We can all agree that everyone deserves access to healthy, nutritious food, and that no one should go hungry.
The Hiking for Hunger project evolved from the hikers’ (Micah and Keeka) long-held dream of thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail. This combined with the desire to give back to MANNA FoodBank, an organization that does so much for communities in need in Western North Carolina (WNC), is what led to the conceptualizing of this unique fundraising experience.
Since the beginning of the COVID 19 pandemic, the need for food assistance across Western North Carolina has significantly increased as more and more people struggle to put food on the table. At the same time that there has been a dramatic spike in need, non-profits have had to adapt or completely cancel in-person fundraising events. Unprecedented times like these call for creative solutions to raise the necessary funds to meet the ever growing need for food.
Food Insecurity in WNC
Food insecurity in Western North Carolina is more prevalent than the national average. In the United States, 1-in-9 people are food insecure. In WNC, 1-in-6 people are food insecure. In the US, 1-in-5 children are food insecure, while in WNC, 1-in-4 children are food insecure. This means that a quarter of the children residing in Western North Carolina don’t know where their next meal is coming from. As you can imagine, this can add a lot of stress and anxiety to a child and their family’s lives. Not having consistent access to nutritious food can negatively impact a child’s health, growth, and wellbeing.
Why is food insecurity so prevalent in WNC? There are three main factors that create a Socioeconomic Perfect Storm: cost of living, transportation, and wages.
Cost of Living – In the heart of the Appalachian Mountains, the economy is focused on tourism. With many people visiting and moving to the area, the cost of living has skyrocketed in the last decade. At the same time that housing costs are quite literally through the roof, so is the cost of utilities, food prices, and just about everything else.
Transportation – With the rising cost of living in economic centers in particular, people have been forced to search for cheaper housing. This has led many people to move away from towns and city centers where they would have more access to better paying jobs and resources. In order to get to those jobs and resources, people need reliable transportation. Some may have their own vehicle, while others have to find public transportation or use a ride share app. The bottomline is that all of these options cost more money and take time away from home and family. Lack of transportation and/or unreliable transportation can be (and is for many) a barrier to employment.
Wages – The federal minimum wage hasn’t been raised since 2009 and remains $7.25 an hour. North Carolina and 20 other states maintain that federal minimum wage. A living wage in Buncombe County is calculated to be $15.50 an hour (without employer-provided healthcare) by Just Economics. For the rest of WNC, a living wage is calculated to be about $12.60 an hour. This means that many WNC residents are working full-time, overtime, multiple jobs, and still are not able to have their basic needs met. More often than not, this translates to not being able to consistently keep food on the table.
Many people in WNC have to make difficult choices every day about what they need most. Do they pay their phone bill or put gas in the car to get to work? Do they pay their rent or buy medication for a chronic illness? Do they pay the utilities or buy groceries? People should not have to choose between what they need and what they need.
All of this was happening before the pandemic- the emergence of COVID-19 has only made things worse. MANNA FoodBank and their Partner Agency Network consisting of over 240 agencies has seen a 70% increase in people seeking food assistance since March of 2020.
Now is the time to come together and support our Neighbors in Need in Western North Carolina. We hope you will join our cause and follow our journey along the Appalachian Trail as we make miles for meals in WNC.
Join the fight to end hunger in Western North Carolina and Support the Hiking for Hunger Project. Click here to Donate.