North Carolina News Service: The cost of fast food to NC

Nov. 7, 2013

DURHAM, N.C. – Fast food may be easy on the wallets of the folks who eat it, but a new report estimates the industry costs North Carolina $264 million for public assistance that fast-food workers need to make up for the low wages they are paid.

Jeanette Lynn of Durham makes $7.25 an hour at her job at a national fast food chain. She is one of 66,000 fast food workers in North Carolina who receive public assistance, such as food stamps and Medicaid.

“People think that fast food workers are kids, but we’re not just kids,” she points out. “We’re mothers and fathers with kids, with families to take care of.”

The national report by the UC Berkeley Labor Center is prompting North Carolina officials to investigate the fast-food industry’s economic impact.

On Wednesday, state Sen. Earline Parmon met with representatives from Action NC, the NC Justice Center’s Workers’ Rights Project and restaurant workers to discuss solutions.

On average, North Carolina fast food workers make $8.56 an hour, which is about 50 cents, less than the national average.

Lynn says it’s impossible to make ends meet.

“They make billions of dollars each year,” she says. “I have to struggle every day, just to get by. I have rent, I have life, I have car insurance. I have a nine-month-old baby that needs diapers.”

NC Raise Up, a coalition of fast food workers, community supporters and clergy, analyzed the Berkley data and found that 27 percent of fast food workers in the state receive food stamps, and 17 percent are on Medicaid.

Stephanie Carroll Carson

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About Gina Smith
Gina Smith is the Mountain Xpress Food section editor and writer. She can be reached at gsmith@mountainx.com.

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