On March 31 Elon University and the Times-News of Burlington, N.C. organized a panel discussion, entitled Hunger in Alamance County, as part of the organizations’ Community Connections program. Local community members, including students, local residents, activists and city government officials filled Elon’s McKinnon Hall to listen to the guest speakers discuss the issue and answer questions from the audience.
The panel included President of United Way Alamance County, Heidi Norwick, assistant professor of Exercise Science at Elon University Svetlana Nepocatych, Executive Director of Allied Churches of Alamance County Kim Crawford, and Deputy Director of Alamance County Department of Social Services Linda Allison.
The issue that these ladies discussed may be more pertinent to Alamance County than many Elon students ever realize, despite North Carolina ranking tenth in the United States in food hardship. Svetlana Nepocatych explained that much of Alamance County is considered a food desert, where nutritional food sources are scattered and not easily available to those with limited means. Nineteen percent of the citizens of Alamance County are food insecure; the national average is only 14 percent. Also, over half students in Alamance County public schools were eligible for free and reduced school lunches in 2011.
“For us, anytime we talk about numbers it leaves an indication that some number’s ok,” Crawford said. “As long as one person is having to deal with this issue then we have one too many in Alamance County.”
The food hardship of Alamance County was intensified in September 2013 when Loaves and Fishes Christian Food Ministry was forced to close. Crawford worked with Allied Churches of Alamance County to help fill the gap of approximately 7,000 meals previously provided by Loaves and Fishes.
“When the previous food bank closed, we had so many step up,” Allison said. “We didn’t sit back and watch it happen. Everybody came together immediately, beginning the very day we knew it was happening, and started meeting to see how we could pull together.”
Though this effort has evolved in to a community-wide process, Crawford explained several issues that still stand as obstacles to eliminating food scarcity.
“The biggest challenge is nutritional food,” Crawford said. “I will tell you we don’t need corn, and we don’t need green beans. We need to provide more of a balanced product to people that are coming. Most of the people in our shelter have chronic health issues. Many of the people coming to the pantry have chronic health issues. What they eat and what we provide for them often doesn’t help.”
To learn more about the challenges exacerbating food hardship, watch Crawford’s detailed explanation below.
Crawford described the best efforts of community members to aid in overcoming such hardship and hunger in three words: “time, talent and treasure.” Volunteerism for any amount of time is beneficial, especially if one is able to aid in a unique area of expertise – such as nutritionist or a person able to give cooking classes.