Local News

State Budget Woes Could Take Food Away From N.C. Residents

Posted April 17, 2002 6:23 a.m. EDT

— The state's budget troubles could take food off the table from people who get help from the state. A proposal from the state Department of Agriculture could impact those least able to help themselves.

The state's budget shortfall has forced officials to look for places to trim. At the Department of Agriculture, they proposed increasing some user fees, but legislators felt that amounted to a type of tax and voted against the proposal.

"When they told us that we could not propose user fees, we had to come back and say, 'start looking at other programs in the department,'" North Carolina Agriculture Commissioner Meg Scott Phipps said.

The Food Distribution division was one of the agencies put on the chopping block. The agency works with the federal government to move surplus food to agencies such as the N.C. Food Bank. Those organizations then get the food to hungry people.

Food Bank spokeswoman Jane Cox said she is horrified at the possibility of losing the agency.

"Over the last six years, we have distributed about $176 million worth of USDA commodities," she said. "To the best of my knowledge and ability, the result would be catastrophic and unthinkable."

One of the agencies working with the N.C. Food Bank is the Urban Ministries of Raleigh, Wake County's largest social service agency. George Weaver comes in once a month for food, and he said he would be the one who would ultimately feel the pain.

"I'd just have to make do with less. I'd have to. I have no choice. I can't work," he said.

One of the major programs that would be impacted would be the Emergency Feeding Program, as well as school lunch and breakfast programs. If this budget reduction takes place, North Carolina would be the only state not accepting the federal food.