COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - With the expiration of the CARES Act and the future of another COVID-19 stimulus bill uncertain, Harvest Hope Food Bank is seeing an increase in demand.
According to volunteers and regulars at the food bank, lines to get fresh groceries have been four times the normal length in the past few weeks.
“In the last month, I’ve had to come two hours early just to get in line,” said Harvest Hope regular David Joy.
On Mondays and Wednesdays when Harvest Hope’s food pantry is open, Joy brings a book, parks his car in the line that started forming around 4 a.m, and waits two to three hours until he can pick up food.
While there is an increase in demand, Harvest Hope has also seen a decrease in volunteers, according to a spokeswoman for the food bank.
Harvest Hope attributes the need for volunteers to many of their older helpers deciding to stay home because they’re at risk of becoming seriously ill from COVID-19.
The volunteers who regularly come out despite the virus say they do it for the people who need help now more than ever.
One of those people in greater need now is Karyn Sumter. Sumter is a Mom of four who had never been to Harvest Hope before August. With all of her children learning at home, Sumter says she is struggling despite schools providing some meals for students.
“It’s been hard putting food on the table for the kids, they’re home all day, school started back. It’s just been hard,” Sumter said. “They are eating up everything, the money is not able to come in, I had to quit my job because the hours of school, we [are] responsible for their education...So you have to come to places like this to get help,” she added.
Sumter says she misses the independence of shopping on her own but considering the risk of being back at work where she would regularly interact with customers, she is holding in her pride for the family.
“It feels like I gotta do what I gotta do, you know, you put your pride to the side and some people need help. And sitting at home and suffering, they ain’t going to work. I have kids and they are the most important thing to me right now...I am not going to make them suffer because I don’t want to be out here getting help, getting food handouts,” she said.
For some volunteers, they see the position people like Sumter are in as the byproduct of a larger war.
“I’m keeping my mind [in the] battle, but I’m battling the negativity,” said Harvest Hope volunteer Nick Bostick
Bostick started volunteering at Harvest Hope around the time the pandemic hit.
He’s an Air Force combat veteran and says he channels the drive he learned in the military to fighting the economic impacts of coronavirus.
“I want it to be a battle,” he said, barely able to keep himself away from going back to give more food out to people in need.
Regulars at Harvest Hope say they rarely see longs as line as they’ve been recently.
David Joy has been coming to the food bank long before the pandemic hit. He says while the demand has increased, the response from the Harvest Hope has not.
“There’s such an amount of teamwork…there’s a lot of joy here too,” he said.
That joy is why Bostick brings his highly trained work ethic with him twice a week to Harvest Hope. He believes people not only need to give physical gifts to others in these times but also spiritual gifts.
“We have faith, but we give hope,” he said.
If you are interested in volunteering with Harvest Hope or know someone who needs their help, go to https://www.harvesthope.org/.