cooperative extension program helps food insecurity | Local

Hunger affects all communities in North Carolina. In Pitt County, 16 percent of the total population is food insecure, according to county health rankings.

Food insecurity can be defined in two ways: low food security indicates reports of reduction in the quality, variety or desirability of a diet with little or no indication of a reduction in food quality. food intake; Very low food security is defined as reports of multiple indications of disrupted eating patterns and reduced food intake (USDA). Children and the elderly are most at risk of going hungry.

When people do not have access to adequate and healthy food, their health and well-being suffers. Children are unable to concentrate on learning, mental clarity is reduced, and people of all ages are more likely to be ill. Food insecurity can be exacerbated by other social factors, including education level, low financial security, and poor access to housing and health care.

There are several programs that help people access food. The largest federal program is the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program or SNAP (formerly Food Stamps). In North Carolina, the program is called Food and Nutrition Services (FNS) and operates through the Department of Health and Human Services. SNAP benefits are accepted at grocery stores, convenience stores, some farmers’ markets, discount stores, and some membership warehouses.

Large local retailers have started to accept electronic benefit transfer (EBT card) online. Some of the larger retailers include Aldi, Amazon, BJ’s, Carlie C’s, Food Lion, Publix, and Walmart.

Many households depend on the SNAP monthly food supplement to increase their grocery budget and buy healthier foods. Pitt County Cooperative Extension offers a program called More In My Basket (MIMB), which provides training on the SNAP / FNS program. Through More in My Cart, participants learn if they are likely to be SNAP / FNS eligible, how SNAP / FNS can increase their food budget and receive one-on-one assistance to complete an application. MIMB strives to reach those who may benefit from SNAP by increasing the dissemination of SNAP information through social media, websites, newsletters, newspapers, radio and other online platforms.

More In My Basket was developed at North Carolina State University by Carolyn Bird, professor and specialist in family resource management.

“People with limited resources have to make tough decisions about how to spend their money,” Bird said. “With the pandemic, once food secure families are struggling to meet their nutritional needs. They can forgo medical treatment to put food on the table. They can skip meals to pay utility bills. Through More In My Basket, we are helping to connect more people to SNAP / FNS, allowing them to better manage their financial resources. The SNSF is not only good for families, but also helps the community. Research shows that for every $ 5 of FNS spent, there is an impact of $ 9 in the community.

MIMB staff reach out to the community to verify SNAP eligibility, help complete the SNAP application, and bridge the gap between the community and the local Department of Social Services. Assistance is provided through private and one-to-one telephone conversations.

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