Food distribution as COVID relief efforts

About 450 people are helped in the Lowcountry Food Bank distribution at Socastee Elementary School on Friday. The food bank works with Faith Outreach Ministries volunteers for the large-scale food distributions in Horry County. Photo by Janet Morgan/janet.morgan@myhorrynews.com

Andrea Rivera smiled and nodded when the volunteers filled her backseat with apples, bread, frozen meat and cupcakes.

“I thought we were going to make it here, but I don’t know now. We might as well go back to Greenville,” she said of moving her three children from the upstate to Socastee over the summer. “I was supposed to do nursing work, home care nursing, but it’s not working out. We’re not hungry, you know like street people, but we need to eat and it’s hard out here.”

Rivera had waited in line at Socastee Elementary School with hundreds of others on Friday for the Lowcountry Food Bank free food distribution in conjunction with Faith Outreach Ministries and more than 20 volunteers.

Kari Hanna of the food bank said the service helped about 450 households on Friday and they are planning another event Thursday at Kingston Elementary School in Conway.

Typically, during the COVID-19 response efforts, Hanna said, the food bank gives food to about 600 families at distribution sites. She suspects the drop is because the distribution was held at the beginning of the month when people still have available SNAP benefits.

“The need is definitely still there,” she said.

The need is high in low-income areas such as the Socastee community, she said. Socastee is a high priority site because many people who live in the community don’t have access to transportation and there are only a few grocery stores.

Plus, she added, many families are still suffering from the effects of flooding.

Before COVID-19 issues plagued the area with closures and illness, Hanna said Lowcountry Food Bank was partnering with Faith Outreach Ministries for monthly food distributions as the ministries continued their own monthly distributions.

Since COVID-19 hit the area in the spring, Hanna said the partnership has expanded to weekly distributions at various sites around the county.

“As we have the product and we see the need, we will set them up as kind of pop-up distributions,” she said.

And a pair of neighbors agree the need is being met in Socastee.

“I’ve got some mac and cheese at home and I think a little bit of bread,” Will Taylor said leaning out the passenger window looking at the cars snaked around the elementary school parking lot. “I can’t work all the time. I have gout and some other stuff. I don’t know what I’d do without them giving us food like this.”

Sable Brooks said she lives a few doors from Taylor in the nearby Burgess community.

“I don’t mind giving him a ride, but I have to go to Conway a few days a week and I don’t see him. My aunt needs me to stay with her and I cook and clean for her,” she said. “I don’t ever know when I might have to go and Will might need a ride. He can’t walk nowhere so I help him when I can.

“And the best part about coming here is they don’t make you bring a bunch of papers. All they ask is how many people you need food for,” Brooks said. “I need food and I take some to my aunt. She can’t drive.”

As Brooks inched her car a few feet forward, a volunteer leaned in and asked how many families needed food before signaling with two fingers to the volunteers grabbing food to place in vehicles.

Hanna said most of the volunteers at the large distribution sites such as Socastee are from Faith Outreach Ministries, but volunteers are needed at Lowcountry Food Bank. She said anyone who wants to donate food or sign up to be a volunteer can stop by the warehouse at 4716 Northgate Boulevard off S.C. 707 or call 843-448-0341, extension 300.

Other food distributions in Horry County include New Beginnings 8-10 a.m. on Feb. 20 at the Church of the Resurrection off U.S. 17 Bypass; St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church north of Conway off S.C. 65 on the second and fourth Fridays of each month beginning at 11 a.m.; Dogwood Hill Baptist Church north of Loris on Mt. Zion Road 8-10 a.m. on the third Saturday of each month; and Salem Baptist Church north of Conway off S.C. 319 beginning at 9 a.m. on the second and fourth Wednesday of each month.

Janet Morgan is the editor of the Myrtle Beach Herald. Contact her at 843-488-7258 or at janet.morgan@myhorrynews.com.

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