Over the past couple of months, the Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest North Carolina has taken steps to expand its services, first by opening a satellite warehouse in Greensboro, then by breaking ground on a new hub facility in Winston-Salem. The two projects are coming none too soon for people in our area who go hungry every day. And just how bad is the food crisis?
According to Feeding America, over 1.4 million North Carolinians don’t have enough to eat, and 420,000 of them are children. We’re also one of the ten worst states for senior hunger. FoodShuttle.org reports that 32% of all seniors live in or near poverty, and 18% struggle with hunger.
It’s no wonder that TruthOut.org ranks North Carolina as the 9th hungriest state in the nation. Fortunately, Second Harvest Food Bank is committed to waging war on hunger in our area.
“We provide the main support to the area food assistance networks, and we have over 430 programs that we support across 18 counties. We actually supply 81% of the food that food pantries, shelters, and other programs provide to our neighbors,” said Eric Aft, CEO.
Eric was a guest on Triad Today back in April, and before we talked about the new expansion projects, I asked him to evaluate the effect of the pandemic on hunger.
Eric: Well, it was a great challenge before the pandemic, and then the hunger crisis spiked as we entered the pandemic. Early on the government programs helped, like unemployment and food stamp benefits, but we continued to see a tremendous need. To give you an idea, pre-pandemic we were distributing about 38 tons of food out of our warehouse every day. We’re now at over 50 million tons of food per day. It’s amazing how the community has helped us, but it’s also very sad that, due to the economic impact of the pandemic, the need is so substantial.
Jim: What are you looking for over the next few months?
Eric: I think we’re going to be at this sustained level for quite a while. What keeps me up at night is when the moratoriums on rent and utility payments end, and when those bills come due for those families, they’re going to need additional assistance. We’re prepared to respond to that, but I worry for those families.
Jim: Tell me about your new facility.
Eric: Our goal is to get food where it is needed most, so we’ve opened a satellite facility in Greensboro. It will enable us to get more nutritious food to those who need assistance and support. As you know, items that are kept in a refrigerator or freezer are also the most expensive things for us to purchase, whether it be dairy, meats, or produce, and this will enable us to get more fresh food out to the eastern counties that we serve, but not impacting what we’re able to do here in Forsyth and to the west. We’ll also be able to extend nutrition education work that helps people understand how to use food to keep them healthy.
Meanwhile, the new hub facility in Winston-Salem will be up and running by the summer of 2022, allowing Second Harvest to put all of its operations, including refrigerator storage, under one roof. The hub will be located at Whitaker Park, formerly home to R.J. Reynolds manufacturing. To learn more about the food bank or to make a donation, visit www.secondharvestnwnc.org.