According to Clyde Fitzgerald, executive director at Second Harvest Food Bank, the demand for food has jumped by 50 percent in the state during the past year to 18 months. In the 18-county region that includes Surry County, the demand has increased by more than 100 percent.
“North Carolina has a serious problem with hunger, because of our chronic poverty level and unemployment level,” Fitzgerald explained.
So now 4-H groups in all 100 counties of the state are taking part in a new initiative called “Hungry to Help.” Each county is partnering up with the food bank in its area that is an affiliate of a national organization called Feeding America. Second Harvest Food Bank is the local affiliate.
The “Hungry to Help” initiative kicks off next week, and Surry County 4-H is taking part by hosting a food drive. The food drive is being held in conjunction with National 4-H Week, which takes place Oct. 4-10.
Participating locations in Surry County are Charles H. Stone Memorial Library in Pilot Mountain, Elkin Public Library, Dobson Public Library, Reeves Community Center, Armfield Civic Center in Pilot Mountain and the N.C. Cooperative Extension Office for Surry County in Dobson. All non-perishable food items will be accepted, and families are encouraged to include some healthy food options with their donations. Large white boxes will be placed at each location for people to drop off their food.
“We’re excited about this,” said Teresa Wilkins, 4-H agent for Surry County.
The 4-H agent said there will be more efforts to combat hunger in the future. She said, “Hopefully we can make an impact.”
The statewide 4-H program has agreed to partner with food banks for at least three years. Fitzgerald said 4-H leaders even have included information about hunger into the program’s curriculum. Groups also will find other ways throughout the year to promote awareness about hunger. Wilkins said another upcoming effort might be to request food donations instead of charging fees for some 4-H events.
“This is a very special collaboration ... This is a first,” Fitzgerald remarked.
The director of Second Harvest said the effort covers all 100 counties, which is the largest coordinated effort ever for Second Harvest. The food collected in each county will be distributed by Second Harvest to food banks in that county, so all food collected in Surry County will go to help county residents.
Fitzgerald said the project has been in the works for a year. The kick-off of the initiative comes right after Hunger Action Month and at the start of National 4-H Week.
“We look for a lot of success,” Fitzgerald remarked. “We as food banks are honored to partner with such an outstanding organization.”
According to statistics provided by 4-H officials, hunger disrupts the lives of one in five children in North Carolina. An analysis by Feeding America ranks North Carolina as the second-worst state in the nation in regards to children younger than 5 lacking regular access to nutritious food and 10th-worst when looking at children through age 18.
4-H is a youth organization that is dedicated to service and education. It has more than 240,000 members in North Carolina alone. Its partnership with local food banks will last for at least three years. 4-H is also a national organization, and Fitzgerald hopes this project will become a model for organizations in other states.
“I would love to see this happening in future years all across America,” said Fitzgerald.
For more information about the food drive, contact the Surry County Cooperative Extension Office at 401-8025.
Contact Meghann Evans at email@example.com or 719-1952.