Behind the Doc

State leaders can act to reduce hunger in NC

Posted July 16, 2014

North Carolina Rep. Edgar Starnes (R-Caldwell), the House Majority Leader and the co-chair of the House Committee on Food Desert Zones, acknowledges the seriousness of the food desert problem, but also says there’s little the state legislature can do about it except raise public awareness about the issue. He says the state cannot tell grocery stories where to locate.

He’s right about that and right that the state legislature can draw attention to the issue. But certainly there’s more the state can do.

One of the primary purposes of government is to solve societal problems for the greater good. Creating or expanding a government benefit program may not be the answer to the hunger problem, but the state already has infrastructure and resources it could use to help.

The Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services could foster the expansion of field gleaning programs to recover produce farmers leave in the fields after harvest.

North Carolina State University could use its Cooperative Extension program to help teach more people how to grow their own food.

The Department of Health and Human Services could partner with the Cooperative Extension and the agriculture department to expand nutrition education efforts to help low-income people make better food choices on a limited budget.

The Commerce Department could make recruitment of grocery stores to food desert areas a priority and offer incentives to help.

There are many potential ways our state government could help address the hunger problem in North Carolina, but that effort starts with our top elected officials leading the way and laying out a vision.

When it comes to hunger in our state, most people may not want a big government solution, but they should still expect their government to tackle big problems not just throw up its hands and say there’s nothing that can be done.

WRAL and Radio One Raleigh are launching HungerFreeNC, a week-long start of a community movement.

We'll have special programming all next week and the first ever, day-long MEDIAthon on TV, radio and web to raise money for the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle, our non-profit partner.

To succeed, we need you! Donate NOW and learn about Inter-Faith Food Shuttle programs at


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Documentary producer and writer Clay Johnson provides some behind-the-scenes insight into the production of WRAL documentaries.