Losing the War on Hunger in Western North Carolina

by Geoff Schwartz

(This is a summary presented by the Outreach Committee of an article appearing in the Asheville Citizen-Times on August 25, 2014.)

An article appeared in the Asheville Citizens- Times on August 25, 2014, reporting on the deteriorating ability of families in WNC to get enough food. Too many families in Western North Carolina struggle to feed themselves, and that struggle is getting worse. A new study shows that more people in WNC are without adequate food than the number reported at the lowest point of the recession. Here are some of the cold, hard facts.

  • Almost 108,000 people in WNC have turned to food pantries/banks and meal service programs to feed themselves. This is only the number reported. It is likely that the actual number is significantly greater.
  • 60% of the households in WNC seeking food assistance survive on less than $1,000/month.
  • 75% of families have to choose between paying for food or for utilities. More than 50% have to choose between paying for food or for housing. 63% have to choose between paying for food or for medicine.
  • Nearly 90% of households buy the cheapest food available regardless of nutritional value. Healthier food is either not available at the food assistance locations or it is too expensive at stores.
  • MANNA, the primary source for local food assistance programs in WNC, says that the shortage of healthier food, such as fresh fruit and vegetables, meat, poultry, and dairy products, is due to MANNA’s shortage of freezer and cooler space but not a shortage of the healthier food itself.

How can the conditions described in the study exist in a society that claims it is moral and just? Even more troubling is why they exist in what a substantial majority claim is a Christian nation. The often repeated commands of Jesus to feed the hungry and care for the poor are either falling on deaf ears; or if they are heard, then this “Christian” nation has decided it just doesn't want to follow them. 

We believe that is not so at Good Shepherd. Last year our vestry allocated a meaningful amount from the budget to outreach. Added to that is the money raised by The Parade of Tables, The Country Fare, and Sharing Christmas. About 35% of the money for outreach goes to feed the hungry. Additionally, many parishioners devote countless hours to help get the food delivered to those in need.

This is not the time, however, for Good Shepherd to risk injury by patting itself on the back; there is much more to do. In 2015 let’s enlist our friends to join us in the war against Hunger by doing two things: (1) increase the money and volunteer time devoted to feeding the hungry; and (2) write, call, and petition our local, state, and national elected officials to break the political logjam that is preventing the much needed resources from getting to the front lines.
Finally, let us always remember these words of Jesus:

…I tell you the truth, whatever you did for the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.
— Matthew 25:40

(Copies of the Citizens-Times Article are available in the hallway to the Parish Hall)