Tracking hunger – Demographics changing

By Todd Cohen

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — The face of hunger is changing and communities need to work harder to keep hungry people fed.

That’s the conclusion drawn by the Food Bank of Northwest North Carolina from a new study of hunger by America’s Second Harvest, a Chicago-based national network of nearly 200 food banks.

“The hungry are not who people think they are,” says Nan Griswold, the Food Bank’s executive director. “It could be you or me. It could be your next-door neighbor.”

As the economy declines and companies fire workers, Griswold says, agencies are stepping up efforts to feed hungry people.

“With the recession we’re in now, and with the layoffs, there is just going to be a greater need,” she says. “It’s hitting all of us.”

The Food Bank, based in Winston-Salem, distributed 5.7 million pounds of food in the fiscal year ended June 30, up from 4.7 million a year earlier, and for the current fiscal year already is exceeding projections for the next fiscal year.

To meet growing demand, the group is moving to expand its services.

The Winston-Salem food bank delivers food to food pantries, soup kitchens and shelters, feeding more than 67,200 different people a year, including more than 20,600 in any given week, the national study found.

The Food Bank’s clients no longer fit old stereotypes, Griswold says.

“It is not the old man in the soup-kitchen line,” she says. “It is not the mother on welfare. It is younger men. It is working parents. It is in-tact families.”

For example:

* Nearly four in 10 members of households receiving emergency food assistance in the 18 counties are under age 18.

* Nearly four in 10 clients of agencies the Food Bank serves are white, nearly six in 10 are black and nine in 100 are Hispanic.

* More than three in 10 households that Food Bank agencies serve include at least one employed adult.

* Nearly six in 10 clients say they must choose between paying for food and paying for utilities or heating fuel, nearly one in two choose between food and paying rent or mortgage bills, and nearly three in 10 choose between food and medicine or medical care.

The Food Bank soon will begin a capital campaign to raise $2 million to add 30,000 square feet to its 34,000-square-foot warehouse, and has created the position of marketing director to help boost fundraising.

Winston-Salem-based Lowes Foods this week donated “Greenpoint” credits to the Food Bank that can be redeemed for 10,000 pounds of food.

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