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Hungry For the Holidays: Food Insecurity in North Carolina

Updated: Dec 21, 2020

No one wants to think that anyone is hungry – particularly during the holidays. But the reality is that many are: many people here in this state and many right in our local communities. The need is great and has continued to rise throughout this year.

In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic spotlighted the ongoing food insecurity crisis in America. Serving as a proxy for poverty, food insecurity represents the intersection of a family’s financial resources with its long-term health outcomes. Sadly, households with children have suffered the most from economic downturns caused by the pandemic situation. An unfortunate feature of recessions is that those with the fewest resources before the crisis, usually suffer more and for longer.

Food insecurity rates, which had been declining across the United States since the Great Recession of 2008, are now at levels unseen since the Great Depression

(1929). Prior to the pandemic, Feeding America reported 15.4% of all NC residents face food insecurity regularly and 20.9% of all NC children face hunger. Additional survey data collected by the U.S. Census Bureau in late October indicated that more than 10% of all NC households with children reported that their kids regularly lacked sufficient food – that’s roughly 405,000 households here in NC. America’s Health Rankings’ 2020 Annual Report ranks NC as the 9th worst state nationally in food insecurity. NC’s rich agricultural history makes this reality even more tragic.

The entire family experiences both immediate and long-term health consequences with inadequate nutrition but the limited access to food impacts children the most. It’s also true that the very youngest children suffer the most profound consequences. Children living in food-insecure households have poorer overall health outcomes, including higher rates of asthma, anemia and behavioral problems. This cascade of events leads to a lower quality of life for these children and potentially also impacts school performance, contributing to the multi-generational cycle of poverty.

So what can YOU do to make a difference? Here are a few suggestions that you, your family, or even your local groups can explore.

1. Volunteer at your local food back, especially during weekdays. As a part of NCCAA’s network, Action Pathways, based in Fayetteville, has created a food bank as part of their resources to meet the community’s food needs. Action Pathways will be piloting their SDOH program, focusing on food insecurity, over the next 2 years. Action Pathways’ Second Harvest Food Bank reports that volunteers are vital to ensuring nutritious food reaches the individuals living in food-insecure households across their 7-county service region. Contact Second Harvest here, to sign up for a shift and select from available schedules.

2. Not close to a food bank or no time to volunteer? Donations are always accepted. Find the closest Community Action agency in your community and go to their website. Look for their donation button and click to donate.

3. Reach out to your local elected officials and let them know your input. Both Congress and the NC General Assembly receive, record and are influenced by the input they receive from you, their constituents. It’s also never been easier to advocate to eliminate hunger – you can call, email or even tweet your input. Not quite sure who those elected might be? Here’s a resource for finding your Congressional delegates. And here’s one for the NC General Assembly, who will be returning to work in mid-January, 2021.

To impact the determinants of health and health inequalities, community action agencies work at the local, state and national levels, to create positive, long-term change in the social, built and natural environments of our clients and our communities. Stay tuned to this space and our monthly updates for more information and progress of NCCAA’s new SDOH grant initiative. We will be sharing success stories from NCCAA’s Social Determinants of Health programming from around the state and opportunities to collaborate in the weeks and months to come. For more details, contact Elle Evans Peterson, Community Impact Manager, at the NCCAA state offices:

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