Friday, July 23, 2010

Hunger is a reality that many of us do not realize exists in our daily or normal travels. Often, just outside of the neighborhoods and streets where we are accustomed to traveling there are large numbers of people who exist in a continuing state of crisis. Their personal crises are brought on by long-term unemployment, unmanageable housing and utility costs, fixed incomes that do not come close to covering all their expenses, health costs and other overwhelming factors.

If we take ourselves just a little off of our regular daily paths we can find those around us who live in that constant state of need and hunger. Maybe in your own neighborhood there are homes with “for sale” signs that have sat empty for many months, and there are some neighborhoods where it seems there are more empty homes than ones with families. If we go a little further out of our way to drive through rural areas in our state then we can see even greater signs of crises and need. There are many more houses empty and for sale and many more people who are not making it. Life presents additional challenges for those suffering from financial difficulties in South Carolina’s rural areas. Transportation is an enormous challenge and many do not have the means to take themselves or family members to the places where they can get help.

Convenient transportation is something most of us take for granted. We may complain about high gas prices and find ways to cut back on travel, but in the end if we feel the need or desire to go somewhere then we get in our cars and go. But many in our rural areas face a different reality. For them travelling just five or so miles can be a problem. For the few who own reliable cars high gas prices become a pivotal point in determining their access to meals.

To meet the needs of those in rural areas Harvest Hope works with over 400 agency partners throughout our 20 county service area. Many of these agencies take the food they pick up from us out to these impacted rural communities and provide soup kitchens or boxed meal sites at churches and other community centers. The majority of Harvest Hope’s food is actually distributed to the needy by our agency partners at these sites. Most of these agency partners are operated by faith-based organizations committed to helping their hungry neighbors.

There are direct and indirect benefits from our association with agency partners. The obvious direct effect is providing food to those who need it where they need it. The agencies operate in areas where poverty can easily be identified. Poverty is not hidden or out of the way like it is for many of us. It is present and all around them, and their compassion and devotion compels them to help where help is needed. These agencies provide food at feeding sites often run by volunteers and dedicated staffers who are in touch with the community and see the faces of hunger on a regular basis.

The indirect benefits for these faith-based organizations come from the opportunities to build relationships throughout the community and establish bonds of faith and trust with those in deepest need. These agencies help their suffering neighbors overcome some of the difficulties they face and put much-needed food on their tables.

But our agencies cannot be everywhere where there is need. Harvest Hope operates Mobile Food Pantries (MFP) to area not serviced by agencies or other feeding programs. The mission of our MFPs is to reach out to those with severe transportation limitations and take emergency food to them. Like the agency sites, our MFP delivery truck delivers food at designated churches or community centers and distributes the food with the help of area volunteers. Also, at this time of year our MFPs deliver quality, locally-grown fruits and vegetables through produce drops. Harvest Hope coordinates drops of locally-grown fresh produce based on the amount of produce on hand in our warehouse. During the summer the abundance of fresh donated produce allows us to deliver produce to our agencies on a rotating basis based on their individual need and service area.

Sometime this week give yourself enough time to drive off your regular route and allow yourself to see what others are facing everyday. Take some time over the weekend to get out to the rural areas and see the conditions that are a reality for so many. There is a very different world just a little removed from ours, and we may find that it is not so removed from ours.

Thank you and God Bless….

Denise Holland
CEO, Harvest Hope Food Bank

The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page. 
~St. Augustine

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts.  Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime.                  ~Mark Twain

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