Monday, December 5, 2011

Everyone Can Make a Difference

Imagine an empty plate at a dining table.  Imagine the anxiety and concern of parents who desperately want to make sure their family has enough to eat, but circumstances out of their control prevent them from having what they need to put food on their tables.

Imagine that Christmas means fourteen days of hunger to many children. During the holiday break, which is two weeks for most area school districts, the free or reduced breakfast and lunches that form the staple for so many at-risk school children are not available. Parents already struggling to make ends meet often cannot find the extra money to feed their children during those chilly fourteen days. Imagine a child who, rather than looking forward to Christmas and being excited about all the holiday season is going to offer, only looks at this time of year as a time of hunger. There are children who dread the coming of the holiday season.

This is the reality for almost 16% of South Carolina’s population, who currently live below the poverty line. More sobering is the fact that 29% of our children under the age of 18 live in poverty, a total of over 102,000 children in South Carolina. There are a lot of empty plates in our communities every night and the numbers are increasing.

A measure of this increase can be seen through our work at Harvest Hope Food Bank as we struggle to provide emergency food for the hungry across 20 SC counties. From July 2010 through June 2011, Harvest Hope provided food to 2,522,330 individuals, an increase of 24% over the previous year. Harvest Hope currently feeds an average of 49,000 people a week as we strive to reduce the number of empty plates in our communities.

During the three days before Thanksgiving, Harvest Hope served over 2,100 families at our Emergency Food Pantries in the Midlands. That’s approximately 6,500 individuals.

I know when faced with numbers like these it’s almost impossible to think about what we as individuals can do to overcome hunger in our community. But even though we see the large numbers every day and every week, at Harvest Hope we experience those numbers one family at a time. If 600 families come through our Emergency Food Pantry on a given day, then we hear 600 individual stories of family hardship. We see 600 opportunities to make a difference in the lives of a family by putting food on their table.  And we do make a difference, one family at a time.

Everyone can help us make a difference for struggling families, one family at a time. For just $50 per family, we can make sure they have enough food to last throughout the holidays. Compare that to how much money most of us spend on food at this time. The average family spends upwards of $150 on the Thanksgiving or Christmas meal alone. So think about the value of feeding an entire family throughout the entire holiday season for just $50. Help us give the Hope of food when they need us the most.

At this time of year, we are fortunate and blessed that many offices or businesses think about our hungry neighbors and find a way to help by using funds usually used for the office holiday party to donate to Harvest Hope. It is a way to spread the joy of giving throughout your workplace and getting everyone to share in contributing to the community. If your office is planning a holiday party, please think about how beneficial it would be to dedicate a donation to put food on the tables of hungry families. Harvest Hope uses 98¢of every dollar donated to feed the hungry, and every dollar buys up to seven pounds of food. Think how far a donation from your business will go toward bringing food to those who need a little help right now.

During the holiday season, Harvest Hope offers donation options to note the festivities and honor or treasure memories of loved ones, friends, colleagues, neighbors or other community acquaintances through our memorial or honorarium giving programs. These programs allow donors to contribute in honor of or on behalf of others to recognize their place in the community or preserve their memory.

We make donating as easy and as affordable as possible. Just go to our website at and click on “Donate Now” to see the options we provide for giving.

Help us make sure that all children in our communities look on this season with hope and excitement rather than the fear of hunger. Help us get them through the fourteen days of hunger.

Thank you for your blessings and heart-felt generosity,

Denise Holland

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

A Miracle of Service

Miracles can reveal themselves to us in the smallest of acts. I have never had doubts about the works of God and His ability to hear our prayers and move to answer us in His own way. So when I heard the following story on WMHK FM it only strengthened my faith in the existence of miracles. I am remembering the details of the story, so please forgive me if portions are paraphrased from the original inspiring story. I am so thankful to the mother who called in to uplift others with this personal story as well as WMHK FM for allowing her the opportunity to do so.

