Eating well, according to the advocates at Wholespire, can be a challenge for some communities in South Carolina because of a lack of access to healthy foods. That’s why Wholespire has been providing resources for local charitable groups and communities, as well as supporting legislation that gives South Carolinians access to a renewed lifestyle full of fresh, healthy food and active living.
Wholespire, formerly called Eat Smart Move More SC, began as a division of the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control. But as needs of the public grew, so did the organization. According to Executive Director Meg Stanley, Wholespire focuses on three areas: advocacy, community initiatives and youth engagement.
“Since the inception of this organization, we focus on what’s called policy, systems and environmental change, or PSE,” said Stanley. “We are not like a lot of traditional nonprofit organizations that are focused on service delivery and program delivery.”
Instead, Wholespire directs its funding toward big-picture projects that generate sustainable change in a community. Rather than back short-term initiatives and single charitable events, Wholespire provides assistance and aid to groups and policy changes that transform communities..
Healthy eating isn’t Wholespire’s only focus. The nonprofit also supports community groups and programs that encourage a more active lifestyle alongside dietary changes.
One Wholespire program directly links the organization to the community itself – The HYPE Project. Dedicated to younger people, The Healthy Young People’s Empowerment Project encourages kids and teens to work on local, long-term projects that also create PSE changes.
With more than 800 youth trained as community leaders in the HYPE program, Wholespire is teaching teens how to advocate for healthy eating and active living in their lives. Through pre-existing learning spaces such as schools or churches, and even police departments, Wholespire prepares young people to make wellness changes in their own lives and also helps them complete a project to better their community.
Past projects completed by HYPE leaders include building a community garden from the ground up, delivering nutritious food to members of the community and even removing sugary drinks from church luncheons. A core part of the HYPE curriculum is “teaching (youth) to be an active part of their community no matter what their community may be,” said Stanley.
She explained that Wholespire provides resources for long-term, permanent change that will give individuals in a community access healthy life choices: “We want that access to be available, because you cannot make a healthy choice if one isn’t available to you.”
Alongside partnering with already-established local charities and organizations, Wholespire leaders also are facilitating change behind the scenes at the Statehouse. Stanley explained that Wholespire is, “able to help individuals, and particularly decision-makers, to realize that personal choice can’t be made unless the environment is conducive for that change to be made.”
You can already find some of the effects of Wholespire’s work in South Carolina; the organization advocated for Healthy Bucks, a part of the government’s SNAP program that allows people in need to receive extra healthy food when they buy produce and other fresh goods. Wholespire also works with government agencies to direct funding to initiatives that bring wellness opportunities to South Carolina; just recently, the organization began the process of funding what Stanley called “mini grants” – smaller funding projects that will create long-lasting change.
Wholespire has supported projects including farmers markets, walkable trails and even using wellness to aid in alcohol addiction recovery. Taylor Ion, Wholespire’s marketing account manager, described the nonprofit’s work best: “They are the leaders of leaders because they can provide resources to change-makers and can also challenge them at a state and a policy level.”
For more information, visit www.eatsmartmovemoresc.org.