SC food pantry sees demand increase as pandemic continues

Volunteers at Harvest Hope Food Pantry in Columbia say they’re seeing the need for food assistance rise.
Updated: Jun. 25, 2020 at 2:52 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - While many businesses across the Palmetto State have reopened and some people are returning to work, the need for financial assistance and help putting food on the table is still evident.

In fact, volunteers at Harvest Hope Food Pantry in Columbia say they’re seeing that need rise.

Wednesday, the food pantry served 266 households and a total of 1,067 individuals. That’s nearly three times more people than the food pantry traditionally helps. So far, on Wednesdays in June, the line of cars waiting to turn into the pantry has stretched nearly a mile down Beltline Boulevard.

S.C. food pantry
S.C. food pantry(WIS)

Volunteers say it can take up to two hours for cars to make their way through the drive thru distribution.

“I’m scared that it’s going to keep going on. You see that the light is at the end of the tunnel, and things are opening up, but more and more people keep coming,” said volunteer Paul Vandoninck.

Harvest Hope says the need was high when the pandemic first hit, and in May, they saw a slight decline. Now, in June, the number of people in need is back up and approaching an all time high.

“People try to get back to the new normal, but you can look around me and see the need is still there, and people need our help,” said Taylor Davids, the development communication specialist for Harvest Hope.

According to Feeding America, almost half of the people food pantries are serving right now are first timers.

“There are people that thought they would never use a food bank. They may have a six-figure job, and they never thought they’d be in this place, but now they are just because of the crisis. So, we’re just here to help everyone, and we always say hunger doesn’t wear a certain face that you think it might, and this just goes to prove that,” Davids explained.

Deloris Benbow lives in Florence and drove all the way to Columbia to get help from Harvest Hope with her daughter, who lives in Lee County.

“I know the pain when a family member has kids, and they cannot provide. It’s a pain because you can’t rest, you can’t sleep because you’re thinking about how should I go about to provide for my kids. It’s a struggle, but it’s a blessing for them to open the door for people like me and other people to feed their families and help assist their children,” said Benbow.

Harvest Hope relies on close to 30 volunteers a day to keep the drive thru process running smoothly, and with the heat of summer still ahead, the pantry is fearful they could see a shortage of volunteers. There is also fear that supplies could run low if the number of people in need continues.

“We will do the best we can for as long as we can,” said Davids.

Harvest Hope is open Mondays and Wednesdays from 9 am to 1 pm. If you’d like to volunteer or donate, click here.

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