A woman called in to the radio station to tell a story about her grandmother, who years ago faced hardship as a single mother with several children. She had no money and had run out of food in the house, and became deeply depressed after putting her children to bed hungry with no idea how to feed them the next day. She got down on her knees and prayed. Through her tears, she first thanked the Lord for His graciousness and acts of good to others, then began to pour her heart out about her situation and how she and her children had nothing to eat. She prayed for specific grocery items she knew she could stretch out and make last as long as possible to feed her family. She, in effect, gave the Lord her shopping list.

The next morning as she was getting her children dressed and ready for school, wishing with all her heart she could provide them breakfast, she was surprised by a knock at the door. The person outside her door was a stranger to her. They did not know each other at all. The stranger said the Lord “laid it upon my heart to go and provide for someone in need, and directed me to come to you specifically with these groceries.”  The woman was shocked to find that everything she prayed for the night before, all the items she knew she needed to provide for her children, were in the gift brought by this stranger.

I was moved and touched by this story for many reasons. I was struck by the faith, earnestness and complete honesty of that mother, talking to the Lord as if He were right there with her, listening to her and holding her hands. I believe God always knows already what our needs are, and just wants us to be direct and communicate our wishes and needs to Him.

I was also touched by the testimony of the stranger who came to her door.  This person responded without question to the urgings laid on their heart by God and acted without hesitation to fulfill the inspiration and provide exactly what was needed. All for someone they did not know.

As we enter the Thanksgiving season, we are already seeing long lines of families in need at our doorstep. Mothers and fathers who tell us with tears in their eyes they do not know what they would do if we were not there from time to time to help them. We are already seeing hundreds of families, who like that woman years ago, do not know where their next meal will come from and worry about their immediate future. As a charitable organization, we need faithful servants like the man who did not question and answered God’s call. We can make it easy for those who choose to be faithful servants and help with our mission.

You do not have to leave your home to go to the store or go shopping. You don’t have to fill grocery bags.  You can visit our website and provide a monetary donation of $20, $50, or $100 that will greatly assist Harvest Hope in meeting the community’s hunger needs this Thanksgiving. Harvest Hope dedicates 98¢ out of every dollar donated to feeding the hungry in our community. Please click here and see the easy ways to help us help those in need of food.

The Bible reminds us, “It gives us joy to give”.  Will you be that faithful servant to help us right now in this easy way?  I am on my knees, being thankful for you and at the same time, asking the Lord to help us in this way.

Wishing you and your family the best of all Thanksgiving blessings as you share time together,

Denise Holland
CEO – Harvest Hope Food Bank

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Henry Edwards Manning, the 19th Century Westminster Archbishop wrote, “Gratitude consists in a watchful, minute attention to the particulars of our state and to the multitude of God’s gifts, taken one by one.  It fills us with a conscientiousness that God loves and cares for us, even to the least event and smallest need of life.”

This quote reminds me so much of our volunteers and the financial and food donors who show great care and concern for our mission by their thoughtful generosity.  When I consider their acts of generosity one by one I am quickly overwhelmed by such thanksgiving. I am moved by how great all of the supporters are to Harvest Hope Food Bank.  These gifts fill me with a conscientiousness that God does love and care for all of us.

A recently published US Census study shows SC has a population of over 4.5 million people, 18% of them living below the poverty line. This equates to 1 in 5 adults experiencing financial hardship putting  them at great risk for hunger.

When a person is hungry that is all they can think about.  All of life’s other problems are entirely too much and can’t be dealt with when one is hungry.  I see the faces outside my office window daily.  Over the last four years we have continued the highest distribution of food than ever in our 30 year history.  We are blessed with more donors than ever before, but the donations are between 50-70% less than what we have seen in years past.

Harvest Hope’s outreach embraces a diverse selection of feeding initiatives that provide essential nutrition to the hungry through church-led food pantries, soup kitchens and shelters as well as our own children’s hunger programs, senior programs, mobile food pantries and our own Emergency Food Pantries. Some of those coming to our pantries have no feeding options in their own communities and are force to travel to our Shop Road or Cayce facility from such distant areas as Williamsburg, Charlotte, Augusta, Dillon or Marion.  Can you imagine traveling these distances to find a friendly face who will show care and concern and will provide food when there is simply no place else to go?

