NC Meals Pantry goals to enhance entry to wholesome meals in rural areas

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) – When it comes to grocery shopping, many of us are lucky and it just comes down to a matter of preference – a choice – you just like one store over another.

This can be prices, selection or customer service.

Some people don’t have that luxury and their choice depends on who accepts their form of payment – and sometimes there aren’t many options.

38 million people rely on SNAP for their purchases. For some of them, there isn’t a single grocery store in their entire county that will accept them.

When you look at the cost of groceries in places with no grocery store, there is a sizable gap. For example, a dozen eggs at a rural gas station cost about $ 2.50. A Walmart in a nearby county ran the same thing, and it was a dollar cheaper.

About 27,000 people live in Ashe County, North Carolina, and just over 14 percent of them live in poverty and grocery stores aren’t always nearby.

A group of people are looking for a solution – providing free food to those in need and meeting them wherever they are in Ashe County.

This is how Ashe Food Pantry bridges the great health gap.

Michael Sexton of Ashe Food Pantry explained why Ashe County is in dire need of food access in rural areas.

“Ashe County has several areas known as poor areas or food deserts. And that’s because the nearest grocery store is eight to ten miles away, ”said Sexton. “A food desert is basically an area where there is no grocery store within easy reach of citizens or residents.”

“Today we had the opportunity to receive 20 pallets of CFAP, the boxes from the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program that started last May. So we gave each family two of the 35 pound boxes of products. We also gave them a grocery box of basic groceries, and that was through our drive-through, ”Sexton said.

Ashe Food Pantry’s Jennifer Treski spoke about how some residents just feel uncomfortable or are not always able to get to the pantry.

“And some of our older people just don’t feel comfortable walking into the main pantry. They are proud people and if we can meet them where they are in their church. I just think it’s so important, ”said Treski.

Küster also spoke about the lack of reliable means of transportation and the pride some of the residents have.

“It’s really hard for people in the rural areas to get out if they don’t have reliable means of transportation. That is why we have developed a mobile pantry concept. And by bringing it to them, we can help our neighbors who don’t have reliable transportation to get to the pantry or a grocery store here, ”Sexton said. “We also tore down some walls that we call ‘Bergstolz’ here. Many of these people grew up growing their own food; they worked all their lives. And as they got older, they couldn’t work anymore. You have arthritis in your hands. They cannot grow their gardens, they can no longer eat as they used to. “

“To be able to support our community in these really tough 14 months that we will hopefully get through soon. I mean, it was just critical for the people in this district, ”said Treski. “When we meet them where they are, we have built such a sense of community with these people. Now they know that we are part of their community, we met them where they are, we are part of their community and that is simply crucial. “

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