Advancing Health Equity in Spartanburg
The Mary Black Foundation believes that health and wellness are basic human rights.
In 2018, the Foundation adopted a health equity statement:
Health equity exists when all people have access to opportunities to thrive, both physically and mentally, and no one is limited in achieving health and wellness because of their race, ethnicity, nationality, gender, ability, sexual orientation, age, income, or zip code.
However, we quickly realized that having a statement was not sufficient enough. We needed a framework to guide our work. In 2020, the Foundation’s Program Directors, Keisha Gray and Natalia Valenzuela Swanson sat down to research and create a framework that would guide us in achieving our mission to invest in people and communities for improved health, wellness, and success in Spartanburg County.
To advance health equity, Spartanburg will need to ensure it has: (1) high quality education & employment, (2) safe & supportive neighborhoods, and (3) accessible, affordable, & culturally relevant health care.
Framework in Action
While no one organization can achieve health equity alone, the Mary Black Foundation uses its resources- grants and impact investments, advocacy, capacity building, technical assistance, convening, and strategic alliances- to advance health equity. Below are examples of how the Mary Black Foundation is working to achieve health equity.
Achieving Health Equity in Our Community
In each of the three buckets of Mary Black Foundation’s Health Equity Framework, there are different sub-categories. These sub-categories are more specific things that a community needs to have to ensure all people can achieve health and wellness.
Access to Fresh, Healthy Food and Clean Water
In the Safe & Supportive Neighborhoods bucket, the second sub-category is Access to Fresh, Healthy Food and Clean Water. Access comes in two primary forms: availability and affordability. Where can you buy it and at what price?
There is a current issue of access for people in Spartanburg who live in areas that have “low supermarket availability” according to the Food Access Research Atlas, a tool created by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. These neighborhoods have a high percentage of people without cars and are located more than half a mile from the nearest grocery store.
There have been many projects, initiatives, and organizations in Spartanburg that have worked and are working to increase access to fresh, healthy foods for all residents.
Framework in Action
Two great examples of a community coming together to fulfil a need for access to fresh, healthy foods are Hub City Farmers Market and Ruth’s Gleanings. These two organizations share a vision of a Spartanburg County where individuals and families can enjoy healthy meals made with vegetables and fruits sourced from regional farmers.
Increasing Access and Ensuring Availability
The relationship between the Mary Black Foundation and Hub City Farmers Market (HCFM) began over 20 years ago. When the Foundation launched its Healthy Community Initiative (1998-2003), one of the focus areas was improving the nutrition of Spartanburg County’s residents. The Spartanburg Nutrition Council was launched and, over time, evolved into HCFM.
A newer partner of MBF’s, Ruth’s Gleanings, was formed to bridge the gap between food waste and food insecurity among Spartanburg’s most vulnerable. In 2016, Executive Director Tonja Smith began working with Spartanburg County farmers who had excess harvest, and distributing the food to local food banks, soup kitchens, and mission homes. In 2019, the Foundation approached Ruth’s Gleanings about expanding its programs to include a Food Share program. Food Share is a statewide initiative that encourages communities to buy food from farmers and create boxes of fresh produce that can be distributed to local families.
These two organizations point to the Mary Black Foundation as a common thread. The funding from the Foundation has helped them develop a strategy for the future, take calculated risks that led to successful expansion, and develop new partnerships that increased impact. The Foundation has provided training and technical assistance that has motivated leadership to focus on systems level work and how their organizations can increase capacity to meet the evolving needs of Spartanburg County so that our local food system can thrive.
Visit Mary Black Foundation’s website to learn more about our Health Equity Framework and examples of ways the Foundation has used grant funding and impact investments to further its mission.