I am so thankful for each and every person who helps to make our mission possible through their humanitarian presence as a volunteer, a food donor, or a financial donor.  This Thanksgiving as you and your family plan your special time together, can you help us assure that hungry families standing in line waiting patiently and hopefully for anything we can provide for them do not leave with empty hands?  You can honor a family member with a card showing that because their love made your holidays special in the past, you want to preserve your fond memories of that by helping another  family with a gift to fight hunger.  We make giving easy by visiting our website at  You can participate in a virtual food drive, make a donation, engage your company in HOPE floats with “I HOPE” cards or make an announcement during a holiday event for everyone to text message a donation.  Will you help us?

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Many think of Harvest Hope solely as a food pantry, a door step where the hungry come to directly ask for and receive the Hope of food. But direct service through our emergency food pantries only measures a small portion of the food we distribute across 20 counties in South Carolina. The majority of the food we provide reaches hungry families and individuals through the efforts of our agency partners.

Harvest Hope is the life line for over 450 agency partners who share with us a dedication to meet the hunger needs of those struggling under economic uncertainty. Without us, many of them would be forced to shut their doors. We provide critical support for many organizations dedicated to feeding the hungry. Some of our agency partners have told us they could not survive without us.

Who are these agencies who work hand-in-hand with us to meet the needs of those who struggle with hunger daily? Many are faith-based: churches or faith organizations that include as part of their mission hunger outreach services. Other agency partners include children’s homes, soup kitchens, homeless shelters, senior centers, women’s shelters, and other service outreach providers.

Over the years Harvest Hope has grown and identified that the best way to meet the needs of the increasing numbers of hungry people is to provide quality food to these agencies while serving as a role model for others to follow. Through our shared maintenance partnership, they receive a variety of food from us for 19¢ a pound or less. Fresh produce, dairy, baked goods or other perishable food items are provided at no cost. For charities such as soup kitchens, food pantries, family shelters, missions or other organizations that provide a variety of services to at-risk populations, this means they have more funds available for all the different facets of their operations.

Our agency partners benefit from relying on Harvest Hope as a one-stop location where they can purchase all of the quality food they need for their operations at enormous savings. They tell us they could not survive without the blessing of our shared maintenance assistance and would have to close their doors, cutting off food for many who suffer from hunger in small and rural SC communities. To learn more about how we work with agencies to feed hungry families across South Carolina please visit our website here:

Help us make sure we remain the reliable partner for organizations that depend on us to provide food to the hungry across 20 counties.

Thank you for your blessings,

Denise Holland

We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give. ~ Winston Churchill

Our prayers for others flow more easily than those for ourselves. This shows we are made to live by charity. ~ C.S.Lewis

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Sometimes thirty seconds can show us a lot. If we open our minds and allow ourselves to see a different perspective for just a half a minute, sometimes we can understand another point of view or relate to another person’s struggles in ways we could not predict.

Everyone is affected by the increased cost of doing business and the increased cost of living. Increased expenses lessen our ability or willingness to give to others. I truly understand that. But this is something I want everyone to think about: it’s what I call the thirty second exercise. Think about a time when you’ve been forced to skip a meal. You’re running late for work so you don’t take time for breakfast. But you know it’s not devastating because you can make it up at lunch. Or you have a busier than normal day at work and just work right through lunch. You know you’ll make it up at supper. We’ve all been there from time to time, right?

 Now take thirty seconds to think about someone who skips a meal not because they choose to or because it might be convenient but because the food is not there and they do not know where the next meal will even come from. Try to put yourself in that mindset for just thirty seconds, and then realize that’s the reality many people in South Carolina face every minute of every day.

It’s hard for us to imagine hunger and food insecurity for even thirty seconds, but the reality for so many who struggle in our community is they live with constant hunger and doubt all the time. We can close our eyes and TRY to imagine what their fear must be like, but they in turn cannot just close their eyes and wish it away. They fear there will be no food on the table at each meal and wishing will not change that.

