High demand taking toll on local food shelter

Lisa Buie opens one of six refrigerators at Helping Hand. All but one, are about as full as this. / Lindsey Theis

A report out this month showed that the number of people on food stamps has reached an all time high.

A record 45.8 million people received food stamps from the federal government in May. That's one out of every seven people. When food stamps aren't enough, or for people who don't qualify at all, the food banks step in.

At Helping Hand of Myrtle Beach, crisis counselor Lisa Buie said the emergency pantry has already seen 1,500 more people compared to August of last year, and they still have sixteen more days to go in the month.

Helping Hand supplied 10,093 families non-perishable items from the food pantry during 2010. That number is already up 16,350 people, Buie said.

She adds of those 1,500 people, they only are counting one person, who are typically she says coming from families. Some of the families who receive food have jobs, but still struggle to feed their families, others she said have been laid off. Buie says the heat this summer has also contributed to their increase in numbers.

"We've seen people with extremely high utility bills because of the heat, and because they had such an extremely high utility bill it took away from there funds they had for food," she said.

That leaves the pantry at a loss for food. Many of the shelves are bare or empty. The bank runs almost entirely on donations. What could the food pantry use?

"That includes canned vegetables, fruit, meat, hygiene products, pasta. Any kind of basic staple food we could use any kind of," Buie says.

She adds that the summer months are traditionally the most difficult, but this is the most difficult she's seen in her seventeen year's with Helping Hand.

"We typically have great food drives around Thanksgiving or Christmas because people are more in that mindset. This time of year {they} are into vacationing, and there's a lot of other stuff going on. People tend to forget about organizations such as ours in the summer months, not intentionally, but because of everything that is going on in their lives," she said.