In Chapel Hill, 19,000 people live in food deserts, the majority in areas around Franklin Street.
A food desert, as defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is a part of the country where fresh produce is challenging to come by, and 33 percent of an urban area’s population live 1 mile or farther from a grocery store.
Food deserts are a component of the nationwide crisis of food insecurity, in which 11.8 percent of American households were considered food insecure in 2017 because they either could not afford healthy, nutritious food or lacked access to it.
The number of households in North Carolina facing food insecurity is above the national average, and the task of fighting hunger in Chapel Hill and Orange County seems to fall largely upon community leaders, said Chris Workman, pastor at The Point Church’s Chapel Hill location.
“The people who are addressing (hunger) are nonprofits and churches,” Workman said.
The Point Church, a union of churches across the Triangle, also works with refugees and other residents affected by food deserts and the pertaining insecurity. The church runs five total food pantries in the Triangle, called Care Pantries, the newest of which opened in October in Chapel Hill.
Workman said the Chapel Hill Care Pantry served 22 families at its opening in October.
Currently, the pantry operates once per month, but Workman said they hope to operate weekly within a few months. Three of the five pantries already serve hot meals and hand out bags of groceries once a week.
TABLE NC, a non-profit in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro area, works to fight hunger among children. Ashton Tippins, the executive director for TABLE NC, said the organization gauges the amount of children they help by using the number of children in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools system that receive free or reduced lunches, which is 2,653 children.