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

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