The annual cost of making up the shortfall in the food budget of hungry families in North Carolina in 2009 totaled an estimated $687 million, a new study says.
Over 1.6 million North Carolinians, or 18.2 percent of the state’s population, are “food-insecure,” meaning they at times lack access for enough food for all household members, says the study by Feeding America, the national network of over 200 food banks.
Nationally, 16.6 percent of the population is food-insecure.
Thirty-five percent of the state’s population facing insecurity about food do not qualify for food stamps and other federal nutrition programs.
With the average cost of a meal in North Carolina for “food secure” people totaling $2.49, compared to $2.54 throughout the U.S., the five counties in the state with the highest food insecurity rates are Edgecombe, Scotland, Vance, Warren and Halifax.
In Edgecombe County, for example, 14,520 people, or 27.6 percent of the county’s population, are food-insecure, and 18 percent of them do not qualify for food stamps and other federal food-nutrition programs.
“Income and access to healthy food are the barriers for families desperate to bring home healthy nutritious meals,” Jill Staton Bullard, co-founder and executive director of the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle in Raleigh, says in a statement.
Laila Bell, research and data director at Action for Children North Carolina says in a statement that “when individuals and families struggle to put food on the table, it is children, our most vulnerable population, who are disproportionately affected.”
American-Indian, African-American and Hispanic communities are at disproportionate risk of food insecurity, due in part to higher-than-average poverty and unemployment rates that “reduce economic security and undermine families’ ability to afford food,” Action for Children says.
The study, Map the Meal Gap, is based on data collected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Census Bureau, and on food price data from The Nielsen Company.
It features an interactive map that lets visitors find data for the nation and for individual states, counties and Feeding America members.
Feeding America member agencies in North Carolina, the number of counties they serve, and the number of people and percentage of the population in those counties that are food-insecure, include:
- MANNA FoodBank, Asheville – 16 counties, 112,080 people and 16.6 percent of population food-insecure.
- Second Harvest Food Bank of Metrolina, Charlotte — 19 counties (including several in South Carolina), 548,560 people, 18.7 percent.
- Food Bank of the Albermarle, Elizabeth City – 15 counties, 57,920 people, 19.2 percent.
- Second Harvest Food Bank of Southeast North Carolina, Fayetteville -seven counties, 145,180, people, 19.7 percent.
- Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina, Raleigh — 34 counties, 610,530, 17.7 percent.
- Inter-Faith Food Shuttle, seven counties, 249,200, 15.8 percent.
- Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest North Carolina, Winston-Salem -18 counties, 369,600, 18.7 percent.
Select counties, their food-insecurity rate, percentage of the food-insecure population that do not qualify for food stamps or other federal nutrition programs, and additional funds required to meet their food needs in 2009 include:
- Buncombe – 35,000 people or 15.5 percent of population food-insecure, 34 percent do not qualify, $14.3 million needed.
- Cumberland – 57,350 people or 18.5 percent food-insecure, 34 percent do not qualify, $22.8 million needed.
- Durham – 42,840 people or 16.7 percent food-insecure, 41 percent do not qualify, $18.5 million needed.
- Forsyth – 60,660 people or 17.5 percent food-insecure, 40 percent do not qualify, $24.5 million needed.
- Guilford – 89,060 people or 19.2 percent food-insecure, 39 percent do not qualify, $36.8 million needed.
- Mecklenburg – 150, 510 people or 17.5 percent food-insecure, 46 percent do not qualify, $63.7 million needed.
- New Hanover – 31,740 people or 16.8 percent food-insecure, 40 percent do not qualify, $13.6 million needed.
- Wake – 118,680 people or 14.3 percent food-insecure, 51 percent do not qualify, $51.3 million needed.