The term “food desert” frequently comes up in conversations about access to fresh, healthy food. But what exactly is a food desert? Food deserts are defined as
“parts of the country vapid of fresh fruit, vegetables, and other healthful whole foods, usually found in impoverished areas. This is largely due to a lack of grocery stores, farmers' markets, and healthy food providers.” Likewise, the term “food insecure”
was formed to better describe neighborhoods living without means to get to proper food sources.
In 2015, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Food Policy Council conducted a study called the State of the Plate
where they explored, in depth, the issues people face when living in food insecure areas.
Participants who faced difficulties getting the fruits and vegetables they want, identified the challenges as primarily the cost of produce and the time to prepare. Additionally, for households that are food insecure, residents faced these challenges as well as issues with transportation, a lack of availability where they shop, and the need to carry what they buy as well, but the largest barrier to access was cost, rather than distance to stores.
Almost 80% of Mecklenburg County residents
use a full-service, chain grocery store as their primary place to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables and of this large percentage, nearly all utilize to their store of choice by personal vehicle. However, for many people living in food insecure areas, transportation is a barrier to food access.
With such a large population of people in Charlotte living in food deserts and facing food insecurity, we will be using our platform this month to recognize our local nonprofit partners who offer resources to our neighbors living in food insecure areas and turn our #SpotlightOnCLT not only on the hard work they are doing to keep our neighbors fed, but also highlighting how you can help this cause.
Loaves & Fishes fights hunger in the community by providing a week's worth of nutritionally balanced groceries for families and individuals who are experiencing a short-term crisis. Through a network of over 30 emergency food pantries located throughout Mecklenburg County, Loaves & Fishes feeds an average of 75,000 people each year; 46% of which are children.
The mission of Second Harvest Food Bank of Metrolina (SHFBM) is twofold; first, to feed hungry people by soliciting and distributing food and other household products through partner agencies; and second, to educate people in the community about the nature of and solutions to the problems of hunger. In 2016-2017 Second Harvest provided over 54 million pounds of food and grocery items through a network of over 700 non-profit partner agencies including emergency pantries, soup kitchens and homeless shelters. They aim to change the world by providing healthy, nutritious food for people who would otherwise go hungry.
Camino Community Center is focused on equipping all people to live healthy, hopeful, and productive lives. Since 2003, Camino has served low-income families in the greater Charlotte area through a free health clinic, mental health clinic, thrift store, homeless outreach program, food pantry, and variety of other health and human services. The community center is bilingual and multicultural, bridging gaps between language and cultural barriers for families in need.
Catholic Charities Diocese of Charlotte has been serving the community since 1949. They are dedicated to providing help to those in need, hope to those in despair and inspiration for others to follow. Their focus is on the displaced and less fortunate. Catholic Charities Diocese of Charlotte has served over 19,000 clients in Western NC through direct assistance, food pantry, counseling, refugee resettlement, employment services and elder ministry.
Angels and Sparrow’s mission is to fight hunger in Huntersville, Davidson, Cornelius, and unincorporated north Mecklenburg county areas.They start with a nourishing meal, served with dignity, and foster community and a path to hope for those facing hunger in their daily lives through our programs, celebrations and experiences – transforming daily interactions into personal connections and a sense of belonging.
The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Food Policy Council exists to advocate for policies that build a sustainable, equitable and healthy local food system. The Council’s goals are to enhance the health of Charlotte citizens, strengthen local economies and market opportunities, and reduce hunger and food insecurity. Their mission is to strengthen the community by serving as a forum for discussing food issues; building relationships in the food system; educating, advocating for, and communicating policy issues; and acting as a primary information source for food related issues.
Blessings in a Backpack provides backpacks full of food each weekend for the entire school year for elementary age children across the country who would otherwise not be properly nourished. The program is currently in 391 schools nationwide and the first Charlotte area Blessings in a Backpack school is Huntingtowne Farms Elementary school.
