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Regional food forum to look at WNC needs

With the latest increase in gas and grocery prices, the already long lines at soup kitchens and food pantries across Western North Carolina are growing even longer.

“The need is going up again,” said Amy Grimes, executive director of The Community Table in Sylva. “We could break another record this year.”

That’s not a record Grimes is particularly thrilled about: In 2010, the Sylva group served 20,393 dinners alone, double the number of dinners served at The Community Table the previous year, when 10,335 were given out. The surge, Grimes said, is directly attributable to the hard times individuals and families are experiencing as fallout continues from the nation’s long economic slump.

The story is the same across WNC. The need is getting greater and greater, even as many people’s abilities to help financially have become increasingly difficult. That widening chasm, and the best means of tackling the problem regionally, will be the focus of a forum on food security Monday, April 25, at Western Carolina University in the A.K. Hinds University Center.

Sponsored by WCU’s Public Policy Institute and MANNA Foodbank, the forum is intended to highlight the problems of hunger in WNC and outline possible regional solutions, said Paul Dezendorf, a WCU professor who is helping organize the event.

“North Carolina has one of the highest rates of food insecurity in the country, and the Asheville metro area ranks No. 7 in the country for food hardship among all metro areas in 2010. We all know that the rural counties are even worse, not better,” Dezendorf said.

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There are two main objectives set for this forum at WCU: the first is to provide a public setting for discussing the problem and deciding how to improve the situation, and the second is figuring out how the academic community and those directly involved in feeding the hungry can communicate better.

A networking session for community organizations will be held in the morning. The public session is set for 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., and will include speakers from MANNA FoodBank and other area nonprofits, plus local experts on healthcare and sustainable agriculture. That event will take place in the theater of the University Center.

Dezendorf said he and other organizers hope the forum will evolve into an annual event focused on increasing food security across WNC.

 

Want to help?

The Community Table in Sylva needs assistance picking up boxes of donated food from Wal-Mart. Pickups are Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. If you can help on one or more of those days, call Amy Grimes at 828.586.6782. Additionally, the group’s biggest fundraiser of the year is set for Friday, April 22, from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tickets for the Empty Bowl are $20, available at the door, and include choices of handcrafted, locally made bowls; plus soup, bread and desserts from local restaurants. 828.586.6782.

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