South Carolina Episcopalians

An Independent Journal of News & Commentary for Anglicans

not affiliated with ACNA, the Episcopal Church or any of their dioceses

January 16, 2019

Hunger Crisis in South Carolina Looms

231,000 households in our state will be directly affected; 45%

South Carolina residents receiving SNAP benefits (formerly Food Stamps) have been encouraged to plan for a disruption of benefits beginning as early as the end of February, when current funding for this vital program runs out.

Nearly half of SNAP beneficiaries in South Carolina are children, while an estimated 70% of adults have jobs that do not generate sufficient income to  provide enough food for their families.   The average SNAP eligible family of three received $261 a month.

The State Department of Social Services has informed beneficiaries that some of them will receive their February SNAP allotments in January and nothing more after that.  No one knows what will happen in March, so it is important that community organizations – including houses of worship – begin planning any outreach activities now.

Here are some ways you and your church might help in this looming crisis.

1.  Don’t reinvent the wheel.  There are many good
food banks and local distribution networks in place throughout South Carolina.  Contact your local food bank and ask what your congregation can do to assist their ongoing work.   However, don't wait until the crisis is upon us.   Food banks need to be stocking up and planning now to be ready.

2.  The single most important weapon in fighting hunger is not food, but money to buy food. 

Low-income families say that gift cards to local stores that carry food and other vital household items are the most helpful to them.  This is preferable to receiving things that donors think they want.   In determining how much to put on a card, consider that SNAP benefits usually cover $1.40 per meal per person.  A SNAP eligible family of three may receive an average of $261 a month for the entire household. 

Remember though, SNAP benefits do not cover common household items like cleaning supplies, paper products, laundry powder, or personal hygiene supplies including diapers. 

Providing additional funds for these uncovered items mean more of a family's income is available for rent, electricity, and child care.  Should you choose to use gift cards, be sure the stores you choose are accessible to low-income communities.

3.  Many schools in South Carolina have been fighting hunger by sponsoring family breakfasts before classes every morning.  Advantages include almost no tardiness, students who are more alert and engaged in morning classes, and greater involvement by parents and community members in the school.  With a school's permission, volunteers can help with these kinds of programs.  Don't forget that people need to eat on the weekends as well.

4.  Believe it or not, many kinds of donated food collected by church groups never make it to the people for whom it was intended.   Packaged food with old expiration dates and perishable items like meat, vegetables, and fruit often spoil before they can be distributed.  Make sure your community partners have the ability to store this kind of food.

Hunger is particularly prevalent in rural areas of South Carolina and many small rural congregations -- especially in African American denominations -  routinely provide community meals for those in need.  Often they are limited in the kind of food they can offer simply because of the lack of refrigeration capacity.   If your parish is located in one of these areas and you have a partially empty refrigerator or freezer, you might be able to help out by storing perishable food they will need.