New Bern, NC – INTRO - In 1996 the World Food Summit Declaration from the Food Agriculture Organization of the United Nations was issued, declaring a goal of cutting worldwide hunger in half by 2015. There's a similar goal in North Carolina, as the North Carolina Hunger Forum recently held public forums to work toward cutting hunger in the state by 50 per cent by 2015 as well. George Olsen has more.
Public schools are shutting down for the summer. So what does that have to do with hunger?
05:12 (CS) We always say hunger doesn't go on vacation, hunger doesn't take a break, so we always like to keep on the minds of the community the fact that we do need donations year round every day.
Christy Simmons, the manager of public relations for the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina. Among the programs fighting hunger are the free-and-reduced cost school lunch program. A fact sheet from the United States Department of Agriculture says in fiscal year 2005 more than 29-point-6 million children got lunch through this program each day. So where do they go when school closes? And children aren't the only ones hungry in North Carolina.
03:23 In those 34 counties we know there are over 400,000 people at risk of hunger. We do know that nearly 30% of that 400,000 are children, we know that 18% are elderly, and that 38% of the 400,000 are households that have one-or-more working adults households we call the working poor.
Simmons is discussing just the service area her Food Bank is responsible for. She notes that in all of North Carolina 13-point-2 per cent of its residents are hungry or at risk of hunger. Those are the numbers the Hunger Forum must contend with in order to hit its 2015 goal of a 50 per cent reduction in hunger. Nevertheless, Earline Middleton, vice-president of agency services and programs for the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina says the goal is doable.
06:46 (EM) I think the resources are there. All the federal food programs that's a part of the whole circle of getting food, using those resources to make sure they're maxed out, everything from the food stamp program to child nutrition programs, both summer lunch, and after-school meals. The resources are there. Making sure there's access to those programs, that's one of the larger things and making sure the benefits fit the need.
Maxing out the resources currently available is a part of the 50 per cent reduction equation, and not just government programs. Filling part of the need can be as simple as teaching the people in need how to use the resources already at their hands.
09:48 N-C has all the wonderful fresh produce and vegetables that we grow, but some people don't know how to prepare things that may be as basic as collard greens and we do some education on how to prepare that. For some, if it doesn't come in a can we kind of have to re-think how to prepare it.
A variety of other efforts are making a difference from gleaning food left behind after food harvests to donations from major grocers and growers & packers. Some donations produce puzzled looks, but ultimately prove useful.
18:03 Nothing is sacred. If it's a food item that can be utilized, we will find out how to prepare it and share that information. Ugli fruit that I found interesting. People had not heard of it and shy away from it, and, again, introducing that fruit to people they go, oh, tastes o-k. It's just ugly.
The ugli fruit, by the way, is a cross between a tangerine and a grapefruit with a greenish-yellow skin. It's not quite what it appears to be. Similarly, the face of hunger in North Carolina might be hidden might not be what it appears and getting the public to recognize this is one more step toward enlisting their help in reducing hunger in North Carolina.
31:10 (EM) Just let people know you may not recognize people who are hungry may not have a swollen tummy as you may see on TV. These are our friends and neighbors who may have suffered a divorce, a medical issue in the family, lost their job it's as close as our next door neighbor or even a family member.
Earline Middleton and Christy Simmons are with the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina. I'm George Olsen.