Bertram Rantin

Harvest Hope kicks off feed a neighbor campaign

Denise Holland was heartbroken when she recently found a woman camped out, asleep in a chair outside Harvest Hope Food Bank.

But the food bank's chief executive officer wasn't surprised.

As the woman waited for Harvest Hope's emergency food pantry to open that morning, Holland was again reminded of the hunger pangs that have gripped a growing number of residents since the economy's decline.

"That could be any of us -waiting, worrying, enduring those frantic hours alone and embarrassed, desperately needing help," Holland said.

Area residents haven't ignored those needs, as they've helped the food bank feed nearly 1.4 million people the past year.

But Harvest Hope officials expect a half-million more people to seek help in the coming months.

Next week, Harvest Hope will launch the second Feed Your Neighbor Campaign.

The campaign, which kicks off Oct. 1, is aimed at raising $400,000. That's how much is needed to maintain the food bank's ongoing operations and respond to the expected increase in demand.

"We will need 40 million pounds (of food) to feed the hungry in these upcoming months," Holland said.

For the second year, Mungo Homes has agreed to match every dollar raised - up to $100,000 - during the campaign, which runs through late fall.

Kim O'Quinn of Mungo Homes said company officials hope to take a lead in ensuring a very basic need.

"No one can be productive - be it learning or working or looking for a job - if they're hungry. So we just feel like taking care of that basic need is important," O'Quinn said.

Harvest Hope's distribution network includes 400 partner members and direct food service programs in its 20-county service area.

The food bank opened its newest emergency food pantry at 1775 12th Street Extension in Cayce earlier this year.

Last year's Extra Mile Campaign generated $410,578, reinforcing what Holland called a long-standing commitment to the hungry.

"The triumph has been the success of feeding so many hungry people in this time of incredible economic crisis," Holland said.

But the demands have not waned, she said, adding the coming holiday season is expected to be among the most challenging in years.

"Despite our success in the summer months, we urgently need financial resources to continue and build for the demands we are anticipating."