Food insecurity is defined by Feeding America “as a lack of consistent access to enough food for every person in a household to live an active, healthy life, commonly due to unemployment, poverty, disability, and lack of resources.” As unemployment rates have increased throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, food insecurity has reached its highest numbers in 20 years.
According to Feeding America, around 42 million people in the United States have experienced food insecurity in 2021, 13 million of which are children.
According to the Community Table website, in Jackson County, 16.1% of the population is food insecure, including 100-200 WCU students. Thankfully, there are many resources in the area to aid this issue and make sure everyone in our county has a full belly this holiday season.
The Community Table is a local food bank in Sylva that has provided free meals and food boxes since 1999 to combat food insecurity in the area.
“Our mission is to provide nutritious meals in a welcoming environment to folks in need in Jackson County,” said Paige Christie, Executive Director at the Community Table.
Though they are not accepting volunteers right now due to COVID-19, the organization is able to keep striving towards its mission because of donations.
The best foods to donate are shelf-stable foods such as cereal, peanut butter, canned fruits and vegetables, milk and canned meats.
To donate or pick up food, you can stop by the Community Table weekdays from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., provided you call ahead to let them know why you’re visiting. They are also currently running a 14-day food box system to serve as many people as possible. Jackson County residents are allowed one box of food every 14 days. Recipients are also asked to only visit once per day for a meal.
There are also a few resources on WCU’s main campus that provide food for students.
Homebase is a multi-faceted resource for students where they can relax, have access to a computer lab, receive personal hygiene supplies, wash their clothes, and browse the food pantry.
Homebase is open Monday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Friday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Homebase is located at 82 Central Dr. on campus.
WCU Catholic Campus Ministries provides meals at 6 p.m. Wednesdays at their facilities located at 197 Forest Hills Rd. on campus.
It’s important for students to realize they are not alone and there are many resources willing to help them. Both Homebase and The Community Table wish to see more students taking advantage of their facilities because they want to help as much as possible.
“Sometimes college students think that because they’re not year-round residents that they don’t qualify, but they absolutely do. The instant you pitch your tent here, sometimes literally, you qualify as far as we’re concerned,” said Christie.
For an in-depth look at food insecurity in Jackson County, click here.