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Editorials represent the institutional view of the newspaper. They are written and edited by the editorial staff, which operates separately from the news department. Editorial writers are not involved in newsroom operations.

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Editorial: Lowcountry Food Bank helps ensure we all have reason to give thanks

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A volunteer unloads boxes of frozen turkeys in 2019. File/Grace Beahm Alford/Staff

The Lowcountry Food Bank is distributing almost 50 tons of turkey (5,500 whole birds; 2,600 breasts) to families in need across coastal South Carolina this week, and that’s not simply because these birds are a good source of protein. As the nonprofit’s motto states, its work is about more than feeding people; it’s also about advocating for them and empowering them.

And the families who receive a turkey won’t just be fed for a day (perhaps much longer if they’re savvy with leftovers). They will feel as if they are participating in our uniquely American holiday of Thanksgiving. Without it, they understandably might feel even more marginalized than they already are.

But the story of this year’s turkey distribution also underscores another important reality: As the pandemic and its economic ripple effects continue, the Lowcountry Food Bank is having to be more adaptive and resilient than ever — and its success continues to hinge on those of us able to provide our support.

Food Bank President and CEO Nick Osborne said he felt it necessary to expand the nonprofit’s order for turkeys in March this year — eight months before the nonprofit distributes them. The extra reflected a lesson learned: The bank struggled last year to find sufficient birds closer to Thanksgiving, as COVID-19 continued to wreak its havoc on our economy as well as our health.

“This year has been a year of adaptation, whereas last year was a year of uncertainty,” he tells us. “We’ve had to pivot and adjust, and that will continue into the year ahead.”

That’s where the fortunate among us come in. The Lowcountry Food Bank receives much of its support from direct donations of food from regional and national donors, grocery stores, U.S. Department of Agriculture programs, other federal help and local food drives.

But it also relies on financial support — cash and in-kind donations other than food — to function well, which this year will involve distributing about 40 million pounds of food, water and essential items to about 185,000 people, more than 12% of the population in the 10 coastal counties it serves. The bank works with more than 250 churches, nonprofits and other partners to get the food out, while its 15 trucks drive a quarter-million miles across the area.

These nonfood donations add up to about $12 million a year and help the Food Bank buy the necessary food it cannot otherwise obtain: About 6% of all its food last year was bought. Currently, the Food Bank is feeling the same pinch that most of us are with higher food costs, gas prices and other inflationary pressures, including the shortage of truck drivers.

That’s why the Lowcountry Food Bank’s year-end financial appeal is important, and why we must help where we can. Demand for its help remains at a record high (the 40 million pounds being distributed this year is up from the 39.7 million pounds given out last year, which eclipsed the 32 million in 2019).

The nonprofit has been a good steward of the support it has received. It recently launched a new GIS program to ensure its distribution trucks are taking the shortest, most efficient routes possible. In the big picture, its work has helped prevent our health crisis of the past 1½ years from becoming a humanitarian crisis, at least in our corner of the world. As we give thanks this week, we should pause and be thankful for that.

And those of us who have the most to be grateful for should consider giving the Food Bank more than just our thanks. To a family in need, a turkey at Thanksgiving can provide a sense of dignity. To families able to afford a feast with all the trimmings, giving back can provide a different but equally satisfying sense.

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