COLUMBIA—The old adage, “When the Lord closes one door, he always opens another one,” proved true for Main Street UMC and FoodShare SC.
For more than a decade, Main Street United Methodist Church has been delivering sandwiches to the homeless wherever they are. City parks, bus stops, walking along Assembly Street or at the Richland library, all have seen a Main Street UMC volunteer on Thursday evenings.
Main Street wanted to do more. Enter the Food Share SC initiative, whose mission is to provide good healthy food for all. Their goal is to enhance the quality of life by creating access to fresh affordable food, quality cooking and skills education. Their work revolves around three tenets: community empowerment and engagement, increased financial opportunity and physical revitalization. These tenets are evident among FoodShare’s core programs: The Fresh Food Box and Culinary Medicine cooking classes.
Food Share SC thought they had found the perfect spot for loading and delivering fresh food boxes to folks who live in food deserts, as well as providing community cooking classes and teaching medical students about food as medicine. But at the end of 2019, the Columbia Housing Authority abruptly evicted them from the former Save a Lot grocery store. They had a strong food outreach but no home.
Main Street Methodist had earlier seen their childcare center close down. They had a facility with a DHEC-approved kitchen, but no program.
Main Street congregation thinks big, so they invited Food Share SC to use the church’s facilities, thus continuing Main Street’s mission and Food Share’s.
Specifically, Main Street UMC would host the Culinary Medicine Elective, an optional course for fourth year medical students in the semester before they graduate to residency. It’s a monthlong intensive where students investigate nutrition principles through research, case studies, lectures and hands-on cooking lessons. They learn not only the information needed to effectively counsel patients suffering from chronic illness, but also learn the tangible culinary skills needed to implement healthy eating into their own lives.
While the course is centered around nutrition and culinary science, the main focus is learning how to most effectively communicate this information with a high-risk, low-income population. The aim is to create relevant doctors, not just competent ones.
The month-long course culminates in a symposium where graduates of Community Cooking Classes are invited into a cooking competition alongside graduating physicians.
In addition, Main Street UMC provides space and volunteers for the Community Cooking Classes, which are aimed at equipping community members to create meals that are healthy and tasty. Food Share SC’s Fresh Food Boxes provide access to produce, and their Community Cooking Classes provide the skills and knowledge needed to turn that box into an agent for health.