FLORENCE, S.C. — The man who is bringing the Save-A-Lot grocery store to downtown Florence has been bringing meals to hungry children in some parts of the city.
And what started as a few bags of food a day has become hundreds.
Tim Waters was a substitute teacher in the Florence One Schools district. When word came in March that schools were closing because of the coronavirus, a few women who worked in the school cafeteria asked if he could deliver some of the extra meals to a few kids in a west Florence neighborhood.
Upon the closing of schools, the district made school lunches available to families by pickup, but it found that many of the meals were going to waste as families were afraid to or unable to come to the schools or buses to pick up the lunches.
He was told that each child could only get one meal. One day, a child grabbed two and started to run away. Waters stopped him and asked why he grabbed two.
“I want to save one for tomorrow morning so I have something to eat,” Waters recalled the child saying.
Waters said he was devastated and thus began his mission to provide meals to any hungry kids around town.
He began delivering more and more meals until he was contacted by Mia Buck, the resident district manager for Florence One’s culinary team. She authorized him to deliver as many meals as he could.
He now delivers over 300 meals a day to hungry children, affecting approximately 500 people all around Florence.
“I had no idea it would grow to this scale,” Waters said. “I was just trying to help out a few kids that I knew needed it, and soon, more and more people were reaching out.”
Before the outbreak, Waters had been focusing on opening the Save-A-Lot grocery store in North Florence as a way of addressing a food desert. It has been a project for 20 years. Waters said he recognized the importance of feeding those in low-income communities, and now that his project once again has been put on hold, he has doubled his focus on helping those in need.
Taking health precautions is essential for his safety and the safety of those receiving the food. He never approaches a house without wearing a mask and gloves. He never enters the houses that he delivers to, only leaving food on the doorsteps, using an abundance of hand sanitizer, and always keeping Lysol in his vehicle.
Waters says even after completely disinfecting, he worries about getting sick or spreading the disease to his family.
“I’ll wake up at 3, 4 a.m. thinking I don’t want to do it anymore. It’s not worth it,” he said. “But come 8 a.m., I’ll get a call from a kid asking for a chocolate milk with their meal that day and know that might be the only food they get for the day.”