By Michael Staton, College of Behavioral, Social and Health Sciences
Clemson University faculty and staff in coordination with the United Way and Ten at the Top have created an interactive map that provides information on different food resources across the Upstate for individuals and families facing food insecurity.
Clemson’s College of Behavioral, Social and Health Sciences created the Food Access Map as part of its efforts to aid Upstate residents facing hardships during the COVID-19 pandemic. The map includes nearly 400 providers across 10 counties complete with information on the type of assistance they provide as well as operating hours and availability.
According to Leslie Hossfeld, dean of the College of Behavioral, Social and Health Sciences, the Food Access Map will make the process of finding reliable information on food resources that much easier for people in need.
“There are individuals and families in the Upstate region who face food insecurity even at the ‘best’ of times,” Hossfeld said. “A crisis such as the COVID-19 pandemic only makes clearer the need for good, reliable information on what type of help is available and where to find it. This map has been put in place to serve as a hub for that information.”
Hossfeld said the process of collecting all of the detailed information contained in the interactive map was daunting for those involved. To ensure accuracy, multiple employees of Clemson’s Joseph F. Sullivan Center phoned each individual food pantry, food distribution group and grocery assistance organization to obtain or update information.
Mike McGirr, director of Clemson’s Land Grant Local, coordinated the effort. Clemson faculty and staff also relied on information from United Way partners and Ten at the Top, a nonprofit organization that exists to stimulate economic and community health through collaboration.
According to Jeremy Price, director of programs for the United Way of Pickens County, the Food Access Map was built partially on the United Way’s 2-1-1 system (a national emergency resource system) and Ten at the Top’s senior resources map. He said the collaboration with Clemson and Ten at the Top added nearly 350 resources to the 2-1-1 system, pushing the total amount to over 400.
“The efforts of the Clemson team tremendously boosted and strengthened our list of food resources,” Price said. “This work is incredibly valuable to our community in Pickens County and to the entire Upstate as well.”
Sharon Purvis, director of outreach and special projects for Ten at the Top, said she was heartened to see so many organizations pool their efforts for the greater good of the Upstate community. She said there is a great deal of work and coordination involved in pulling together so much information from various resources, but all partners involved knew the work was imperative at a time when these resources were in higher-than-usual demand.
“Many people, perhaps for the first time in their lives, are experiencing food insecurity and unemployment due to COVID-19,” Purvis said. “It was vital that we move as quickly as possible to develop a resource that helps people find food assistance and helps agencies promote the assistance they provide.”
Hossfeld said she is sure the map will help in the short term for people in need due to COVID-19, but she is also excited for what the map will do in the future for the Upstate region. She said the work to maintain the map won’t end along with social distancing; it will be maintained for use year-round and will only improve so that it is available when the next crisis comes along.
“The last few months have been unprecedented, and there’s be no shortage of uncertainty and bad news,” Hossfeld said, “but this is one undeniably good thing to come out of all of this. The Food Access Map will serve the entirety of upstate South Carolina for years to come.”
The Food Access Map is a detailed, extensive resource, but it is by no means complete. It will remain a work in progress as more sites are added and the resource is kept up to date. Clemson University, United Way of Pickens County and Ten at the Top representatives encourage any agencies not currently represented on the map to provide their information for inclusion. Contact Mike McGirr (email@example.com), Sharon Purvis (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Jeremy Price (email@example.com) for more information.