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Columbia’s innovative program takes center stage in White House challenge to combat hunger

Columbia, South Carolina – The White House Challenge to End Hunger and Build Healthy Communities has put the City of Columbia in the spotlight as a way to fight hunger while also keeping communities healthy. This honor is mostly because of the city’s creative Grocery Access Pilot (GAP) program, which was made possible by the city and Instacart working together. The program is meant to help people who live in “food deserts” by giving them a free Instacart account and a monthly stipend to cover service fees. This makes it easier for them to get fresh, healthy food.

What are food deserts?

The USDA says that a food desert is an urban place where people live more than a mile from the closest grocery store, making it hard to find fresh food that is both cheap and of good quality. The goal of the GAP program is to close this gap so that people who don’t have easy access to grocery stores can still enjoy fresh food and good food choices.

Mayor Daniel Rickenmann was excited for Columbia to be a part of the White House Challenge because he saw it as a chance to show the city’s commitment to fighting food insecurity while helping the community stay healthy.

“As a part of the Challenge, we hope to show our continuous commitment to reducing food insecurity and building a healthier community,” said Mayor Daniel Rickenmann. “Columbia hopes to serve as an example to other cities that face similar struggles and need innovative solutions.”

Read also: Interstate 126 Westbound closures scheduled for Carolina Crossroads project progress

The urgency of the situation was emphasized by a 2020 study from the City’s Food Policy Committee, which found that over 65,000 people in Richland County need better access to food. The City of Columbia has been actively looking for new ways to make sure that its residents have easy access to fresh and healthy food options in answer to this urgent need.

The GAP program’s start shows that the city is serious about not only fixing current problems with food access but also building a foundation for long-term health and wellness improvements in the community.

This initiative by the City of Columbia, highlighted in the White House Challenge, serves as a beacon of hope and a model for other communities facing similar challenges. Together with private companies like Instacart, it shows how important it is for local governments to lead the way in finding new and useful ways to fight hunger and improve the health of their communities.

Read also: The City of Columbia launches inclusive traffic studies, pedestrian & bicyclist counts to shape urban planning

View the White House Challenge to End Hunger and Build Healthy Communities Challenge features here.

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