, along with newcomers Axiom Farms, Orangeburg’s ACE Basin Growers and Lowcountry Fresh Market and Cafe in Bluffton. Freshlist also serves several S.C. counties.
“The South Carolina Food Hub Network has helped build capacity for the state’s food hubs, ultimately helping farmers grow more and feed more people,” S.C. Commissioner of Agriculture Hugh Weathers said. “We’ve supported the Network through our Agribusiness Center for Research and Entrepreneurship and Specialty Crop Block Grants, and so far, it’s been a great investment for South Carolinians.”
In 2020, network staff underwent training from the USDA, National Good Food Network and the National Sustainable Agricultural Coalition to help S.C. food distributors secure food box contracts.