By Sandi Krecioh
in WNC Woman
Many of us are returning to our roots and cultivating home and community gardens. Food abounds with fresh vegetables, herbs, spices. We shop weekly, sometimes daily, at the grocery store to pick up food, health, and beauty items. Food shopping has even become a social event for many of us clustered in the middle of store aisles conversing and catching up on gossip. In your home, you may hear, “Hey, I’m going to the grocery store. Do you need anything?” Common everyday words, right?
For a good percentage of the population in Western North Carolina, these words, let alone shopping, are not the norm. They don’t have the luxury of what seems common place to most of us. They aren’t going to grocery stores and picking up their favorite items. These people are hungry—I mean really hungry—and don’t know where their next meal is coming from. They receive their food from food pantries, soup kitchens, or shelters served by a food bank. Many hungry children don’t eat a decent meal until they get to school.
Of the 700,000 people living within the 16 counties of our beautiful region of Western North Carolina, approximately 1 in 6 are food insecure. That means there are around 106,000 people making difficult choices between food and other basic necessities—including health care. Sadly, our children and elderly are most affected: 41,000 are children under age 18 and 9,600 are elderly people.
Seventy percent (70%) of food assistance is provided by MANNA FoodBank, a private, not-for-profit service organization. MANNA links the food industry with 231 partner agencies while collecting, storing, warehousing, and distributing food to accredited non-profits throughout our 16 counties of Western North Carolina. They provide direct service on a very limited basis to people struggling with hunger through the MANNA Packs Program—providing children a five-pound bag of supplemental food items, fresh fruits and vegetables and/or personal care items every Friday that schools are in session. MANNA assists partner agencies in acquiring food to serve people facing hunger.
I hear many of you saying, “Gee, that’s really terrible, but there’s nothing I can do to change that.” That’s about to change. You can make a difference. Western North Carolinians have always been eager to step up and do what’s right. Now is your chance.
Rotarians Against Hunger (RAH) has joined forces with the Rotary Clubs of Asheville and Asheville South, other Rotary Clubs in Western North Carolina, Kids Against Hunger, Mission Children’s Hospital Chapter, and Manna FoodBank to combat this hunger crisis with a packaging event comprised of volunteers. Nine hundred North Carolinians, like you, volunteered at last year’s event.