The Transylvania Times -

By Bill Harrah
Staff Writer 

It's Time To Pack The Pantry This Saturday – Brevard NC


The national median wage is $27,519. Half of all Americans earn less, half earn more, says the Social Security Administration, which figures one out of every six Americans lives in poverty.

In 2012 Sharing House served 3,705 persons who represented 1,606 households. Transylvania’s total population was about 32,850.

Carolyn Barton, director of child nutrition for Transylvania County Schools, said in a recent “hunger awareness presentation” that 2,100 of 3,500 county students qualify for aid, and many of them rely on meal programs at school for their daily food.

At the same meeting the county’s director of social services, Stony Blevins, said the number of food stamp recipients here increased from 1,662 in 2008 to 2,802 this year.

“The average food stamp benefit in North Carolina is $121,” he said, “but $10 to $25 is not unusual.”

The need for help has grown dramatically since 2000, when Transylvania’s job market melted. Ecusta, Coats and Agfa all closed about then. The few good jobs that were left here pretty much disappeared in the financial collapse of 2008.

Workers who were squeezed out of the middle now have jobs that bottom tier workers used to have. These part-time minimum-wage jobs once were perfect for high school kids to earn spending money, but supporting a family on this pay isn’t going to happen.

At Sharing House we identify about 61 percent of our clients as “working poor” — people with jobs that don’t pay enough. Another 13 percent are elderly and/or disabled, and 8 percent are single parent households where a single mom usually juggles a minimum-wage job with day care expenses. Another 32 percent are children.

It’s not unusual to find a single elderly client who is disabled and raising one or more grandchildren — aberrations that explain numbers that don’t add up to 100 percent.

Our clients live on razor thin budgets that can’t abide upsets. Typical weekly take-home pay for our working clients amounts to around $260. This must cover rent, utilities, car payments and other fixed expenses, so groceries usually take the hit when Junior needs gym shoes for school or the car battery dies.

And that’s a problem because the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps) keeps taking hits. It was reduced $5 billion earlier this month when the 2009 Stimulus Act expired. This means a $36 cut in benefits for a typical family of four. Considering North Carolina’s average food stamp benefit of $121, $36 is a big hit.

Meanwhile, Congress is debating whether to cut $4 billion more every year for the foreseeable future. Ouch!

Luckily, Transylvanians are incredibly generous. At last count there were no fewer than 13 food pantries serving people in our county. Several, like Sharing House, also offer clothing and other assistance.

Pantry manager Marion Latham says that our pantry volunteers handled more than twice as much food in 2012 than in 2010. Food deliveries in 2013 are running 16 percent ahead of last year’s pace.

Clothing requests have plateaued for now, about even with last year’s pace. Last year was 60 percent greater than 2011, which was 40 percent greater than 2010.

Politicians complain about Americans who can’t feed themselves (in an economy that won’t provide jobs). Their solution is to reduce aid.

This means we, the people, you and I, must shoulder the burden. Will we, can we, stand by while so many of our neighbors are hungry?

This Saturday is the Pisgah Forest Rotary/WSQL fall food drive at local grocery stores and at the Courthouse Gazebo. Let’s all help to Pack The (Sharing House) Pantry and then keep it full throughout the year. Canned and nonperishable foods are needed; also household cleaning supplies and personal hygiene items; cash, too.

Let’s do it.

(Bill Harrah volunteers as Public Relations Coordinator for Sharing House.)


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