Looking for a way to help your community, or in need of supplementing your own pantry? The Lowcountry Blessing Box Project is a great neighbor-to-neighbor effort to provide families with non-perishables, foods and other essential items like diapers, sun screen, and toiletries. The Blessings Box Project aims to decrease food insecurity in the Charleston area, with over 200 boxes at various locations (including BIFMC) and residences with the mission statement, “Take What You Need, Leave What You Can.” Many families across Charleston county experience food insecurity; it is the hope that with each box, the community can help bridge the gap between families having to choose between buying food or paying other expenses, like their own health care needs.
Katie Dahlheim founded the Lowcountry Blessing Box Project four years ago as she saw a need in her own community. She created a network of boxes for families and businesses to construct for the continual – and anonymous – benefit of those neighbors who may be experiencing food insecurity.
“There is so much interest around the idea of anonymous giving and spreading this new event to their neighborhood,” Dahlheim says. “We put building plans on our website so people can use them if they want to or not… Some are repurposed from a toolbox, a bookshelf, or an old newspaper bin.”
Most boxes contain everything from canned peas and carrots to toothpaste. Dahlheim likes to see a variety of unusual goods that many people do not necessarily consider. She especially encourages items like sunscreen, bug spray, and bottled water for families in the summertime. Unfortunately, summertime also brings kids out of school, which may cause an extra financial burden. [Read: How Can I Reduce My Grocery Bill?]
“A lot of families rely on their kids eating lunch and sometimes breakfast or dinner at school,” Dahlheim says. “A lot of families get strapped in the summertime because their kids are all eating their meals at home. So we like to see kid-friendly foods like mac n cheese, apple sauce, cereals, things that kids eat.”
While non-perishables often consist of processed foods, you can still help supplement the Blessing Box with many healthy options.
When considering what to contribute to a blessing box, consider what goods you value in your own day-to-day lives. For Katie, she thinks of coffee.
“I think how it would feel if I didn’t start my day with caffeine,” Dahlheim says. “I think that is something a parent might sacrifice if the budget was tight if they had to pick between food for their child and coffee for themselves.”
Katie Dahlheim also recently published a book discussing her journey through her success in founding this organization. She provides advice and guidance for anyone with similar interests so that others can use this project.
Another great organization providing food, goods, labor and emergency funds is the James Island Outreach. Additionally, a free summer meal plan for students can be found as part of the CCSD Summer Meal Program. You can also find a list of local emergency resources here.
-Marguerite Peterseim, BIFMC Student Intern
Barrier Islands Free Medical Clinic is a free clinic in Charleston, SC, that provides free medical care to eligible patients, just like any family practitioner or internist. The Free Clinic serves uninsured adults living at or below 299 % of the Federal poverty level who live or work on Johns, James, & Wadmalaw Island or Folly Beach, or serve the Hospitality Industry of Downtown Charleston. You can sign up for our monthly e-news updates, or follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.