Food "in.se.cu.ri.ty" (noun) the state of being without reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable nutritious food.
Depending on whom you ask, this means different things to different groups. I counted at least 11 web sites on the Internet that had different definitions of food insecurity. The number of food insecure households in Columbia County is difficult to get because it is calculated differently by different agencies. I feel that food insecurity is being well addressed in Columbia County.
There are 19 Food Pantries serving Columbia County (see list below). Food Pantries are the distribution arm of Food Banks and are not an entitlement program. They are all independently operated under an agreement with Golden Harvest Food Bank.
Food Banks do not distribute food directly to the public. All food pantries provide food at no cost and are individually funded through donations, fundraisers, or grants. With rare exception, food pantries are typically fully operated by volunteers.
Columbia County Cares receives approximately a half dozen calls a day, asking "How can I get food?" Each Food Pantry operates slightly differently. Some require appointments, others only take a certain number of households. Many food pantries operate other services in addition to distributing food, e.g. clothing banks, help with job hunting, or other problematic areas. Columbia County Cares, located in Appling, registers qualifying households once a year and once registered, households are eligible to receive food on a regular basis with just an ID. In 2016 Columbia County Cares registered 654 households and filled 4,000 household orders.
Registering with Columbia County Cares requires:
• Two proofs of address that you live in Columbia County or are currently homeless residing in Columbia County.
• Proof that all individuals you are registering are related members of your household. This is usually a Social Security card, or Health Card. We do not record Social Security numbers. The reason for this requirement is when we established a database five years ago; we found that several households were claiming the same children.
• If you are on food stamps (SNAP), or are registering children under 17 years of age, we require a DFACs referral. This can be obtained by going to the DFACs office on Columbia Road, filling out a form and having DFACs sign it.
• We do not require proof of income. However; each time you visit you are required to sign a government form stating you are at or below the monthly income level for your family size. We are required to keep these forms on file for three years, and they are subject to audit.
Columbia County Cares is a full service food and health and comfort item distribution agency. During the registration process, we will create a file for you listing all members of your household, address, phone number, relationship of family members, dated of birth, special needs, and dietary restrictions, Then each time you visit, this file is used to fill your food order.
Although Columbia County does not currently have soup kitchens or general population shelters, (besides food pantries) there are hundreds of people and many agencies in this county that provide food to children, seniors, and disabled individuals on almost a daily basis; Columbia County Community Connections, Senior Centers, the Columbia County School System, Meals-on-Wheels, to name just a few.
The pantry recently received a food drive from Euchee Creek Elementary School students totaling in a t 2,000 lbs.
On one box, a student had written "Ending Hunger One Can at a Time." That pretty much sums up our goal.
David Iverson is the executive director of Columbia County Cares. Call the organization at 706-541-2834.