Spartanburg – Ruth’s Gleanings, a food rescue organization, fights nutritional poverty by bringing fresh, healthy food to Spartanburg’s kitchens.
The organization has two programmes. One saves the excess food which is distributed to the needy. The second is FoodShare Spartanburg, which provides families with affordable lunch boxes with fresh fruits and vegetables every two weeks.
Tonga Ruth Smith, founder and CEO of Ruth’s Gleanings said: “Our entire organization operates in the spirit of a certain verse and a certain book in the Bible – the Book of Ruth. And they pick up on the things that are left behind in this harvest because there is a thing that says that when you harvest your land, you don’t Reap all the way to the ends or pick up the riches left behind. Leave them to the poor and the foreigner, the widow and the orphan.”
Smith started the organization in 2016.
Ruth’s Gleanings buys produce from local farmers and distributors to put in their FoodShare boxes. About 800 boxes are available every month. Chests are not free, but they are significantly discounted. A box containing $25 to $30 worth of products can be purchased for $15. For those with SNAP benefits, the box is $5 on a SNAP card.
Inside the boxes there are up to ten types of fruits and vegetables. Every time chests are distributed, Smith said she likes to include a specialty item, which is less common.
“A lot of people use the analogy, it’s like Christmas when they open their box because they don’t know what’s going to be inside,” she said.
In addition to purchasing products for the boxes, Ruth’s Gleanings receives donations that go to partner organizations such as pantries, soup kitchens, and mission houses that help those facing food insecurity. The organization not only strives to provide fresh produce options, but also teaches the value of healthy food through cooking lessons and recipe sheets that match the items inside each box.
Through community partnerships, a curriculum has been created so that anyone can facilitate leading online cooking classes. Teachers talk about hygienic practices and how to properly use kitchen utensils and utensils.
Spartanburg Regional offers food box vouchers to people who attend diabetes education classes. Ruth’s Gleanings also provides funds for an in-hospital program that helps at-risk expectant mothers.
Introducing children to healthy food “is causing lifestyle changes no matter how they are raised or what their favorite foods are,” said Jeff Randall, director of community relations and operations at Ruth’s Gleanings. “They’ve kind of learned that this is a good health aspect to starting life.”
About 40 percent of food produced in the United States is wasted and discarded, and 14 percent of American households are food insecure, according to the organization’s website.
“While I was here, I’ve had side conversations with people about the differences in their health, the way they approach food, and getting them excited about the program. It’s really something,” Randall said.