Commentary

Too little food, too few jobs: Survey shows pandemic-related challenges facing many North Carolinians

Graphic: SEAP, based on 317 anonymized surveys of North Carolinians who participate in food assistance programs

“Lost my place because I didn’t have any money coming in. Couldn’t work because the schools were closed and I didn’t have childcare.” — Ginni in Carteret County

This is just one response to a survey of North Carolinians who receive food assistance, conducted by the Southern Economic Advancement Project.

The COVID-19 crisis has left thousands of North Carolina families struggling to make ends meet. As part of an effort aimed at understanding the challenges facing people across the South, a SEAP uses 317 anonymized surveys of SNAP food assistance participants to document  COVID-related hardship in North Carolina. The results have been released in the group’s full report.

The North Carolinians surveyed from Aug. 28 to Sept. 7 reported food insecurity and job loss as the top challenges in the pandemic, and noted that help with food, housing and utilities are needed now.  

Fifty-six percent of those surveyed said they were having trouble affording enough food to feed their families, while 38% were struggling with job loss.  

Many of those surveyed noted the difficulty managing rising food, housing, and utility costs while facing job loss or reduced hours and wages.  Those surveyed also remarked that government support did help, although many of those supports have expired.  

Survey respondents shared their experiences in this public health and economic crisis: 

“No food on shelves. Had to go to other towns for food. All pricing went up. You get half of what you normally buy because of high prices … ” — Sara in Mooresboro

“I had savings. I’ve had a stable job. This pandemic hit us hard in areas we thought we were prepared for. Fishing for assistance has been challenging, and we shouldn’t have to in times like these.” — Valerie in Kenansville

As well as a call to action for elected officials: 

“It’s time to put your agendas to the side and help the people. Without the people you wouldn’t have your job.” 

The findings of this report are a reminder that it is time for Congress to put people before politics and prioritize a COVID relief package ahead of anything else, including wrangling over the US Supreme Court vacancy.  

Too many of our North Carolina children and families are suffering needlessly due to the inaction of our lawmakers.  With the House moving forward this week on a new package to respond to this public health and economic crisis, it is time for the Senate to prioritize action this week 

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