Food banks see spike in demand during holidays amid pandemic

Food banks see spike in demand during holidays amid pandemic
Food banks see spike in demand during holidays amid pandemic (Source: Adam Mintzer)

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - A major spike in demand has become the new normal at Harvest Hope Food Bank, but the pandemic combined with the upcoming holidays is only further driving up need.

According to Harvest Hope Food Bank leaders, the organization estimates they will feed more than 3,975 people the week of Thanksgiving. During the same time in 2019, Harvest Hope fed nearly 1,000 people less.

“We are seeing record-breaking numbers, so I think that really tugs at people’s hearts...I feel that underscores how much need there is,” said Harvest Hope’s Development and Communications Specialist Taylor Davis.

Carol Baker is one of those people in need of help for the first time. Baker and her family lost their jobs in the pandemic and recently moved to South Carolina from Ohio because her husband and daughter found work. She is still searching for a job for her because, without her help, the family is struggling to make ends meet.

Typically, Baker said she donates to food banks during the winter, so waiting in line for meats, produce, and other goods is a new experience.

“It’s very humbling it really is. It’s just different being on this side. Needing to ask for help rather than being the one giving help,” Baker said. “I’ve never seen one this big, I’m truly amazed, I am,” she said of the line to pick up food.

Terry Yonder found herself in a similar situation.

Yonder also lost her job because of COVID-19, so has been going to Harvest Hope since the pandemic started. She says going into the Thanksgiving holiday, she is thinking how grateful she is for the organization that fed her during these hard times.

“It means a lot that people care. If it wasn’t for these people here, we wouldn’t be eating. And I appreciate that there are places where you can get food,” Yonder said.

Volunteers and leaders at Harvest Hope say the influx of new people needing help has been jarring, but sadly they don’t see demand going down anytime soon.

“For a lot of them it’s really from the pandemic, a lot of them that are getting unemployment... are having to choose what bills they pay,” long-time volunteer Kathleen Maltarich said.

Workers say sometimes people come to the food bank feeling a sense of shame because they need assistance. However, Davis said they shouldn’t feel that way because their organization loves being able to give to people.

“We want to make sure you can fill your tables and your cupboards this Thanksgiving. It’s an honor for us to be able to help you,” she said.

To donate or volunteer at Harvest Hope go to Leaders say they are closed on Thanksgiving and Black Friday, but always looking for help ahead of Christmas.

For people interested in volunteering on Thanksgiving day, Davis recommends checking out the United Way click here.

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