Child hunger rates in Asheville area reach nearly 30 percent, Asheville Citizen-Times (8.24.11)
Step onto the playground of any park in Western North Carolina and count the first four children you see. According to a new study, there’s a good chance at least one of those children is often going hungry.
MANNA FoodBank and Feeding America, the nation’s largest hunger relief organization, released new data Wednesday that revealed a staggering 29.9 percent of children under the age of 18 are food insecure in Western North Carolina.
The study, “Map the Meal Gap: Child Food Insecurity 2011,” indicates that there are children struggling with hunger in every county in America. While one in six Americans overall is “food insecure,” the rate for children is much higher — nearly one in four.
North Carolina ranks 11th in the country in child food insecurity at 27.3 percent. While Buncombe County is close to the state average, at 27.5 percent, neighboring counties on each end of WNC have disturbing levels of food insecurity among children.
An estimated 39 percent of Graham County kids don’t know where their next meal is coming from, and McDowell showed an estimated 35 percent insecurity rate.
“It should shock every single person in this community that we could let this happen here,” said Renae Brame, executive director of the Swannanoa Valley Christian Ministry, an agency partner of MANNA.
“Unless it’s happening right in people’s backyards, they just don’t see it,” she said. “But there is no excuse. We all have to see it, and it has to be everybody’s responsibility to take a stand.”
Advocates use the term “food insecurity” to refer to people who often don’t know where their next meal is coming from — if it comes at all — whether because of poverty or other obstacles.
“Once again, the hard facts reinforce the stories we hear daily about the struggles our neighbors, particularly our children, face daily,” said MANNA Executive Director Cindy Threlkeld.
“The good news is that we can all pitch in to address this issue together. Be it with time, money or food, MANNA and our partner agencies need (the community’s) help so that one in four children in WNC won’t have to struggle with food insecurity.”