CoastLine: Legions of local efforts target hunger and food insecurity, but the causes run deep
There's a food security plan in development through NC State's Cooperative Extension in New Hanover County. There's a grass-roots volunteer project that collects food from neighbors for monthly porch drops. Mike Claxton offers observations from one of the larger food pantries in Brunswick County. Cierra Washington of the Northside Food Cooperative talks about a deeper approach to feeding people. These efforts are all making a real difference in peoples' lives in the Cape Fear region. And, yes, hunger persists in one of the wealthiest parts of North Carolina.
As one of the fastest-growing regions in North Carolina, Brunswick and New Hanover Counties continued above-average growth even through the pandemic – while large urban areas saw their populations shrink.
Also on the rise in the Cape Fear region during that period: food insecurity and hunger.
The Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina reports that twenty-five thousand people in Brunswick County are deemed “food insecure”. Fifty-one percent of kids are considered food insecure. Ninety percent of children in Brunswick County receive free and reduced lunches.*
Just across the river in New Hanover County, one of the wealthiest parts of the state, fifty-nine percent of kids require free and reduced lunches.
Both Brunswick and New Hanover Counties are what the state classifies as Tier 3 counties – the least economically distressed in the state.
The causes run deep, and solutions must address layers of needs: hunger emergencies, shorter-term solutions, and longer-term strategies to address systemic problems.
There are legions of nonprofits and community volunteers dedicated to solving the problem. The Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina is the largest effort in the state. Wilmington Branch Director Beth Gaglione recently gave WHQR’s Ben Schachtman an update on plans for their new facility.
There are smaller efforts, and there are plans to better connect needs with resources. But even with a small army in the CoastLine studio for this discussion, we still fail to capture all the organizations working on the problem. Which leads to one of our major explorations: why, with so many dedicated people, is hunger and food insecurity still a critical issue in our own backyard?
*Editor's Note: After this episode aired, we received this clarification from Dr. Gordon Burnette, Chief Communications Officer, Brunswick County Schools:
"Our county is a CEP (community eligibility provision) district. CEP is a non-pricing meal service option for schools and school districts in low-income areas. CEP allows the nation’s highest-poverty schools and districts to serve breakfast and lunch at no cost to all enrolled students without collecting household applications. Instead, schools that adopt CEP are reimbursed using a formula based on the percentage of students categorically eligible for free meals based on their participation in other specific means-tested programs, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). Pre-CEP classification our county was around 65% free and reduced."
Morgan King is the Family and Consumer Sciences Agent for North Carolina Cooperative Extension in New Hanover County. She also coordinates the Cape Fear Food Council – a coalition working on the issue.
Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina:
Northside Food Cooperative:
The Lord’s Food Pantry in Shallotte:
Wake County Food Security Plan: https://www.capitalareafoodnetwork.org/foodplan
Social Determinants of Health: https://nc.maps.arcgis.com/apps/MapSeries/index.html?appid=def612b7025b44eaa1e0d7af43f4702b
Article about Food Desert vs Healthy Food Priority Area: https://clf.jhsph.edu/about-us/news/news-2018/report-food-desert-gets-name-change-response-baltimore-community-feedback
WHQR’s The Newsroom with Beth Gaglione of The Food Bank: