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  https://harvesthope.feeding-hope.org/ or our donation page at http://www.harvesthope.org/donatenow.aspx and see how easy and rewarding it is to help out your struggling neighbors.

Best Wishes and Deepest Appreciation,

Denise Holland

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