School is out across South Carolina, and financially strapped parents face the challenge of providing an additional two meals a day for their school-age children. Many are now forced to turn to us for a little additional help in providing food for their families. This creates a paradigm of need wherein struggling families find it more difficult to put food on the table and have to come to us, but the same economic forces that created their dire situation in turn increases our expenses and impacts our ability to meet their needs. 

Even before school let out we began to see an increase in the number of families coming to us. In May at our Emergency Food Pantries (EFP) on Shop Road and 12th Street in Cayce we served 5,739 families throughout the month, or 287 families a day. This was a 26% increase over the number of families we served in May last year. Over 12% of those coming in to the EFP’s reported they needed our assistance for the first time, and 52% reported that unemployment was the reason they were forced to come to us. If we project a similar increase throughout the summer once schools let out, then a 26% increase over last year will bring over 7,000 families per month to our doors. And that’s just in Columbia. We also provide for the struggling families in the Pee Dee and the Greenville/Laurens communities, plus more than 400 member agencies in our 20 county area-they are also experiencing increases in demand.

So how can Harvest Hope, caught up as we are in the cycle of the “paradigm of need”, hope to find the resources to meet the needs of so many families across South Carolina? We cannot hope to do it without the support of so many in the community.

Two generous families, the Mungos and the Cassels, have already helped by posting matching campaigns that kicked in $300,000 when private donors did their part. We have seen that people are more than willing to give when they know their contributions will be matched. We would love to find at least two more partners in the business community to follow the examples set by the Mungos and the Cassels and declare their own matching campaigns.

The spirit of philanthropy is infectious and inspires people to acts of generosity when they see their neighbors are moved to action. Help us create a new “paradigm of charitable acts,” and inspire the communities of South Carolina to recognize the suffering of hungry families and move to ensure they have food to put on their tables this summer.

With Blessings and Hope,
Denise Holland

“If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.”  ~ Mother Theresa

I am only one, but I am one.  I cannot do everything, but I can do something.  And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do.  ~ Edward Everett Hale

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

With the school year just about over our thoughts naturally turn to the upcoming summer months.  We like to think of the summer as an idyllic time of year full of rest, relaxation and vacations, and as a time of relaxed schedules when instead of getting the kids out of bed for school we get them out of the house for fun things to do.

What summer means for many parents and families in our community is another thing altogether, and not that kind of idyllic time away from school. It is certainly not the care-free and lazy summer days of decades past. Not for many.

As the school year closes and we think about final report cards, make-up days, saying goodbye to teachers and the growing anticipation of the weeks to come, we need to take stock of several things to count as blessings. We should count as blessings the kind and considerate teachers, principals, guidance counselors and other administrative and support school staff who have guided our children through the preceding months of learning and helped the families of children beyond the call of duty.

When Harvest Hope repeats that one out of every four children under the age of five in South Carolina goes to bed hungry every night, it is not just an alarming statistic for teachers but a real nightmare they witness every school day. Educators know not just metaphorically but in real quantifiable terms that when a child is hungry they cannot learn. Hunger affects their ability to focus or pay attention and dampens or destroys their child-like curiosity and enthusiasm for learning. Hunger affects their ability to work and their desire to attend class. Hunger has a real and measurable effect on learning and on a child’s health. Teachers in our state see this every day.

At Harvest Hope, because we are so involved with children’s feeding programs administered through and in coordination with schools, we hear of teachers who see the effects of hunger in their classrooms and reach into their pockets to make sure they have bags of apples or oranges or have other types of nutritious snacks to provide for children. Most teachers can easily spot the children in their classes who are hungry. They know the real harm of hunger and see the effects on those sitting at desks in front of them. That is why there are teachers who use their own money to try and bolster the nutrition of at-risk children in their classes.

Just as there are many cafeteria workers who do what they can to give extra food items out of their own pocket to children so they will not have to go home and face the despair of nothing to eat until they return the next day. There are guidance counselors who keep on hand snacks or nutritious items to provide to some children who come to them with issues and behavior problems, because they know those problems can be hunger related.

