By Jim Coppola, LCFB Volunteer Writer

Parents of school-aged children often face choosing between keeping the lights on in their home or putting food on the table. Imagine when there is not enough nourishment to fuel their children’s growing bodies, simply because an essential monthly bill must be paid or the rent is due.

But Lowcountry Food Bank, whose mission is to fight hunger in our community, has come to their aid. Partnering with schools across the 10 coastal counties of South Carolina, the School Market was born. It is a crucial program designed to provide students and parents of school-aged children the much-needed opportunity to select nourishing food in a grocery store setting and provide peace of mind knowing their families have access to healthy food. Currently, LCFB supports 14 active School Markets and the number of markets will continue to grow.

Two of those markets are in the North Charleston area: R.B. Stall High School and North Charleston Creative Arts Elementary School. The latter, located in the Park Circle neighborhood of North Charleston, allows parents to choose high quality foods within trusted surroundings in the school’s Parent Resource Center. There, during school hours, or after-hours by appointment, they have their pick of nourishing, non-perishable foods to bring home for their families. To provide dignity and privacy to families, shoppers can discreetly exit through a side door if they choose. This School Market currently offers only non-perishable foods but hopes to provide fresh food as well in the future, which is dependent on securing the necessary grants and donations from our community to purchase a commercial cooler, additional shelving, and food such as produce, dairy, meat, and nutritious kid-friendly snacks.

R.B. Stall High School, located on Ashley Phosphate Road in North Charleston, offers a similar shopping experience for parents of students as well as other families in need within the community. “You have no idea how much this has helped our family,” says one grateful parent, amazed at the selection that is available. Also open during school hours for students who may be hungry, the market is situated in an average-sized classroom in the Fine Arts wing, where a diversified selection of non-perishable food is accessible for families who need food. Two to three times a semester, Lowcountry Food Bank Child Hunger Program staff provide fresh produce to both schools, by offering a Farmer’s Market style event, where fresh fruits and vegetables are distributed to our neighbors for the added nutrition their families require.

“This is a blessing,” as one parent happily shares, relieved that she can meet her monthly expenses and still put food on the table. But to continue providing for our children and parents in need, it is critical that we gather the support of our community, the help from our neighbors, and donations from our dear friends. Because having enough food to eat is more than simply filling a plate, it is providing hope, and that is truly a blessing.

About the Lowcountry Food Bank: Feed. Advocate. Empower.

The Lowcountry Food Bank serves the 10 coastal counties of South Carolina and distributed more than 40 million pounds of food in 2021. The Lowcountry Food Bank helps fight hunger by distributing food to more than 250 partner agencies including on-site meal programs, homeless shelters and emergency food pantries. The Lowcountry Food Bank advocates on behalf of those who experience hunger and helps empower people to make healthy and nutritious food choices. For more information, visit the Lowcountry Food Bank website.