Local News

NC food banks devoured by demand after state, federal cuts

Posted September 12, 2013
Updated September 13, 2013

— Cuts to unemployment benefits in North Carolina and continued problems with the state computer system that processes food stamp benefits have created a domino effect that has started toppling food banks across the state.

A growing number of North Carolina residents have turned to food banks in recent months to stave off hunger, especially after about 65,000 families lost their long-term jobless benefits at the beginning of July as part of an overhaul of the state's unemployment assistance system.

The Inter-Faith Food Shuttle, for example, served about 6,000 people between January and March at its mobile markets, where it distributes produce and other fresh foods at area churches or in parking lots. Between April and June, the number of people at the mobile markets rose to 8,700, and officials said the number has hit 9,200 since July and is expected to continue rising.

"What we're seeing is food banks are being asked to be the safety net of the safety net," said Alan Briggs, executive director of the North Carolina Association of Food Banks.

In some cases, Briggs said, local social services offices have sent people to food banks because the troubled conversion to the NC FAST computer system has left low-income families without food stamps for months at a time.

Jermel Thomas headed to Catholic Parish Outreach in Raleigh after his food stamps were delayed to get a week's worth of groceries.

"Every month, it's a new struggle, a new juggling act," said Thomas, who works two part-time jobs and has three children to feed. "I've been in situations where I had to decide whether to pay my light bill or eat."

Catholic Parish Outreach normally serves about 10,000 people a month, officials said. In July and August, the number topped 12,250 each month.

Food bank generic Some pantries cut hours as they run out of food

In addition to the state cuts, Briggs said, the federal government reduced the amount of farm surplus commodities given to North Carolina food banks last year by 25 to 33 percent. Also, federal budget cuts have trimmed food stamp benefits by about $400 a year for a family of four, and further cuts are expected after Congress separated the benefit from the annual farm bill.

Some food banks and pantries across the state are cutting back their hours because they're running short of food, Briggs said.

"We have had some stories that that's happening," he said.

The Inter-Faith Food Shuttle has a steady supply of donated food from farmers, grocery stores and restaurants, said Kia Baker, division chief of food recovery and distribution.

"We have never run out of food, but we have to be careful about the amounts of food we give to every person we see," Baker said.

The organization typically distributes food to pantries, such as Catholic Parish Outreach, but Baker said her staff has been assembling about 15 emergency boxes of food a week recently to help desperate families.

"We don't have the emotional capacity to turn people away when they are really hungry and have children at home who need to eat," she said.

While donations of food are appreciated, food banks said they need more financial support, which they can extend further because of their bulk-buying power.

The Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina, which serves 34 counties, including the Triangle, will hold an online appeal for help Friday. The organization will livestream its second annual 24-Hour Online Telethon, starting at noon, from its warehouse in north Raleigh.

Last year's telethon raised more than $20,000. This year's goal is $50,000.


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  • caryzoo Sep 20, 2013

    whatelseisnew...someone may have to move for a minimum wage job. A job that does not offer help with moving expenses. Hmmm...
    You seem to have a lot of data wrong. It costs hundreds, if not thousands of dollars to move. Unless you are willing to pay for new furniture and appliances so they don't need a truck or movers. You need money for a deposit on a rental home, you don't get back your old one for 30 days. I do not know of any landlord willing to let it slide and wait. There are utility hook-ups, time off with no pay to register children in new schools, get new doctors, new child care. The only thing you seem to care about is yourself. By the way, a person would STILL need food stamps, only now they get more because they had this time off moving, setting up and getting children taken care of...with no pay. Your view seems extremely senseless and ill thought out. I have been that person, I could not get the money to move. I stayed unemployed for another 6 months...WITH FOOD STAMPS.

  • Barfly Sep 13, 2013

    "Even if there is abuse of "the system," what do you want to do? Suppose half the people are deserving and half aren't. Do you throw the baby out with the bathwater and starve them all? Sounds cold-hearted to me." silkesmom

    I've been hearing the same thing for decades. Unfortunately, it's just another excuse these days.

  • razor2 Sep 13, 2013

    We have current members of our military on food stamps...
    Now stop and think how did they get there? The source of
    this problem is not with the people who have to be on these

    Now think real hard how did they get into this situation?
    Just like many other hard working unfortunate people on
    public assistance..

    Those same people that complain the loudest about people
    and entitlement programs are the same one who help perpetuate the lie.. The people in this country who control all the money use people like pawns in a chess game and control what is available to the rest of us at any given time. At this time in NC history we have the perfect storm of those type of people governing our state. They feel entitled to wealth and power and will use any means at their disposal to fulfill their desires with no regard for those less fortunate. A perfect example of this is the raises recently given to people who in no way deserved them. How many could have been fed from this....

  • silkesmom Sep 13, 2013

    Hmm. There are 3 unemployed people for every job available, per N&O today. This is irrespective of skills/location/ability matching specific jobs.

    Most people do not choose to be poor or desire to be takers.

    Even if there is abuse of "the system," what do you want to do? Suppose half the people are deserving and half aren't. Do you throw the baby out with the bathwater and starve them all? Sounds cold-hearted to me.

    I'd rather feed them all and let God sort out the underserving ones.

  • whatelseisnew Sep 13, 2013

    "In congress, the GOP is obsessed with cutting food stamps dramatically. They believe America doesn't have enough malnutrition and hunger."

    We don't. The main problem is the bulk of people in this country are spoiled, have no concept of what actual hardship is, and of course want SOMEONE else to pay the tab. If you are concerned about this, then YOU Personally do something about it.

  • whatelseisnew Sep 13, 2013

    Food stamps should not exist. As to mean-spirited, I frequently give to Food Banks. It is quite easy. Maybe try it and stay out of my wallet. I am tired of mean-spirited selfish people wanting government to steal from me. As to unemployment, jobs are out there, you might have to move, or take a job you do not really want.

  • WRAL_USER Sep 13, 2013

    Only when these mean-sprited people truly need these resources will they ponder their errors.

  • HANS FOR PRESIDENT!!!!! JK Sep 13, 2013

    @silkesmom, why are god's children hungry? If he loves us and we believe in him why must we struggle? Is it a test? If the adults fail the test children starve to death? I don't like that test. I doubt many "mean spirited commenters" would deny someone truly in need. We're just tired of carrying those that refuse to pull their weight, and we're within OUR rights to believe there's nothing wrong with that

  • silkesmom Sep 13, 2013

    I've volunteered at CPO for years. I have NEVER seen someone abusing the system. But for the grace of God anyone of us could need a helping hand. I am stunned by the mean spirited comments here and invite all of us to ponder the blessings in our own lives that are totally outside of our own control. Lucky or blessed the people that have should share with the people who lack. That is indeed what ANY religion calls its followers to do. If you don't walk the talk, than it is all talk. Peace.

  • HANS FOR PRESIDENT!!!!! JK Sep 13, 2013

    If given no other choice, most desperate people with hungry children will turn to crime to get the money to take care of them. A bear will attack to defend its cubs. Is it logical to think that hungry people wouldn't do the same.I don't think most of us would want to be in the path of either.


    Two different animals (pun intended). As for the human "bear" attacking with crime to defend (feed) his cubs, it's no excuse. I think that bear would barking up the wrong tree and should wind up on the losing end. You can't just take something because someone doesn't give it to you. Take care of you and your own. If you can't, ask for help but it is never okay to justify crime with that desparation.

    As far private charities being unable to provide for those in need, I say if they were only providing for those UNABLE, they'd come a lot closer to having enough. But I feel they're heavy with those UNWILLING to wrok for it