Welcome to the first in our new series of food pantry features! Each month we’ll chat with pantries that have signed up with AmpleHarvest.org and share the conversation here. It’s a great way to learn more about the kind people behind food pantries in your community. Plus its a great reminder to encourage gardeners to share their abundance this upcoming growing season.
Interested in having your food pantry featured? Contact [email protected]
This month we are thrilled to highlight American Legion 28 Food Pantry, located in Spartanburg, SC.
What is your name and how many years you have been involved with the food pantry?
- Jody Stedman, Legionnaire 2 years
- Carroll Owings, Current Commander 6 years
- Jim Harbinson, Legionnaire, Past Commander 15 years
- Art Patterson, Legionnaire 5 years
- Karen Marmet, Post 28 Ladies Auxiliary 5 years
- Mike Flower, Legionnaire Kitchen Manager 3 years
Tell us about the community you serve?
Spartanburg, there is only one! Spartanburg is a city in northern South Carolina. We serve the Southside residents of Spartanburg. Pride and unity. For more than a century, Spartanburg’s Southside has been the setting for a vibrant district of African American owned businesses and residential homes. There are a lot of elderly people that live on the Southside, and they need groceries and fresh produce. The food pantry is helpful to this community. We have a lot of people who walk to the food pantry.
How did you first get involved with the pantry you manage?
The food pantry was initially started 15 years ago by Jim Harbinson to help and assist homeless Veterans. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit we found a tremendous need to help the civilian population. The need was great to help people of the Southside of Spartanburg. The post leadership decided we would help not only Veterans, but civilians as well. During the early days of the pandemic, we had an unsolicited anonymous donor donate several thousand dollars of groceries and has continued to do so every month. From that point on we have not looked back.
The American Legion 28 has developed a successful relationship with Spartanburg Bonnie Plants Station 24 and their local core leadership personnel. Bonnie Plants leadership Brent Paige Station Manager and Tyler McCullough Station Sales Manager donate their time, resources, education, and most importantly their knowledge and expertise. We could not do this without the generosity of Bonnie Plants.
Many people within the Southside community of Spartanburg are extremely thankful for Bonnie Plants involvement. Bonnie Plants involvement is helping low-income neighborhoods that lack access to supermarkets, grocery stores, and fresh produce markets.
The South Carolina Department of Agriculture has classified the Southside of Spartanburg as a food desert. A food desert is an urban area in which it is difficult to buy affordable or good-quality fresh food. Many poor people live in food deserts—where they have plenty of food but none of it is healthy.
Can you share an inspirational story or memorable experience about the food pantry and community your serve?
We had a family of five just before Christmas lose their home due to fire. The family lost everything they had. The fire totally wiped them out. The American Legion 28 food pantry was a source to quickly provide free healthy and nutritious food to that family.
What would you like to tell gardeners in your community about the food pantry?
Gardeners need to know that the American Legion 28 food pantry serves the entire community (not just Veterans) with not only fresh produce, but also groceries, nutritional education, and we teach self-sufficiency. Local gardeners will help our food pantry’s mission by directly serving residents on the Southside who suffer from hunger and food insecurity. Participation in gardening activities will improve wellbeing through increased social contact, culturally valued activities, and the mitigation of food poverty. The American Legion 28 will recognize all contributions at the local, state, and national level.
What is something you wish your community knew about your food pantry?
We are currently assisting 20 plus families a week with food and fresh produce. We have been recognized by local Spartanburg City officials with several articles in the Spartanburg Journal Herald and local TV and radio stations.
How can your community continue to support you?
The community can continue to support the American Legion 28 Food Pantry with food, funds, and time. In other words, the three main ways to support our food pantry are to donate food, donate money, and volunteer time. Money is better. Our food pantry has incredible buying power because we can make bulk purchases, and we do everything we can to stretch a single dollar into multiple meals.
How important are fresh produce donations to your food pantry and what is requested most by your clients?
Fresh fruits and vegetables are an important part of a healthy diet. They contain essential vitamins, minerals, fiber, and other nutrients that are essential for good health. In fact, research has shown that a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables may reduce the risk of cancer and other chronic diseases.
We hear a lot of requests for potatoes, corn, squash, zucchini, string beans, okra, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, and big boy tomatoes.
Anything else you would like to share?
American Legion 28 would like to thank AmpleHarvest.org. AmpleHarvest.org is a blessing. We appreciate everything they do to help food banks and food pantries across the country.