COLUMBIA, S.C. — Families in South Carolina are need of food during the holidays as the coronavirus pandemic continues.
Local organizations have been planning for weeks to help prepare for the holiday season and find out ways to help people in the community.
Harvest Hope Food Bank
One of the places that's seen a big increase in the number of people they service is Harvest Hope Food Bank.
Taylor Davids, spokesperson for the organization, says since the pandemic started, Harvest Hope has experienced a 25% increase in the number of people needing food.
"We are expecting a record-breaking holiday season, not only for Thanksgiving, but for Christmas, as well," Davids said. "Those were usually our busiest times anyways. and with the pandemic and people still being out of work and stuff, we just expect it to be long lines and just-record breaking numbers."
Davids says they're serving around 2,000 or 3,000 people per day. They're helping serve people in 20 counties in South Carolina.
With the possibility of a second wave of the coronavirus, a concern is it making it difficult for families to find food in stores.
"Panic-buying greatly affected us back in February. We were down donations for a while because when the stores don't have stuff to donate to us, we don't have stuff to hand out," explained Davids.
Harvest Hope is currently in need of donations. Donating non-perishable food items, monetary contributions and volunteering is something that would help the organization during the holidays and the pandemic.
Non-perishable food items can include things such as canned goods like beans, fruits, pasta sauce, meats, vegetables, and soups. Cereal, dry beans, macaroni & cheese, pasta, peanut butter, and rice are other items they need.
People can drop off donations at Harvest Hope on Shop Road. People bringing in donations do not have to wait in line. You can pull up to the building and a staff member will assist you.
Next week on Monday through Wednesday, people in need of food assistance can head to Harvest Hope from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m.
Harvest Hope believes it's important to help neighbors in the community, not only during the holidays, but for the entire year.
"We see families sometimes only during the holidays when things get rough. Electric bills go up, people's bills go up in general, kids are at home, some people just want a holiday meal," explained Davids. "It's really important to us to not only provide holiday meals, but just food in general. We want to make sure that people know that we're here and we're here to provide hope and fill tables around the holidays and year round."
Chapin We Care Center
Another organization that helps serve people in the Midlands is the We Care Center in Chapin.
The outreach center has been serving the Chapin, White Rock and Newberry County communities for almost 34 years.
Alecia Klauk is the Executive Director of the center. They have seen more people coming their way as the holidays get closer.
"We have seen a significant increase in the number of clients coming in needing services. This is our normal busy time of year for utility bill assistance," said Klauk. "We are still serving, obviously, those immediate needs in Chapin and then also continuing our COVID outreach in Newberry doing at least, we're serving at least a thousand people a month there in addition to what we're doing in Chapin."
The We Care Center is gearing up to serve around 900 people for Thanksgiving. They will be giving out a big box of food, including a turkey and sides so people can make their meal at home.
"Christmas as well. We'll have to pivot and do just gift cards for our families this year, but we're ready for that as well," explained Klauk. "In order to maintain safety for our clients, for our volunteers, we decided not to do our normal model of Christmas distribution. What we normally do is collect toys and clothing and allow our sponsors to actually go out and buy those items, but because of so many limits with this COVID this year, we decided just to do gift cards."
The organization has been collecting gift cards over the last couple of weeks. They'll be giving out the gift cards on December 5th. People can get gift cards from places like Walmart and Target so families can get both clothing and toys in the same place.
"COVID has been such a difficult, difficult time for everyone and our clients are the least capable of being able to absorb the challenges that have come with it, including the financial challenges," said Klauk. "We are determined that we're going to be there for them through Thanksgiving, through Christmas and beyond for however long COVID lasts. We are going to continue to meet needs of people who need us and we're very grateful to have the community support to allow us to do that."