As Thanksgiving dinners start to come together all across western North Carolina, the region’s largest food bank is asking residents to help those who won’t have enough to eat. Hunger is on the rise this holiday season according to Manna Food Bank.
This Christmas tree in the Asheville Mall isn’t made up of branches and needles. Rather it’s stacks of cans of soup, boxes of cereal, jars of peanut butter, and bottles of cooking oil. It’s roughly 20-thousand pounds, which Manna Food Bank president and CEO Hannah Randall says is half the amount of food they give away every day throughout western North Carolina. She adds while homelessness and hunger have gone down nationally, both are rising in this region.
“I think it’s a combination of different things", says Randall. "A loss of jobs generally in western North Carolina. As well as a decrease in affordable housing, especially in Buncombe County.”
Randall explains how those factors and many others lead to hunger increasing.
“Life is all about different spending trade-offs. When you have to live farther away, you have to spend more on transportation," she says. "Or if you’re not eating well in the first place, you’re more likely to have things like heart disease and diabetes. Those lead to spending trade-offs for medical bills.”
Manna estimates 1 in 6 people in western North Carolina live in hunger, but among children that’s 1 in 4. Donations can be either food or cash, but Manna reports cash goes further. Because of their purchasing power, every dollar donated pays for three meals.