While their donors continue to give generously heading into the holiday season, food bank managers throughout the Carolinas say that they constantly struggle to meet the demand of more and more hungry families.
"I am very thankful that more people are becoming engaged," said Denise Holland, executive director of Harvest Hope Food Bank, a Columbia agency that has seen its donor rolls and fundraising go up by 10 and 21 percent, respectively, this year. "Donations have not quite kept up with what the increase has been, but certainly an increase in donations is very, very helpful."
But the sheer numbers of those in need have been staggering in a state like South Carolina, where unemployment marked its second straight monthly decrease in October - 10.7 percent - but still measured the sixth-highest in the nation. On Monday, the two emergency food pantries at Harvest Hope - which distributes food and household products to more than 400 nonprofit agencies in 20 South Carolina counties - served 750 families, a one-day record.
In the past year, Holland said the number of families served by Harvest Hope has increased by 29 percent, with more than 740,000 families served so far this year. The agency gave more than 2 million prepared meals to soup kitchens, and, in just the first nine months of this year, distributed 13 percent more pounds of food than in all of 2009.
"It really brings it full scope when everybody sees what people just like all of us are experiencing and waiting in line just to be given - they don't have the freedom of a choice to walk into a grocery store and buy what they would like," Holland said. "Because hunger is such a travesty, they are willing to take whatever we have that we can give to them."