Five days a week and twice on Saturdays, a 26-foot-long truck filled with food stops at various schools in Guilford County.
Families arrive by car and by foot to receive the 60-plus-pounds of food that’s handed out, at no cost, as part of a fresh mobile market. The boxes are filled produce, meats, sweets, fruit, pizza and a variety of other items. The mobile food market is organized by the Out of the Garden Project, a nonprofit that began in 2009 as a way to feed hungry children in the Triad.
“I don’t care who you are, whether you have children or not, who could possibly say children shouldn’t eat,” the project’s CEO Don Milholin said.
On average, the organization serves anywhere between 6,000 to 10,000 Triad residents per month. Out of the Garden receives food donations from Walmart, Panera Bread, Little Caesars and residents.
Becoming the Hungriest in the Nation
Fresh mobile market manager Aubrey Powell typically spends about an hour and a half sorting through foods at the group's warehouse. Once the truck is full, he and his two or three volunteers head out to the school of the day, around the time when it ends.
“So the parents get there to pick their kids up, and then can also either walk over or drive over and still get food so it's two for the price of one so to speak,” he said.
The food drops last about an hour and a half from set up to take down.
Jan Bodenheimer is a repeat customer with the fresh mobile market. She lives on a fixed income and with two teenage boys in her home, she said she appreciates the service.
“It helps,” she said. “I'm on disability, and I can't get food stamps because I have a 20-year-old daughter and they count her income so I'm over the limit, so I can't get no help.”
Anyone who needs assistance can show up to an Out of the Garden site. A form needs to be filled out, but there’s no need to show proof of income or proof of anything else to receive food.
In 2015, a Gallup poll ranked the Greensboro-High Point metropolitan area as the hungriest in the nation.
The survey asked hundreds of thousands of people across the nation “Have there been times in the past 12 months when you did not have enough money to buy food that you or your family needed?”
The wording of the poll is what caused North Carolina to rank number one, and it’s what is also making that number go down, according to Leslie Isakoff.
Isakoff is the executive director of A Simple Gesture, another nonprofit focused on ending hunger. She said the wording most likely confused residents who filled out the survey but now people are more educated on how to answer the question correctly.
And a lack of high-paying jobs and education didn’t help with Guilford County being named the hungriest in the nation.
“For years and years, people could get a job in tobacco or furniture or textiles and get a really great living wage and they didn't even have to have a high school degree,” she said. “But as those industries moved out, we haven't got enough new jobs to take care of those jobs that have moved out and the new jobs that are coming in require more technical skills.”
In addition, some jobs that are coming in are low paying, which can lead to food insecurity.
Affordability and Accessibility
Food insecurity is not knowing where the next meal will come from and not being able to afford the amount of food that’s required to be eaten every day to be healthy.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Greensboro and High Point have a total of 24 food deserts, defined as an area where people don't live within one mile of a full grocery store.
Seventeen of those are in Greensboro and seven are in High Point.
Experts in the food industry say affordability and accessibility are the two main problems people face when it comes to hunger.
That’s where organizations like Out of the Garden Project come in. As the largest charity to feed children in the Piedmont area, the group serves over 220,000 meals every month.
CEO Don Milholin thinks of hunger as a disaster that plagues the Triad and the rest of the state.
“To me, it's the greatest epidemic facing our world today for which oddly enough, we have the cure,” he said. “I'm just not sure that we always have the ambition.”