YMCA of WNC receives grant to rally against rural hunger

woman standing in front of nutrition bus

The YMCA of Western North Carolina has received a $10,000 grant from the Food Research & Action Center (FRAC) to partner on a project to connect more eligible young people to child nutrition programs in rural areas of the state.

The grant is part of the Rally Against Rural Hunger initiative launched by FRAC and Smithfield Foods earlier this year, which aims to raise awareness about rural hunger in North Carolina and across the nation and the strategies that exist to solve it.

"As a youth-serving organization, we are eager to use this grant to build on our efforts to ensure more children have access to the nutrition they need for their health and learning," said Cory Jackson, nutrition and wellness director, YMCA of Western North Carolina.

According to FRAC, 17 percent of all households in North Carolina cannot afford to buy enough food on a consistent basis. Yet, the state ranks only 21st in school breakfast participation and 27th in summer food participation, according to FRAC’s analysis of state-by-state data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

"No community in North Carolina is immune to hunger, but rural and small town areas are especially hard hit," said Jim Weill, president, Food Research & Action Center. "Ensuring more eligible children are connected to nutrition programs such as school meals, afterschool meals, and summer meals is key to closing the hunger gap."

The YMCA of Western North Carolina will work closely with the YMCA of Goldsboro and other key stakeholders to explore ways to expand access to child nutrition programs, particularly afterschool and summer meals. They will focus their efforts in the rural counties of Robeson, Scotland, Duplin, and Lenoir, all of which have high rates of poverty.

"We are proud to partner with the YMCAs of Western North Carolina and Goldsboro who have been on the forefront of ensuring communities have the resources necessary to feed young people in North Carolina," said Dennis Pittman, senior director of hunger relief, Smithfield Foods, which funds the Rally Against Rural Hunger initiative. "Smithfield is honored to work with organizations that share our passion for fighting hunger and helping communities."

Research has shown child nutrition programs produce a range of positive outcomes in addition to reducing hunger, including: improving the nutrition and health of low-income children; improving academic performance; and boosting and stabilizing family incomes.

"Increasing access to federal nutrition programs is a win-win for rural areas," added Weill. "These programs mitigate the harms of hunger and poverty while providing an infusion of federal funding that stimulates the local economy. The bottom line: Solutions exist to end hunger, so there can be no more excuses."

To learn more about the Rally Against Rural Hunger initiative, visit frac.org.