Loaves and Fishes: Nourishing Young Families

Each Tuesday afternoon as Tyra Corbitt leaves Little Steps, she is eager to get home and look into her grocery bag. It is a little like Christmas for her. What yummy surprises will she find? What will this week’s meals include? How can she make these groceries stretch until next Tuesday

Seventeen-year old Tyra has many responsibilities that other teenagers don’t have. She is four-month-old Harmony’s Mom – a beautiful, happy baby girl with hazel eyes. Tyra must provide for her and her daughter now – and ensure a future that includes financial stability for both of them. She talked with me about her plans for graduating from Legacy Charter School next year and continuing on to college. She is interested in studying business and dermatology. Tyra has dreams for Harmony just like any other Mom.

Thanks to Little Steps, this summer Tyra is participating in Baby Steps, a free eight-week summer program for pregnant and parenting teens. The program, designed for girls between 14 and 18 who attend Greenville County Schools, includes classes on parenting, pregnancy, life skills and financial stability. Transportation, lunches, weekly field trips and prizes are provided.

Each day the girls bring big canvas shopping bags from home so the staff at Little Steps can fill them. They may go home with diapers, wipes, formula and other supplies for their babies. And on Tuesdays they get a bag of groceries supplied by Loaves & Fishes.

Founded in 1991 by Sam Hunt, a Greenville banker, Loaves & Fishes is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to rescue food that would otherwise be wasted and deliver it to organizations equipped to feed the hungry. It is the only organization in Greenville County that provides free, regularly scheduled deliveries of perishable food for distribution to individuals served at emergency food pantries and neighborhood distribution programs.

The organization currently partners with more than 94 agencies including soup kitchens and breakfast programs, shelters and group homes, senior programs, community centers, low income housing for seniors and disabled citizens, therapeutic programs supporting special populations, and nonprofit childcare and afterschool/summer programs like Little Steps.

Believe it or not, nearly 64,000 local residents are considered food insecure, which means they have limited or uncertain access to nutritionally adequate and safe food. Very often they don’t know where one of their next meals will come from. Two thirds of these Greenville County neighbors come from single parent families with young children – just like Tyra and Harmony.

Loaves & Fishes is unique in that it never stores warehouse food — all rescued items are delivered the same day they are received. Donations come from restaurants, grocers and institutions, such as hospitals and universities. Some local donors include:  Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Publix, BILO, Fresh Market, Great Harvest Bread, Furman University, Greenville Technical Culinary, Longhorn Steakhouse, Outback Steakhouse, and Olive Garden. In addition, fresh produce is received from local farms and gardens (through gleaning).

In 2015, Loaves & Fishes rescued and delivered more than 1.9 million pounds of donated food, which equates to 284 truckloads. Over 1 million pounds of this total was fresh produce. In 2016 the organization anticipates hitting the 2 million pound mark with produce comprising over 50%. To fulfill its mission, Loaves & Fishes focuses on addressing food insecurity in our community and providing healthy, nutritious fruits and vegetables to those who typically don’t include these items in their diets. These foods provide a broad range of nutrients and offer an opportunity to educate folks on the benefits of healthy eating.

When Tyra arrives home from Little Steps on Tuesdays, she immediately sorts through her bag of groceries. Each week is a different combination of items. The bag may include meats, cereals, snacks, fruits and vegetables. She starts by putting the food away and then decides what to cook for dinner.

“One of the great things about getting this food is that it allows me to budget for the week. With the food from Loaves & Fishes I can use my food stamps to buy formula for Harmony. These groceries help me to eat well and be able to do more for my daughter,” explained Tyra.

Many Tuesdays Tyra receives fresh produce in her grocery bag. During her cooking classes at Little Steps she has learned how to prepare the vegetables to her liking. “I love steamed broccoli and fresh salads. When Harmony is old enough to start eating real food I will be sure that she likes her veggies long before she gets to try sweets,” shared Tyra.

For more information about Loaves & Fishes visit www.loavesandfishesgreenville.com or call (864) 232-3595.  For information about Little Steps visit www.littlestepssc.org.

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Debbie Nelson

Debbie Nelson is the president and founder of DNA Creative Communications, a woman-owned public relations and inspirational marketing firm for nonprofit organizations. Under Debbie’s leadership, in 2010 DNA founded Shine the Light Nonprofit Forums, an annual training program for Greenville nonprofits in partnership with the Community Foundation of Greenville County, the United Way of Greenville County and the Hollingsworth Funds. To support other nonprofits across the state, she also manages education programs for the South Carolina Association of Nonprofit Organization. As an a advocate for the nonprofit community, each month Debbie shares nonprofit stories in her Shine the Light columns in the Greenville Business Magazine and the Columbia Business Monthly. In addition she teaches nonprofit marketing at Clemson University to inspire and develop future nonprofit leaders. Debbie is a graduate of Leadership Greenville, Leadership South Carolina and the Riley Institute’s Diversity Leadership Initiative. She currently serves on the boards of the Greenville Area Development Corporation, the South Carolina Independent Colleges and Universities, the United Way of Greenville County and the United Way Association of South Carolina.

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