Ruth's Gleanings is a food rescue and distribution service in Spartanburg, S.C. The program focuses on reclaiming excess fresh and healthy food, including produce, prepared meals, and perishable items that otherwise would be discarded. Once the food donations are secured, they are delivered to partner organizations that serve the poor and those who are considered food insecure.
By most estimates, up to 40% of food produced in the United States is wasted and thrown away in landfills.
At the same time 14% of the nations households are food insecure, which is 17.4 million households.
A recent survey* in Spartanburg, S.C. shows some startling statistics when compared with the national average. This survey was conducted in the city limits of Urban Spartanburg, what is considered a food desert where the population has low access to healthy, whole foods.
The average of food-insecure homes in Urban Spartanburg are as follows:
- 64% have low food security
- 32% have very low food security
- 32% of children have food low or very low food security
While food insecurity is high in the food deserts of Spartanburg, 52% are obese and 22% are overweight. This certainly indicates a lack of healthy, fresh food which causes nutritional poverty and insecurity!
Ruth's Gleanings helps bridge this gap between food waste and nutritional insecurity. By rescuing healthy, perishable food that would otherwise be thrown away, this rescue program is set apart by addressing not just the hunger problem, but also the nutritional problem. Ruth's Gleanings partners with and collaborates with other organizations that meet the needs of the hungry by redirecting this higher quality nutritional food into their systems to supplement what they are already doing. As we tap into this waste stream of 40% of the food produced, and channel it towards the 14% of households with food insecurity, we create a bridge to healthier families and communities.
Why Ruth's Gleanings?
Ruth's Gleanings is different from other Food Bank organizations in that we primarily source healthy, whole foods, fruits and vegetables, and perishable prepared food. Our food is not put on shelves as it is consumed within a short period of time before being unusable. These gleanings are sought for their nutritional value, not just because it is something nobody wants. Nutritional insecurity and deficits in the target population to be serviced is the primary concern we want to address.
Ruth's Gleanings has an impact in the community of Spartanburg in three major areas -- social, environmental, and financial.
The collaboration of various businesses, organizations, churches, farmers, and schools has the effect of strengthening the fabric of a community. Also, obvious positive impact results when those in need are lifted up by being helped in areas they need it most. Bringing healthy food to those who are nutritionally insecure can change lives in multiple ways, including mentally, physically, and socially.
When 40% of the food produced is being thrown away, the environmental impact is very significant. Not only is this organic material filling up landfills, but the amount of natural resources wasted through production and transportation is staggering. We serve to redirect these resources in a way that makes the food supply more sustainable and at the same time reduces negative environmental impact by keeping what we procure out of the landfills.
Our financial impact is multifaceted in that we bring money savings to our food donors through their tax deduction, as well as the money saved through less disposal cost for them. We also bring a positive financial impact to our beneficiaries when we supply food to their organizations at no cost to them. Finally, the financial burden of the individuals that are ultimately served with this healthy food is alleviated to the degree that their food cost is less. The ultimate goal of better health through healthy food is a benefit to the entire system as healthcare costs are reduced and lives are improved.
Who We Are
Tonja Ruth Smith: Founder / Executive Director
After 18 years of owning a small business in the healthcare industry, and 40+ years of living in Spartanburg, it was time to put some passions together in a way that would serve our community. I am passionate about organic gardening, though I am much better at growing flowers than food. This leaves me mostly dependent on purchasing fresh, healthy food.
I also love to help others, especially lifting people up both spiritually and physically. For many years I have worked with youth, women, single moms, and more recently in Urban Spartanburg. My faith and strong Biblical foundation have lead me to found Ruth’s Gleanings, which is based on the Biblical command in Leviticus 19:9-10 and Leviticus 23:22, as well as the Book of Ruth. I believe God gave us ways to feed the poor, the widow, the orphan, and the foreigner.
Board of Directors
David A. Smith
Sales and Marketing expertise, 27 years in the field. Has worked in inside sales for UPS for the past 10 years. Great understanding of shipping and freight transport. Always inspired by serving others in the community, especially widows and those in need.
Entrepreneur. Owns and operates Banana Box Market, a discount grocery that functions on a very similar principal to Ruth's Gleanings...procuring excess healthy grocery merchandise and making it accessible to a lower income market. She is also passionate about adoption, having adopted 3 of her 4 children into a loving home.
Entrepreneur. Owns and operates an accounting service. Sales experience, management experience, accounting experience. Passionate about healthy eating and giving back to community. She is always full of compassion, encouragement, and kindness to others.
Entrepreneur. Owns and operates a Designer Kitchens & More, an architectural and design studio. Excellent sales experience. Ability to see potential in multiple spaces and situations, transforming them into something new and amazing. Passionate about healthy food and serving her community in multiple ways.