Earlier this year, I was thrilled to be connected to Katie Dahlheim, the Founder of the Lowcountry Blessing Box Project in South Carolina.
I love this project for its simplicity. People taking care of people. Without further ado, allow me to introduce Katie and her project.
Liz: Let’s start in traditional Smile Project fashion. Give me a “Happiness is.”
Katie: Happiness is an inside job.
Liz: Tell me about your project.
Katie: The Lowcountry Blessing Box Project is a network of 109 free pantries in the South Carolina Lowcountry. Our motto is "Leave what you can, take what you need." Our Blessing Boxes are anonymous donation sites for non-perishable foods and toiletries.
Liz: What is the driving force behind what you do?
Katie: We can all agree that everyone - no matter their circumstances - can be kind. We believe that anonymous giving and receiving is a way to change our community for the better. The reason that people are getting food from our Blessing Boxes does not matter - and it is not for us to judge or question. Most of us are just a few missed paychecks away from needing assistance. Also, we believe it's important to teach kids to be kind and this is a simple, effective way to bring that lesson home.
Liz: How can people get involved?
Katie: To see our 109 locations and follow along with what's next for us. If you are local to South Carolina, you can do a food drive to support our Blessing Boxes. We also have a Midlands Blessing Box Project and an Upstate Blessing Box Project that cover our whole state.
To learn more about how our organization is fighting against the stigma of childhood hunger, read about "Catch Up on Lunch" here.
If you are not in South Carolina, then you can search for a free pantry near you using this link. Of course, you can always follow and support us at our Facebook page here.
Liz: Anything else you'd like to add?
Katie: Studies show adults with food insecurity will skip meals or reduce their portions to provide for children in their homes as they wait for pay day. Many food insecure families do not qualify for the assistance of food banks, or are hesitant to turn to food banks for assistance due to the stigma.
One "bad month" can be enough to plunge a household into food insecurity. Lay-offs at work, unexpected car maintenance, unforeseen medical bills, or an accident on the job can suddenly force a family to choose between buying food and paying bills. This is the purpose of our project- to bridge this gap.
Liz: Do you have a favorite quote or piece of advice to leave us with?
Katie: If you have more than you need, it's better to build a longer table than a higher fence.