What does hunger look like in North Carolina?
It is not always visible, and when you do see it… it might not look like what you would think.
Unlike the vivid images of famine in third world countries, hunger plays out more subtly and privately in the lives of thousands of Northwest North Carolinians. It plays out quietly in classrooms, as children try to keep up with their lessons. It plays out in the homes of seniors, as they sacrifice meals to afford medications they need. It plays out in hushed conversations between parents, as they try to stretch stagnant paychecks to cover the growing rent, the light bill, fixing the car, and—finally and all too frequently last—food.
If we can debunk these prevalent myths and misunderstandings about hunger, we can help raise awareness of the problem and help more people in need.
MYTH: There’s a hunger crisis in other parts of the world—not in North Carolina.
FACT: More than 41 million people face hunger in the United States. That’s more people than the entire population of Canada. And it means that across our nation, people simply can’t make ends meet. 1 in every 7 people living in Northwest North Carolina struggles with hunger, while 1 in every 4 children goes without the essential nutrition they need to thrive. To adequately address persistently high food insecurity in our local communities and nation, we must address underlying issues of poverty and economic instability that plague our communities.
High housing costs, rising food prices and unexpected expenses have left too many families unable to stretch their dollars far enough. Sometimes they can put a warm meal on the table after a long day—and sometimes they go to bed hungry.
MYTH: People who face hunger in America are typically homeless and unemployed.
FACT: While obviously we serve people experiencing homelessness, most of the households we serve are not homeless, and they have at least one working adult. They are families like Jennifer’s. They’re working nearly every day, giving back to their community and often raising a family. Even though they’re pinching pennies, they struggle to fill their plates with the food they need to keep going.
MYTH: Hunger is most frequently found in cities.
FACT: Hunger is common in rural areas—including the farming communities that grow North Carolina’s crops. Seventy-five percent of the counties with the highest hunger rates in America are in rural areas. Limited access to jobs, transportation and education make it tough to earn a living in remote areas, such as the communities we serve in Ashe County or in Alleghany County. Some are forced to choose between paying for groceries or other essentials like heat. This is an especially difficult choice for parents during the winter, and it’s all too common.
MYTH: Food waste and hunger are different problems with different solutions.
FACT: By reducing food waste in America, we can also help reduce hunger. Seventy-two billion pounds of good food goes to waste each year in America, while at the same time, 41 million people struggle with hunger. Second Harvest works with food companies, farmers, and other generous partners to rescue food every day and help deliver it to families in need.
MYTH: I can’t do much to help overcome challenges like hunger and food waste.
FACT: Individual actions add up to make a significant impact. There are many ways you can help solve hunger in Northwest North Carolina. It is the compassion of supporters and volunteers like you that enables the Second Harvest network to serve over 300,000 people in Northwest North Carolina– including 100,000 children– each year.