The summer months for Harvest Hope are the hardest months. During the ten or so weeks that children are out of school, their parents must find a way to replace the meals provided through in-school free and reduced breakfast and lunch programs. For many families suffering economic hardship, they have no choice but to turn to Harvest Hope or one of our partnering agencies to replace the meals they will not see again until late August or September.

We would like to offer two suggestions how everyone can support our mission to feed the hungry children during the summer. A $30 donation to support our Back Pack program provides nutrition for children to last through the weekends. That $30 is equal to seven meals per weekend each month.

The other suggestion is to honor those teachers who have been so kind and instructive to your children by donating an Honorarium gift in their name to Harvest Hope. We have designed a special new Honorarium specifically to honor teachers. When you donate one of these Honorariums a card will be sent to the teacher letting them know that their kindness and enlightenment will result in the gift of food for a child in need. Honorariums through Harvest Hope are easy: if you send us a donation just enclose a note with the specifics of who you wish to honor and where you want the card sent, or provide the same information if you donate on-line through

Thank you so much for the many ways you help us to feed hungry children and show kindness to someone who helps children.

God Bless You,

Denise Holland

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

On a recent morning my devotion started with these wonderful words...

"This is the day the Lord has made, rejoice and be glad in it."  Psalm 118; verse 24
I do rejoice in this day!  For Harvest Hope Food Bank and the many people who depend on us everyday, I rejoice for the heartfelt generosity of two local business leaders who have family-owned companies and who truly know the joy and blessing that can only come from providing for others who are, at this current time, in need of a little assistance. The Mungo and the Cassels families and their collective group of employees, clients, and supporters have shown their compassion and humanitarian spirits by pledging large donations with the consideration that others open their hearts to give as well. It is through their work that the Lord blesses the food bank so we can help those who need us so desperately. 

Just as the Mungo family through Mungo Homes did in March, Southeastern Freight Lines will be matching a gift of $150,000 if others in the community donate a total of $300,000 to Harvest Hope. This is a huge blessing!  You are a part of this and your participation is as critical as the very nature of hunger. 

We are taught in God's word that we are to be thankful for facing difficult times.  Times when in our human frailty we have the tendency to feel like no one cares, no one will help and no one will rescue us or others in need. This is just the same as a family will feel when going to their kitchen cabinets to find very little or nothing there.  We are assured through God's teachings that when we open ourselves to be thankful in all things He will use that situation to show His blessings.  We are reminded to not fear, but to have faith and trust in Him.  He knows what our needs are and will meet our needs according to His will. 

This is a strong message that must be shared.  Harvest Hope Food Bank came to you one month ago with a plea to help us raise $2 million dollars to assure a continuation of service to those in need.  With the success of the Mungo match, completed in just over three weeks, we rejoice that we have achieved 25% of our goal. Now with the new Southeastern Freight Lines offer, if we can raise another $300,000, their gift of $150,000 will be a reality and we will then have achieved 50% of our overarching goal.  I am thankful for the difficulties we have faced stemming from the need for service delivery and for the critical situation it has caused for us. Because it is through these difficult circumstances we see the wonderful involvement of sharing not only the stories of hunger, but the courage of those who help meet the demand.  That courage includes you!

I have so much respect for the grace and spirit of these two outstanding SC companies for their recognition and support of the work Harvest Hope does everyday in 20 counties to meet hunger needs.  I also thank you, our loyal donors for the same earnest conviction that proves you too support our daily work to help assure that no child, no family, no senior citizen should worry and not go without the vital nourishment our food provides. 

I ask you, beg you, and prevail upon you with all of my heart, to again help us reach this match.  School will be out for summer very soon. Many families facing difficult economic circumstances benefit from the free or reduced-price breakfast and lunches their children receive at school.  It continues to be a worrisome truth that every day school is out families are forced to come to one of our member agencies or a mobile food pantry, or to one of our own Emergency Food Pantries.  Lines outside any of these locations continue to be long and their frustration is palatable when stomachs grumble. As summer grows closer each day, rather than the relaxation many dream of, the hunger worry grows stronger and becomes a nightmare.  We must continue our push to get ready to feed them. 

