Earlier today, March 1, Xpress reported on findings that rank the Asheville area third in the country for food hardship. (For a link to the report, click here.)
A few weeks ago, we ran the first in a series of stories about hunger in Western North Carolina (“Hunger Insecure.”). Today, local nonprofit MANNA FoodBank released this statement about the issue:
(Asheville, NC) New food hardship data from the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) in Washington, DC show continuing struggles with hunger for tens of thousands in the Asheville Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) throughout 2011, an area that includes Buncombe, Henderson, Haywood, and Madison Counties. More than one in five people, 23.8%, struggled during the year to afford food. In a ranking of the 100 largest MSAs in the country, the Asheville area fell behind only Bakersfield, CA and Fresno, CA in food hardship.
FRAC’s food hardship report analyzes data collected by Gallup and provided to FRAC. The data were gathered as part of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index project, which has been interviewing almost 1,000 households daily since January 2008. FRAC analyzed responses to the question: “Have there been times in the past twelve months when you did not have enough money to buy food that you or your family needed?”
Results from this study in 2010 ranked Asheville’s MSA as seventh worst in the nation in food hardship. The drop of four slots in 2011 to the 3rd hardest-hit area demonstrates that although the country is beginning to move out of the recession, economic recovery is lagging in Western North Carolina.
“This data is disturbing, and it only measures metropolitan areas. We know the need is even greater in our rural counties, where current unemployment rates reach as high as 17%. It is not always easy to comprehend the extent of poverty hidden among these beautiful mountains. We intend to use this report as a ‘call to action.’ Everyone in our community has a responsibility to be engaged in the work of ending hunger. Fortunately, MANNA is equipped with a vibrant partner agency network, an active and involved volunteer corps, and a community of corporate and individual supporters dedicated to making a difference. We are prepared to step up our efforts,” says Cindy Threlkeld, MANNA FoodBank Executive Director.
In 2011, MANNA distributed almost 10 million pounds of food through 231 partner agencies across 16 counties. Although that is an increase over previous years, it is not sufficient to meet the increased demand witnessed by the food pantries, community tables and soup kitchens that are on the front lines of hunger.
This is also a critical time to ensure our federal and state lawmakers support the preservation of the nutrition safety net. Last year more than $159 million came into WNC in the form of Food and Nutrition Services/food stamp benefits. That is a major support to individuals, and an economic stimulus to the region. Add to that the importance of The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), a USDA program that provided more than 1.8 million pounds of food to WNC in 2011. Both programs require the continued support of Congress. Any decrease in these programs will be a giant step backwards in meeting the need.
About MANNA FoodBank
MANNA FoodBank is a 501(c)(3)non profit and a member of Feeding America – the nation’s largest domestic hunger relief organization. In 2011, MANNA distributed 9.9 million pounds of food to 231 partner agencies in 16 counties of Western North Carolina – enough food for more than 20,000 meals a day, 365 days a year. MANNA focuses on accessing and distributing high volumes of nutritious food to agencies serving struggling families across WNC, as well as keeping our neighbors highly engaged in our mission to end hunger in WNC.