North Carolina ranks fifth in the nation for having the most seniors and children who don’t know where their next nutritional meal will come from as they grapple with food insecurity.
For most in those two age groups, work isn’t an option. Federal food assistance programs like WIC and SNAP weren’t always designed with their specific needs in mind. Seniors say they make too much money to qualify for food stamps. Children age out of WIC assistance at 5-years-old.
They look to food pantries and free meals at schools to bridge the gap, but advocates across the state agree there are voids in the bridges — large gaping holes that many fall through, partially created by indifference.
Youthful food insecurity
Nearly 75 percent of the students in the Rutherford County Schools district qualify for free and reduced lunch. Statewide, the number is closer to 60 percent of students who qualify for lunch aid, but areas like Rutherford County where the number is much higher can be found across the state. Regardless, some 900,000 children in North Carolina qualify for lunch aid.
Julie Pittman, a teacher at Rutherfordton-Spindale Central High, said she can relate, having grown up in a troubled home and knowing hunger at a young age. Pittman said that hunger affected her abilities in the classroom when she was a child.