There are many ways to participate in the Southeastern Freight Line match.  Certainly a donation to help us get closer to our goal is essential. But even more important is to ask your conviction to tell others of why you support Harvest Hope as your personal passion. Your courage to speak up for hunger is definitely the reason someone else will follow your shining example.  Just as we have great leaders like the Mungos and the Cassels from Southeastern Freightlines, you too are a leader.  You are a leader that provides the real example that you are not going to stand as long as there is one hungry person in our midst. You are a leader because you feel strongly that by working together we can meet the dire critical emergency need of hunger.  Someone watching you right now is looking for a reason to get involved to help others and will feel compelled by your example to do the same.

At, there are details on how to give online or how to have a virtual food drive. We recommend setting up a competition between offices, departments, neighborhoods, other organized teams or civic clubs to see who can organize the food drive with the biggest results.  As you stop at a Corner Pantry in Calhoun, Orangeburg, Lexington, Richland, Clarendon, Kershaw or Florence counties or if you are in Blythewood at a Blythewood Oil station, buy an "I HOPE" card for $1.  Write on the card anything you hope for, and while doing so you are Helping Our People Eat for Harvest Hope Food Bank.

We so very badly need your help. With a financial donation and your word to pass the need along to others or most definitely your praises for the great people who have the courage to step forward as we press toward our 2 million goal. Please know I also personally ask for your prayers as we strive forward.

Lastly, please do not think that you are not needed.  You are always needed. With every gift, whether a financial donation, time to volunteer, or other idea to share we come closer to our goal to feed the hungry people are depending on all of us.  You are the best ambassadors for Harvest Hope!

From all of us, we so very thankful! You are counted among the blessings just as Mungo Homes and Southeastern Freightlines.  Let's rejoice this day and press forward to the goal!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

At the beginning of March Harvest Hope took the unprecedented step of announcing we were facing a fiscal crisis and were launching a funding drive to help raise cash to pay off recent debt and shore up finances to prepare for the coming need. We announced through the media we needed to raise $2 million between now and the end of June, and as much of it as possible as soon as possible.

For more than four years now, the increase in need for our mission work of providing food to the hungry has not abated. From 2008 to 2010 we saw a 91% increase in our service to hungry families.

In the last six months, the number of families we have fed has increased by 42 percent over the same period a year earlier.

Our resources are stretched thin across the 20 counties we serve. Just operating our fleet of vehicles that deliver food throughout our region costs us $3,100 a day. Harvest Hope depends on its fleet of trucks to pick up and deliver food throughout our 20 county service area, and so this is an expense we have to afford, no matter how much gas increases.

Yet we are suffering from a steady decline in donations, especially the corporate and large gift donations that do so much to help with our operating costs. Now due to the steady increase in demand, the rise in operational costs and the decline in large donations we find ourselves in an economic crisis.

The $2 million goal is not an arbitrary figure pulled out of thin air, but a number arising from a combination of factors to include the accelerating increase in need, the rise in unavoidable expenses, the continuing decline in cash contributions and projections based on what we know will be an increase in need to feed hungry children during the summer of 2011.

These factors caused us to take a hard look at the reality of our operation and situation and to make the difficult decision to let the community know what we are facing. It was not an easy decision to make. And while we are still far from achieving the $2 million goal we set to help lift us out of our current economic crisis and prepare for the immediate future, I am happy to report that the initial reaction has been supportive and I have tentative hopes the community will continue to open their hearts and give to help us reach our goal.

We were helped by a generous matching campaign made by the Mungo Company, a long-time contributor and friend to Harvest Hope. They agreed to provide $150,000 if the community donates to a level that doubles that amount. I am pleased to announce we are close to achieving that amount. I want to thank everyone who responded to our cries for donations to help us make it this far. But there is a long way to go.

For the communities we serve, Harvest Hope is the institution that is too big to fail. We are the food safety net for almost half the state. Our 476 member agencies that feed the hungry in their communities – churches, private charities, others – depend on Harvest Hope too much. For 30 years we have worked with these organizations around the state to identify pockets of poverty and directly provide food to individuals and families in need. We cannot fail and we will not fail. Too many in our state depend on us.

We are NOT failing. We are not going away. We are getting the job done, despite the challenges before us. But for the first time, we have gone into a financial hole doing so, and we need your help to get out of it, and continue the mission.

The easiest way to help is to visit our website at and click on the Donation button. You’ll go right to a convenient donation screen.

We have never asked for help of this nature before. Honestly, I never thought we would have to. But over the last few months we have accepted the inevitability of this. We need your help to reach our $2 million goal. It is not an impossible goal. Many are already responding. Help us make sure we can continue providing the safety net that so many need.

God Bless You for Your Compassion,

Denise Holland

One man gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty. A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed. - Proverbs 11:24-25

A generous man will himself be blessed, for he shares his food with the poor. - Proverbs 22:9

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

I want you to think for a minute about the senior citizens that you know or have known in your life and especially those who have made an impact on your life. Most of us have known at least one senior during the course of our lives who we think of with great fondness. Think about a favorite grandparent, aunt or uncle, friend of the family, church member or even co-worker who we have come to regard with admiration and affection.

Now think about that person going hungry. Think about that person consumed with worry about how to make ends meet on a fixed income and wondering where they will find the money to buy the groceries they need after paying all their other bills. Think of their desperation as they are forced to choose between paying for the medicine they need or buying food for their table, both of which they need to survive. And let’s not get started on the rent or mortgage.

According to the US Census Bureau, South Carolina is second in the nation for senior citizens who suffer from food insecurity, with 10% of its elderly population living in a constant state of anxiety over how to put food on their tables.  These are individuals who do not have access to healthy and nutritious food sources due to limited income, and/or inadequate transportation.  Since subsisting without consistent nourishing food increases many health risks such as malnutrition, diabetes or hypertension they become locked in a vicious cycle where their health concerns are perpetuated and their health costs continue to spiral, which impacts their ability to buy the food they need to stay healthy. 

The issue of seniors living in poverty and hunger is one we rarely see or hear much about in our country, but a recent episode of the new NBC show Harry’s Law choose to dramatically illustrate their plight with the story of an 87-year-old woman forced to commit armed robbery because she did not have the money to buy food. During the trial both the prosecuting attorney and the title character, lawyer Harriet “Harry” Korn who defended the accused senior, used current hunger and poverty statistics such as 25 million Americans are hungry everyday and 45 million live in poverty. In her summary defense, Harry talks about the shame of hunger and the desperation that seniors must feel after working their whole lives only to discover they cannot pay for their housing, medicine and food. She states in anger: “We live in the richest nation in the world yet one in seven Americans live in poverty.” I am grateful to the producers and writers of this show for dedicating an episode to an issue usually avoided in mainstream media.

We see the faces and hear the stories from hungry seniors when we provide senior boxes on the second Thursday of every month at our Emergency Food Pantry through our Commodity Supplemental Food Program, which is grant funded through the SC Department of Social Services. Pre-qualified seniors receive a box of food each month to help meet their nutritional needs. Last year, Harvest Hope provided 28,758 food boxes to qualified senior citizens in Fairfield, Greenville, Kershaw, Lexington, Orangeburg, Richland and Sumter counties.

Totes of Love is a new feeding program designed to meet the needs of low-income Senior citizens in the Pee Dee area.  It is a grant funded program working to improve the health of 25 low-income seniors by supplementing their diets with nutritious foods and providing nutrition education.  Harvest Hope Food Bank supplies the participating Chesterfield County site with food and tote bags each month.  The on-site coordinator sends home a food-filled tote bi-weekly to qualifying applicants who are at least 60 years of age and older who live in Chesterfield County, and whose income is at 130% of the poverty levels for the state. There is no cost to the participants, but the tote must be returned prior to the delivery day in order to be refilled. 

