Greeleyville, South Carolina, about an hour and half drive inland from Charleston, was once a thriving town. But when the interstates bypassed the town, Greeleyville began to shrink. Most people who live there describe the town as small, quiet, and close-knit. There are few jobs. There is no grocery store. If you want to go to the movies, it’s more than an hour drive away.
No Kid Hungry tested a new kind of summer meals program in Greeleyville in cooperation with the Lowcountry Food Bank and members of the community. The food was prepared at the food bank in Charleston, then sent to Greeleyville where it was distributed to a network of 10 sites throughout the county.
Low-income families show up mid-day at their designated site and pick up their daily bag. Each bag contains two meals for the kids: one is a packaged breakfast; the other is a frozen prepared meal that is heated and served at home. On Fridays, the families pick-up meals for that day, along with a bag of food for the weekend.
It’s a group of dedicated grandmothers who are making this program work. Led by Joanne Edwards, the retired former community relations manager for Greeleyville Elementary. Joanne Edwards — beloved in the community — has long been an advocate for Greeleyville’s kids. She’s the force that ensures the program runs smoothly. She has assembled a powerful team, made up of grandmas giving their time and talents to ensure kids are being fed.
“This is a poverty-stricken area,” Joanne explains. “It’s a very rural area. There aren’t jobs and opportunities. We kind of just band together as a community, pool our resources wherever we can. We’re a close-knit community. We use whatever we have to make it.”
Some of the places where the families get the food are what you would expect — elementary schools and churches. Others are more uncommon: a conveniently situated hair salon; a bustling day care center; and two private homes, where families welcome others to their homes to pick up food.
Kids in this community face many challenges: families struggling to provide enough food, families not having access to fruits and vegetables given the lack of a grocery store, and families who live in very remote areas with limited transportation options. Transportation is such an issue in this community that some of the grandmas regularly volunteer on their own time to take the summer meals to the families.
“I see the need for the food in this community,” Joanne says. “When children are fed, children can thrive, they can grow, they can be the leaders that we want them to be. It all begins with a child being fed and ready to start their day. Food just mean everything to me.”
Thanks to these grandmothers, kids in Greeleyville had food all summer long. Joanne Edwards and the powerful group of grandmas she has assembled show what can happen when people band together to take on a problem head-on. Rather than just take responsibility for their own children, they are claiming responsibility for all their community’s children. They’re saying that the status quo is not good enough. That children deserve better. And that they each have a role to play in that.
Theirs is the same sense of responsibility that so many of us feel about standing for America’s kids. No matter how you support Team No Kid Hungry, know that our collective work is reaching kids near and far. Change is happening. Summers are less hungry. And grandmas are on our side.
Your gift can help end hunger in isolated communities across America. Please donate today.