Providing hope to hungry families
by Wendy Broderick
Too many South Carolinians have to choose between meals and vital living expenses, like utilities or medical costs. At Harvest Hope Food Bank, our mission is to provide for the needs of hungry neighbors by gathering and sharing quality food with dignity, compassion and education.
In 1981, Harvest Hope was founded by leaders from business and faith communities who came together to serve the hungry of Columbia. In the years since, we have grown dramatically, expanding our service areas to include 20 counties in the Midlands, Upstate and Pee Dee regions. While Harvest Hope serves our neighbors, we also depend on the help of our neighbors. We’ve developed relationships with thousands of volunteers, donors, and agency partners whose support is essential to our mission.
We partner with more than 430 nonprofit agencies, serving nearly 27,000,000 meals in FY 2018-2019 (roughly equivalent to four meals for each citizen of this state). Our partnerships also allow us to leverage every $1 donation to Harvest Hope into five meals by working with organizations and individuals to drive food donations and buy in bulk. Through these partnerships, we’re able to reach approximately 31,405 people each week from our locations in Columbia, Greenville and Florence.
Because anyone can go hungry, Harvest Hope has programs in place to serve people in every stage of life, from senior citizens, children, veterans and beyond.
Many don’t realize that 64% of school children across our 20-county service area qualify for free and reduced lunches. One in five children in South Carolina go to bed hungry every night. In order to feed these children, we started Feeding America’s Kids Café and BackPack programs. Kids Café is a charitable after-school meal service program for children ages six to 18 that distributes hot meals in churches, after-school programs and public schools. Our BackPack Program provides weekend hunger relief for children identified as at risk of hunger, who receive fresh and nutritious sources of fruit and protein that can easily be opened or prepared on their own.
One in 10 South Carolina senior citizens, another high-risk population, face food insecurity, meaning they remain uncertain if they can meet their daily hunger needs. Through the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP), Harvest Hope provides a monthly nutritious commodity box to participating seniors.
Harvest Hope also has mobile food pantries to deliver food to rural and remote pockets of poverty. Each month, when our trucks roll up to mobile food pantry sites, they are welcomed by local partners who help coordinate our efforts to provide food to their hungry neighbors.
For more than 35 years, Harvest Hope has played a vital role in serving the hungry across South Carolina. We couldn’t do it without the support of our volunteers, donors and community partners. Thanks to the collaboration of numerous individuals, we are taking tremendous steps towards ending hunger among our neighbors.
Wendy Broderick serves as the CEO of Harvest Hope Food Bank. For more information, visit harvesthope.org.