Please take a moment to reflect on the suffering of our elderly neighbors who are caught in the cycle of economic hardship, hunger and anxiety. Think about the seniors that are closest to you and have contributed so much to your well being. It is difficult to imagine our own grandparents or even parents suffering and worrying about the money for their next meal. Remember that this is the reality for 10% of senior citizens in our state.  Please help us continue our efforts to lessen the pain of hunger for the elderly in our community and designate a gift for our senior feeding programs. We can provide 250 meals for a senior citizen for less than $40, or  1,000 meals for a senior for less than $150. Give us a call at (803) 254-4432 or visit to easily make a donation.

I know it is in your hearts to help those who have made a lifetime of providing love and encouragement to others. Thank you for your compassion.

With Warmest Regards and Thanks,

Denise Holland

“Rise in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere your God. -Leviticus 19:32

“The silver-haired head is a crown of glory.”  - Proverbs 16:31

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

With the winter months upon us, this tends to be a season where all household bills seem higher than at other times of the year. In our 2010 Hunger Study, we can easily see how a number of problems this time of year impact people who are already meeting tough times. Fifty-five percent of people interviewed report they have to make difficult decisions about paying rent or utilities or paying for food. Forty percent have to make difficult decisions about paying for medical expenses or paying for food.

Both of these choices add a higher impact on those who live on the edge financially, particularly during this time of the year. And while there are many organizations that help people with these particular problems, these issues directly impact the population we seek to provide food for with a heavy burden.  

The Food Research and Action Center released a study less than one month ago that shows South Carolina is second in the nation for families living in food hardship, which is defined as not having enough money to buy the food they need for themselves. Over the last year 24% of South Carolinian's reported they could not afford adequate food for their families. According to the US Census Report, South Carolina has a population of 4,625,384, which means that 1,110,092 people in our state cannot adequately or dependably provide food for themselves or feed their families. That’s right, over one million people live in a constant state of hunger and uncertainty.

We hear the stories everyday of people who either exist in a continued state of economic crisis, or discover how fragile their circumstances are when they are suddenly confronted with an unexpected financial burden. In December a woman in her forties came to us in distress due to a series of sudden unforeseen economic hardships. This mother of three, who works full-time as a flooring contractor, usually manages to provide for her family, pay her bills and maintain the upkeep on her small home in Gaston. Prior to December, she had come to us for food just twice over the last year, with each visit months apart. She had all of her monthly expenses covered and had even put a way a little extra money to afford a modest Christmas for her children. And then in the space of less than three weeks both of the family vehicles, one of which she depends on to haul materials as part of her contracting job, broke down and she found herself facing over $2,000 in repair bills. She could scrape together enough to repair the vehicles, but the cold weather had caused her utility bill to rise and she need over $400 to prevent her power being turned off. We helped her with food to last through the end of the month, and through an act of providence a generous donor heard about her circumstances and stepped up to pay her utility bill. The beginning of the year has brought an increase in contractor jobs and she is getting back on her feet again to earn the level of self-sufficiency that she works so hard to achieve.

As inspiring as her story is, there are many who are not so fortunate and whose stories are more tragic. With South Carolina’s unemployment at the seventh highest level in the nation, there are many who continue to look but cannot find work. They come to us for food. There are many who are willing to take any job that comes along, even if the hard work does not adequately maintain any semblance of a standard of living. They come to us for food. There are many seniors who face high medical expenses in addition to all the other expenses of this time of year and find they have to cut corners and sacrifice buying groceries. They come to us for food.

I would like to ask for everyone who finds themselves in the fortunate circumstance to consider donating to think about the generosity of the individual who helped the Gaston woman with her power bill. This man, who is already a regular contributor to Harvest Hope, discovered and benefited from the joy and warmth of giving, and knowing his gift meant a family did not have to go without power in the cold. If you find you have the means, open your heart do what you can to help us provide for those who find themselves on the wrong side of unfortunate and unforeseen financial hardships. Visit our online gift catalog at or our donation page at and see how easy and rewarding it is to help out your struggling neighbors.

Best Wishes and Deepest Appreciation,

Denise Holland