Food banks need seconds

Michael Holahan/Staff
Zachary Mitchell loads boxes onto a forklift at Golden Harvest Food Bank in Augusta, where donations have increased, but so has the number of mouths to feed.

Donations at Augusta-area food banks have increased during the holiday season, but so has the need for food, according to agency directors.

"We have a tremendous need," said Vikki Adkins, director of development at Golden Harvest Food Bank. "It seems the need is increasing."

In the past six months, the number of counties Golden Harvest serves has increased from 25 to 30 with the addition of five counties in South Carolina, she said.

And while the public is responding with generosity and with more community food drives and an outpouring of good will, Golden Harvest is still in need of food because family visits are up while corporate sponsorship is down.

Family visits this year increased to 250,000 from 228,000 last year, said Armen Boyajian, Golden Harvest's director of corporate relations.

"Donated food from manufacturers has gone down," he said. "Those companies have become more aware of the costs of overproducing, so we get less of the products."

Karen Perry, operations manager for Area Churches Together Serving in Aiken, said the agency always has a need for food.

"We've had a 30 percent increase of clients over last year," she said. "We find we're spending more money on food than we budgeted for. We're seeing people we haven't seen before."

Ms. Perry attributes the increase to higher gasoline and utility costs. When families already barely getting by encounter some unexpected expense such as illness, they have nowhere else to go, she said.

In Columbia County, the shelves are stocked because of community initiatives and generosity, said Lou Reda, director of Columbia County Cares.

"Since around Thanksgiving, we've had a couple of real nice donations from area schools and churches," he said. "Our food supply is adequate."

Reach Sylvia Cooper at (706) 823-3228 or sylvia.cooper@augustachronicle.com.

WHERE TO DONATE

AREA CHURCHES TOGETHER SERVING: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday; 340 Park Ave. S.W., Aiken; accepts donations of food and other material items; (803) 649-3800.

Columbia County Cares: 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday; 1959 Appling-Harlem Highway, Appling; (706) 541-2834.

GOLDEN HARVEST FOOD BANK: www.goldenharvest.org, or Golden Harvest Food Bank Augusta; 3310 Commerce Drive; (706) 736-1199, or Golden Harvest Food Bank Aiken; 13 Enterprise Ave.; (803) 648-0752.