For South Carolina families, food banks help ease the grip of hunger

COLUMBIA, S.C. – Sometimes the line forms before the doors open at 9 a.m. at Harvest Hope Food Bank, a part of the Feeding America network. Chris Daly, chief operating officer of Harvest Hope, told me on Tuesday, “It gets you when they’re here before you.” The father of four said he can’t imagine the stress level of the clients, some trying to keep their children calm during what may be a two-hour wait. Harvest Hope tries to be “hospitable, quick and respectful,” he said.

The cavernous Columbia facility is part distribution center, supplier — with the agency’s other facilities — to about 500 partners in 20 South Carolina counties that feed some 38,000 people a week with what amounts to 30 million pounds of food a year. Also important is Harvest Hope’s role as a food pantry, where families can come Monday through Friday to pick up the protein, dairy products, produce and bakery goods that will help them through tough times. “You never get more than a few feet away from the end goal of the mission,” Daly said. “It keeps you grounded.”

In the United States, the child food insecurity rate, according to Feeding America data, is at 22.4 percent. In a list that no state wants to lead, South Carolina ties with Mississippi in the No. 10 spot at 27.4 percent. The numbers say that in South Carolina, 292,800 children out of a total under-18 population of 1,067,813 live in food insecure households.