As one of the fastest-growing regions in North Carolina, Brunswick and New Hanover Counties continued above-average growth even through the pandemic – while large urban areas saw their populations shrink.
Also on the rise in the Cape Fear region during that period: food insecurity and hunger.
The Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina reports that twenty-five thousand people in Brunswick County are deemed “food insecure”. Fifty-one percent of kids are considered food insecure. Ninety percent of children in Brunswick County receive free and reduced lunches.
Just across the river in New Hanover County, one of the wealthiest parts of the state, fifty-nine percent of kids require free and reduced lunches.
Both Brunswick and New Hanover Counties are what the state classifies as Tier 3 counties – the least economically distressed in the state.
The causes run deep, and solutions must address layers of needs: hunger emergencies, shorter-term solutions, and longer-term strategies to address systemic problems.
There are legions of nonprofits and community volunteers dedicated to solving the problem. The Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina is the largest effort in the state. Wilmington Branch Director Beth Gaglione recently gave WHQR’s Ben Schachtman an update on plans for their new facility.
There are smaller efforts, and there are plans to better connect needs with resources. But even with a small army in the CoastLine studio for this discussion, we still fail to capture all the organizations working on the problem. Which leads to one of our major explorations: why, with so many dedicated people, is hunger and food insecurity still a critical issue in our own backyard?
Morgan King is the Family and Consumer Sciences Agent for North Carolina Cooperative Extension in New Hanover County. She also coordinates the Cape Fear Food Council – a coalition working on the issue.
Cierra Washington is Project Manager for the Northside Food Cooperative, a community-owned cooperative grocery store planned for the north side of downtown Wilmington.
Mike Claxton leads The Lord’s Food Pantry, a collective effort of fourteen churches; thirteen of those make up the South Brunswick Interchurch Council.
Kate Livers is the founder of Porch South Brunswick, a Porch Community, which is an all-volunteer program coordinating monthly neighborhood food drives.
Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina:
Northside Food Cooperative:
The Lord’s Food Pantry in Shallotte:
Wake County Food Security Plan: https://www.capitalareafoodnetwork.org/foodplan
Social Determinants of Health: https://nc.maps.arcgis.com/apps/MapSeries/index.html?appid=def612b7025b44eaa1e0d7af43f4702b
Article about Food Desert vs Healthy Food Priority Area: https://clf.jhsph.edu/about-us/news/news-2018/report-food-desert-gets-name-change-response-baltimore-community-feedback
WHQR’s The Newsroom with Beth Gaglione of The Food Bank: