As Hurricane Florence approaches the South Carolina coast, area food banks say they are running low on items — if they aren’t already empty — and are appealing for donations..
Feeding the Carolinas, which partners with other agencies to supply food to evacuation shelters, said Wednesday morning that cupboards are bone dry and food banks, including Harvest Hope in Columbia, need bottled water, canned goods and nonperishable snacks.
“Our shelves are bare,” said Mary Louise Resch, disaster manager with Harvest Hope in Columbia. “Because we are a disaster relief agency, we push out as quickly as we can to those local communities in advance of the storm. And we already know, based on the most current storm track, that our outreach is actually going to increase.”
On Wednesday, Laura Reid, director of donor relations with Harvest Hope, browsed the aisles at the Food Lion on Harden Street after the store donated $3,000 in gift cards to help the food bank stock up.
Reid put diapers, cleaning supplies, as well as canned goods like spaghettios, pork and beans, and tuna into a cart. All those items will go to Harvest Hope’s warehouse and be put into emergency packages and shipped out where the need could be the greatest ahead of Hurricane Florence. When the warehouse gets restocked, Reid says it could be empty again in two days.
“It’s very busy,” she says. “We’re trying to make sure all donations are coming in. ... We’re having to support the coast and North Carolina.”
Food banks across the state have spent the better part of the past week, Resch said, sending food to communities near the projected path of the storm. They also have been working with partner agencies, including the Salvation Army and American Red Cross, to supply evacuation shelters as well DHEC’s special medical needs shelters.
Coastal branches in Myrtle Beach, Beaufort County and Charleston are closed, said Mary Louise Resch, disaster manager at Harvest Hope Food Bank in Columbia.
“The need doesn’t go away. We just have to shift our focus of planning, which is now in the Midlands,” as well as Greenville, Resch said. “We will be at our food bank today and tomorrow, and our needs right now are bottled water — I know everybody needs bottled water — and anything in a pop-top can.”
Donations — of both food and money — can be dropped at Harvest Hope, 2220 Shop Road, as well as at the food bank in Greenville, 2818 White Horse Road.
Resch said cupboards are bare for a variety of reasons.
“This is typically a slow time for food banks, because people are just going back to school ... and we just went through the summer where our service population increases, but our donations go down so we can’t purchase as much food,” Resch said. “So we were already at a deficit, but now we even have more of a stress. Donations are key to making sure we can respond (to Hurricane Florence) in a way that we need to.”
When the shopping’s done at Food Lion, Chuck Backman, director of inventory and procurement at Harvest Hope, stood by the filled cart, waiting to pay for the food and supplies. He says money is the best way people can help out. Harvest Hope can make a $1 donation into five meals. But if people want to come to Food Lion and fill up a buggy, his organization will certainly use the help. Florence, he says, feels more dangerous than other severe weather events in the past four years.
“We’re looking for something that’ll be more catastrophic than the (2015) flood in Columbia,” Backman said.
Other items Harvest Hope needs are baby products like diapers and wipes.
Backman says those are the types of items beyond food that allow people to get back a sense of normalcy.
S.C. food banks have supplied $10.4 million worth of disaster relief since 2015, Resch said.
For more information and to donate, go to www.HarvestHope.org.
The Cooperative Ministry food pantry in Columbia also says it’s in need of donations.
“While we do not know the storm’s impact on our community, we are expecting high volumes of walk-in clients, beginning Monday, Sept. 17,” Rev. Scott Vaughan, director of development and communications said in a press release.
To serve the working poor and homeless after the storm, the ministry is asking for the following food donations, beginning Monday: Peanut butter, peanuts, crackers, Beanie Weenies, soups with protein, tuna pouches, cereal, granola bars, applesauce, Mandarin oranges, Pop-Tarts, and instant grits or oatmeal.