WNC’s Growing Need for Food

Since the Great Recession of 2008, MANNA FoodBank and MANNA’s partner pantry network have worked tirelessly to address a huge increase in the need for food assistance across the 16 western counties of the state. In the last decade, MANNA has increased food distribution by 175% to address the rapidly growing need for food. In 2015, MANNA distributed 15.7 million pounds of food – an historic high.

The Numbers

Recent state and national statistics show that the number of Americans living in poverty is dropping in most areas of the country, indicating that the U.S. economy is in recovery. But here in Western North Carolina, the exact opposite is taking place. According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey released this past September, in 2015, the number of individuals living in poverty in the greater Asheville area rose by an alarming 32% from the year before. More than 11% of families now live below the poverty line.

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MANNA volunteers pack MANNA Packs for Kids food bags to send home with kids on Friday afternoons who don’t have enough food to eat over the weekend. While the MANNA Packs is a huge success – we provide bags to 5,000 kids every week – MANNA is only able to reach about 10% of the children that are on free and reduced lunch in WNC.

The Asheville Citizen-Times published a series of in-depth articles in October of this year, looking at the increase in the number of families living in poverty, as well as the obstacles they are facing. This excellent series illustrates what MANNA and our partners have been witness to over the last year. More people in our area are being forced to make tough decisions about how to stretch their budgets. Unfortunately, the food budget is the first place where families make concessions in order to make ends meet.

What is Creating This Trend?

While each individual’s story is different, similar obstacles continue to challenge families’ ability to navigate the obstacles that can so quickly stack up: unreliable transportation, availability of jobs paying a living wage, and high housing costs for less-than-adequate living conditions are all recurring obstacles standing in the way of many resident’s dreams of simply being able to make ends meet.

High-cost living: Recent data indicates that the greater Asheville area is now the most expensive housing in North Carolina.

Transportation: A lack of mass transit options, especially in rural areas, limits many residents’ job searches to areas directly around their home. Even where there is regular bus service, limited hours and routes have a major impact on residents’ ability to reach their place of employment.

Low wage jobs: A lack of living wage jobs is sited in the research as a major obstacle for WNC residents. While there might be more jobs available now than in 2008, many of the lost jobs have been replaced with lower paying jobs, making it difficult for residents to meet their monthly budgets.

Life crises: A major life crisis, like a sudden serious illness, loss of a spouse, a family member being disabled, or any other challenge can suddenly plunge an individual or family into deep financial hardship where it is simply impossible to have enough money to feed themselves or their children.

Any one of these challenges can tip a family towards a cycle of poverty, a situation where it almost impossible to get ahead again. These obstacles are the common elements of the personal stories we hear from clients, and once in this cycle, they compound to create a deeper financial crisis that often seems insurmountable.

This is Where MANNA Comes In:
Filling the Food Gap

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Thermo Fisher Scientific employees race the clock to bag a bulk shipment of dried pinto beans into smaller, family-size portions to ship across our region. These bulk food shipments are vital to the families needing food; MANNA can source much more food at a lower price when buying bulk, so that every dollar donated can be stretched as far as possible.

The most fundamental of needs: We often see families when they are at the end of their rope, and are desperate to just put food on the table. The simplicity of this need is also reflected by the simplicity of the answer. We get WNC families food when they need it, and we can’t do it without the support of our partners, our volunteers, and our donors.

With the holidays quickly approaching, all of us at MANNA wanted to take a moment to personally thank you for your support.  Thanks to you, MANNA is now providing 36,000 meals a day to WNC families struggling with these very obstacles. Because of your support we have been able to expand our capacity to address these growing needs, and with your help, we continue to provide food for those of us needing a hand up, not only during the holidays, but every day of the year.