Optimists learn about food pressure

Erinn Rowe, CEO of Harvest Hope Food Bank, spoke on November 11 to the Optimist Club of St. Andrews-Irmo. She gave the group the background context for the need for Harvest Hope and provided insight into facts and figures that affect the organization’s work.

With distribution centers in Columbia, Florence, and Greenville, Harvest Hope recognizes that more than 10 percent of South Carolinians must face hunger on an ongoing basis. It is very common for its clients to be contending with spending choices based on either food or some other household expense. Rowe referred to that situation as “food pressure.”

Harvest Hope depends on the help of 30-40 volunteers a day. In a normal year, more than 10,000 volunteers participate.

Grocers are a vital source of food items for Harvest Hope, often donating items with ‘sell-by” dates that are imminent, but not expired. There is a system in place to rush those items out more quickly than other food with a longer shelf life. So then the soon-to-expire items are deployed and used promptly while they are still viable. The same sense of urgency also applies to produce. All donations are inspected for freshness, dates, and container conditions. 

Harvest Hope operates a school child backpack program to put a weekly supply of food in the hands of students. The food bank takes special care to use as little sugar-added food as possible.

From time to time, there are spot outages of specific food items, and Harvest Hope gets the word out to its suppliers to shore up its inventory. Also, there are items that are identified on the organization’s website wants list. The items on that list currently are:

1 pound bags of rice

1 pound boxes of pasta

1 pound bags of dried beans

Canned vegetables, fruit, and beans

Macaroni and cheese

Peanut butter


Packaging of single serving breakfast items

Single serving pop-top meat items

Baby supplies (diapers, wipes, formula, and foods not in jars.

Pictured from left to right are Club President Larry Blosser, Erinn Rowe, and speaker sponsor Jay Downs. Rowe received a cop of the Optimist Creed.