Poverty in Western North Carolina

Photo: Courtesy of Community Table

One of the biggest economic crisis’ facing this country is the unemployment rate and the effect of poverty on the American people. FRAC’s (Food Research and Action Center) analysis for the nation as a whole in 2011 shows that 18.6 percent of respondents reported food hardship that year – up modestly from the 2010 level (18 percent).

Jackson County is no exception.

“With the economic downturn, people have been losing hours and losing jobs. We have definitely seen that impact,” Amy Grimes McClure said.

She  is the Executive Director of Community Table, a nonprofit organization that has been serving meals to people and families in need since 1999.

According to the Community Table website a concerning 15.1 percent of residents in Jackson County live below the poverty level as of 2010 and that number continues to grow.

“Well, that’s actually gone up. I’m looking to update it with the current census data. It’s up to around 16 percent and it’s up to over 20 percent in Jackson County,” McClure said.

According to FRAC research with Gallup from February 2012, Americans don’t always recognize how pervasive hunger is.

“In our communities it is often hidden by families that don’t want to share their economic struggles. Sometimes it hides behind doors of nice houses with mortgages in default or the heat turned off. And often it goes unseen by those not looking for it,” states the FRAC research.

The data from the Gallup shows Americans in every community are hungry.

The Western Carolina Journalist decided to get a first-hand look at the situation and visited the Community Table in February during dinner time. To say that the people there were unsatisfied with the way the economy is being handled would be an understatement.

“As long as the government, or more accurately the criminals who control the government, refuse to do their jobs, which is to protect the American people, which is as far as jobs are concerned, the taxing or I think the legal term is tariffing, the imports like they should, it won’t get better,” an anonymous older man told the WCJ at the Community Table.

Other people didn’t talk much, but it was clear they were struggling. The food that was handed to them was being wolfed down like they had not ate in days and their demeanor seemed unsettling.

Photo: Courtesy of Community Table

Although the turnout on this night was lacking, it was one of very few according to McClure.

“We see new faces pretty much every week. Last year we served 16,741 meals. We also provide food boxes for home use, so that’s definitely up over previous years,” McClure said.

North Carolina is ranked 12th with 21 percent of people reporting that they have a hard time providing food on the table and Asheville is the third metropolitan area in the nation that faces food hardship. Many local organizations and groups are working to help put this to an end.

“The majority of volunteers come from Western North Carolina and we are thankful for that. There are all kinds of student organizations that do food drives for us as well as fund-raisers from time to time. Last year, Service Learning did fundraisers for a handful of Jackson County organizations. Things like that are a huge, huge help for us,” McClure said.

Mountain Express reported earlier this month that 23.8 percent of people in the Asheville area didn’t have enough money to get the food they or their family needed at some point in the past year.

Only Bakersfield and Fresno, Calif. had worse food hardship rates according to the article.

If you would like to help out or volunteer with the Community Table you can do so by visiting their website at www.communitytable.org and click on, “How to Help” at the top of the screen. McClure and the staff appreciate all the help that is offered.

To learn more about Community table, check out their website here.

Also check out feedingamerica.org for more statistics and information and how to get involved.