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Hunger in Northwest NC

Since the economic downturn, Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest NC and our network of more than 400 partner food assistance programs has seen the number of people coming to us for food assistance grow from 135,000 people to nearly 300,000 people. One-third of those we are helping are children. Many who are now seeking food assistance never imagined they'd have to turn for help to feed their families.

Understanding Hunger
Feeding America, the nation's largest domestic hunger relief organization comprised of more than 200 regional food banks, including Second Harvest Food Bank, leads a number of research studies that provide a factual basis for how our network and nation approach hunger relief. Findings from the most recent studies demonstrate the urgent need for all of us to find ways to be part of the solution to the problem hunger in our local communities.

Hunger in America 2014

Every four years, the Feeding America network conducts the nation’s most comprehensive study of hunger and the critical role of Feeding America food banks and our partner agencies in addressing this serious issue. The Hunger in America 2014 report provides new and revealing information about the circumstances of the people asking for our help – the challenges they face and the difficult choices they are often forced to make living on extremely limited household resources. The report also provides in-depth information about the characteristics and capacity of our partner agency network.

Overview of findings for Second Harvest Food Bank's 18-county service area program:
Online view version
Printable version



Hunger in America 2014 Key Findings:

Released on August 18, 2014, Hunger in America 2014 documents a sustained, significant and still growing need for food assistance across the 18-counties served by Second Harvest Food Bank.  

  • 1 in 6 people living in Northwest North Carolina turns to Second Harvest Food Bank's network for food assistance.

  • 62 percent of programs report continued increases in the number of requests for food assistance.

Second Harvest Food Bank’s Network Helps our Most Vulnerable Residents:

  • 32 percent of those who receive food assistance through Second Harvest Food Bank’s network of partner food assistance programs are children under the age of 18; 10 percent are seniors age 65 or older. (30 percent are age 50 and older.)          

Economic Recovery has not Reached the People Served by our Network. Unemployment and Underemployment are Sgnificant Factors Contributing to the Need for Food Assistance.                  

  • 78 percent of people seeking food assistance from Second Harvest Food Bank’s network live in households at or below the poverty level, with 57 percent of households having monthly incomes of $1,000 or less.
  • More than half (52 percent) of households report having at least one person employed at some point in the past year. Among these households, the person who had worked the most in the past year was more likely to be employed part time (56 percent) than full-time (44 percent).

  • Educational attainment is a significant barrier to higher-wage employment for many who receive food assistance from our network, with 32 percent of adult recipients having less than a high school diploma or its equivalent. Nationally, only 14 percent of the general population of adults does not have a high school diploma or its equivalent.

Many Families Seeking Food Assistance from Second Harvest Food Bank’s Network Struggle with Health Issues:

  • 33 percent of households have at least one member with diabetes.

  • 60 percent of households have at least one member with high blood pressure.

Households Make Difficult Choices and Trade-Offs to Keep Food on the Table:

  • 84 percent of households report purchasing the cheapest food available, even if they knew it wasn’t the healthiest option, in an effort to provide enough food for their household.

  • 73 percent of households report choosing between paying for food and paying for utilities, with 30 percent making the choice every month.

  • 72 percent of households report choosing between paying for food and paying for medicine/medical care, with 31 percent making the choice every month.
  • 72 percent of households report choosing between paying for food and paying for transportation, with 31 percent making the choice every month.

  • 64 percent of households report choosing between paying for food and paying for housing, with 24 percent making the choice every month.

  • 24 percent of households report choosing between paying for food and paying for education expenses, with 9 percent making the choice every month.

Second Harvest Food Bank is a Vital Resource for Its Partner Programs:

  • 65 percent of the total food distributed by partner programs is obtained from Second Harvest Food Bank.

  • 84 percent of partner programs report that not having access to Second Harvest Food Bank as a source of food would have a major effect on their ability to serve their local community.

People Seeking Food Assistance Are as Diverse as the Faces of America:

  • 52 percent are white, 31 percent are black, 11 percent are Hispanic and 6 percent identify as of other racial backgrounds.

Hunger in America 2014 was conducted using rigorous academic research standards and was peer reviewed by a technical advisory team including researchers from American University, University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana and the Urban Institute. The study includes over 32,000 surveys of partner agencies that provide food assistance services and more than 60,000 surveys of people served by these agencies. In Second Harvest Food Bank’s service area, 281 partner agencies responded to the Agency Survey and 866 people responded to the Client Survey.

Hunger in America 2014 National Findings Executive Summary.



Map the Meal Gap

In 2014, Feeding America released an updated Map the Meal report documenting the persistent and pervasive incidence of hunger in every city, town, county and state in our nation.


Key Map the Meal Gap Findings:

  • In North Carolina, 18.6% of the population is food insecure, ranking our state as 4th worst in the nation (tied with Alabama and New Mexico) for food insecurity.

  • In the 18 counties served by Second Harvest Food Bank, 17.3% of the population is food insecure (more than 350,000 people). Many of our counties are experiencing even higher rates of food insecurity. In all 18-counties, the food insecurity rate is significantly above the national rate of 15.9%.

  • 26% of children living in Northwest NC are food insecure (more than 1 in every 4 chidlren). Tthe situation is even worse in many of the counties we serve.

  • Map the Meal Gap also reveals that nearly 30% of people who are food insecure in our region are ineligible for various
    government programs, including Food and Nutrition Services (formerly Food Stamps) and other federal nutrition programs for children. For these families in particular, Second Harvest Food Banks and our network of partner programs offer a critical source of nutritional support.

  • Use this interactive map, hosted by Feeding America, to learn more about hunger in your home county, as well as our nation, state and region.



A body of research shows that even mild under-nutrition experienced by a young child during critical periods of growth may lead to reductions in physical growth and affect brain development, threatening a child’s natural abilities and potential. In 2009, Children’s Healthwatch, along with many other researchers, completed a report on the impacts of food insecurity and hunger on children’s health, growth, and development. This report focusinged on child hunger as a health problem, an education problem, and a workforce and job readiness problem. Suggestions for how to leverage federal and Feeding America programs to prevent child hunger are provided.

We know that children are particularly vulnerable to food insecurity, yet as a nation, we have yet to update our food system to meet the needs of this population. Working to end childhood hunger is a strategic priority of the Feeding America network. In collaboration with our partner food assistance programs, schools, funding partners and others, we're turning the tables on childhood hunger across northwest NC through targeted special programs

Seniors whose fixed incomes have not kept pace with rising prices are also increasingly at risk of hunger. For older adults,
inadequate diets can contribute to or worsen disease and delay recovery from illnesses.

A recent report issued by Feeding America in partnership with The National Foundation to End Senior Hunger shows that in 2011, almost one in every 12 seniors above the age of 60 in the United States was food insecure. That represents 4.8 million
seniors nationwide, which is more than double the number of food insecure seniors in 2001. You can view the 8-page
Spotlight on Senior Hunger report here.

A follow up report, Spotlight on Senior Health: Adverse Health Outcomes of Food Insecure Older Americans, documents the health and nutrition implications of food insecurity among seniors aged 60 and older. The study reveals that senior food
insecurity is associated with lower nutrient intake and an increased risk for chronic health conditions.









3655 Reed Street I Winston-Salem, NC 27107
Phone: 336.784.5770
Fax: 336.784.7369

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