Urban Ministry Center is an interfaith organization dedicated to bringing the community together to end homelessness, one life at a time. They provide basic services for those experiencing homelessness including a soup kitchen, laundry, showers, mail, telephone, and counseling to take specific steps necessary to end homelessness. They also have an array of enrichment programs including art, gardening, soccer, and a choir to build relationships with neighbors and end homelessness.
Perfect Provisions, Inc. is a mobile soup kitchen serving the people of Charlotte. They provide a hot delicious meal all year near the men's shelter, the women's shelter as well as an apartment community. Not only is food provided, but clothing and other essential items are provided as well. Additionally, Perfect Provisions provides a school-bag meal once a week for students to take home for dinner.
R.I.C’s Market Foundation believes that access to healthy food shouldn't be a luxury. They aim to find solutions to ensure that everyone has access to fresh healthy affordable food by funding food subsidies for healthy food, scholarships and community outreach such as after-school cooking classes. R.I.C.’s seeks to be the community connector for low income areas to businesses, healthcare, higher education, government programs and other nonprofit organizations.
Friendship Tray’s mission statement is to deliver daily, in a caring and friendly manner, balanced meals to individuals in the community who were unable to obtain or prepare their own meals because of age or infirmity. Beyond their meal deliveries, Friendship Trays is committed to ensuring food access for all through their program, Friendship Gardens
, and their partner The Bulb
The Charlotte Hornets Foundation is committed to inspiring a philanthropic culture and strengthening the Charlotte region through intentional partnerships, charitable giving and social projects in the areas of Education, Wellness, Hunger and Military Care. Through food drives, mobile food pantries and special events, The Charlotte Hornets Foundation is dedicated to serving those who are hungry in our community and eradicating hunger in Charlotte.
Assistance League Charlotte feeds, clothes, mentors, and educates through their following philanthropic programs: Operation School Bell, Operation Check Hunger, Mecklenburg County Teen Court, Scholarships and Outreach. Their programs are designed to address the issue of upward mobility by providing children an opportunity to succeed. They believe that if a child is prepared to learn with proper food, clothing, and legal counseling he/she will stay in school, get a job and become self-sufficient.
The Student Hunger Drive is a unique non-profit organization founded in Davenport, Iowa in 1986 to engage high school students in service learning projects that benefit the community. Locally, the Charlotte-based Carolinas Student Hunger Drive was founded in 2010 and has already collected 1,084,182 pounds of food for the Second Harvest Food Bank of Metrolina and its regional food pantry partners, providing 722,788 additional meals for hungry children and families in our community. They aim to inspire high school students to servant leadership and philanthropy, raise the awareness of hunger crisis and food scarcity, and reduce the number of hungry children and families in our communities
The Charlotte CROP Hunger Walk is a poverty fighting organization that honors the call to improve the quality of life of people suffering from poverty and hunger. They educate, inspire and empower the Charlotte community to become agents of change through our fundraising Walk with local and international impact. Charlotte hosts the largest CROP Hunger Walk in the World in terms of walkers and funds raised, which directly benefits local area nonprofits like Crisis Assistance Ministry, Loaves & Fishes, and Second Harvest Food Bank of Metrolina.
The Bulb’s mission is to provide mostly local produce as well as education on health and wellness to food insecure neighborhoods and vulnerable populations. The Bulb has partnered with small and large farms, backyard gardeners, chefs, credit unions, artists, and other nonprofits to create a mobile resource market . This model allows for zero to low-income households to live in a more sustainable way by gaining health and wellness from their own doorstep. What’s unique about The Bulb’s market is that neighbors choose how much they can afford per item. If proof of zero income or 50% of the area median income is provided, items and services are for free.
Renaissance West Community Initiative (RWCI) is increasing food security for over 1300 residents on West Boulevard through a holistic community redevelopment approach. By working with The Bulb and providing a mobile food market, RWCI is ensuring that residents have access to fresh produce when they currently lack resources, like a grocery store. Through their work with The Bulb, RWCI helps to provide mostly local produce as well as education on health and wellness to food insecure areas on the West side.