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Empty Tables This Holiday for North Carolinians of All Ages

Photo: Volunteers help at Drive to End Hunger Event. Courtesy: Drive to End Hunger
Photo: Volunteers help at Drive to End Hunger Event. Courtesy: Drive to End Hunger
November 25, 2013

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. - The seven food banks in North Carolina have found themselves working harder than ever to feed North Carolinians facing food insecurity. According to the North Carolina Association of Food Banks, the state ranks near the top in the country when it comes to citizens facing a food shortage. One in four children is in need, and one in seven older adults faces the same problem.

Kay Carter, CEO, Second Harvest Food Bank of Metrolina, described the situation.

"We're hearing from, particularly, the emergency pantries that requests for assistance are way up. They can't keep food on the shelves," Carter said.

While some of the need stems from the lack of living-wage jobs to replace those lost in the recession, the problem is magnified by recent reductions in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits that affected 1.7 million North Carolinians at the beginning of November.

A 2012 study by the Food Research and Action Center found that the Triad region had the fourth-highest rate of food insecurity in the country, with almost 24 percent of its citizens struggling to buy food.

Clyde Fitzgerald is the executive director of Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest North Carolina, Winston-Salem. He explained that the region's loss of manufacturing and textile jobs - and their subsequent replacement with jobs requiring higher skills - has made it difficult.

"We are essentially importing people from other states, other regions, to take those jobs, and we're not putting people back to work," Fitzgerald said.

Asheville ranks third in the country when it comes to food hardship.

Suzanne Black, associate state director, AARP North Carolina, asked North Carolinians who find themselves with enough to eat to remember their neighbors in need.

"Donate time, volunteer, help others, sort food and get food together," she urged. "Donate money so they can purchase food at a low cost, and that can make a big difference to get more food in their pantry."

According to AARP, 9 million older Americans nationwide face the risk of hunger.

People who want to help can log onto the AARP website, www.drivetoendhunger.org.

Stephanie Carroll Carson, Public News Service - NC