Quick Facts

  • Almost 604,000 North Carolina households don't have enough to eat.

  • North Carolina is the 10th hungriest state in the nation.

  • Almost 1 in 5 children in North Carolina faces hunger on a regular basis (24.6%). 

  • Over 15% of our seven county service area faces food insecurity. That's over a quarter of a million people.


North Carolina is the 10th Hungriest State in the U.S. 

NC Hunger

Low Food Security: Homes that often must make tough choices about the amount and quality of food they are able to provide their families.

Very Low Food Security: Homes that often miss meals.

According to the USDA, in the past year more than 90% of these families worried that food would run out; nearly 80% could not afford a balanced meal; and individuals in 96% of homes with very low food security skipped meals in order to make food last longer.

Who is Hungry in North Carolina?

Food insecurity refers to the USDA's measure of lack of access, at times, to enough food for an active, healthy life for all household members and limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate foods. Across North Carolina, children, families and seniors face food insecurity each day. 


Children are our most vulnerable citizens and in North Carolina, almost 1 in 5 children are at risk of hunger. 

  • In our 7 county area alone, over 121,000 children applied to receive free and reduced-price lunch. That's almost 53% of school-aged children in these public school systems.

  • Almost 18% of all children in our seven-county service area face the threat of hunger.

Good nutrition is critical in the first years of life, and childhood food insecurity can lead to developmental, health and behavioral problems, as well as make it more difficult to concentrate and do well in school.

Sources: Feeding America Child Hunger Fact Sheet and, NoKidHungry NC, NoKidHungry


 Lateisha Sallah and her daughter Jasmine, 11, in their home in Raleigh, N.C., on Thursday, June 16, 2016. During a health crisis that led to job loss and homelessness, Lateisha's daughter was able to receive the IFFS BackPack Buddies program. IFFS, together with other nonprofits, came together to support her while she got back on her feet.(Photo by Sara D. Davis)

Imagine a single mother who works full time for $8/hour, a little more than minimum wage. She makes about $1,386 per month - for food, rent, clothes, child care, and medical care. But at just ABOVE the federal poverty level, she makes too much to qualify for food assistance. Could you make the budget work?

Ultimately, the root cause of hunger lies in poverty. Overall poverty in the greater Triangle:

  • Wake: 11.1%

  • Durham: 17.1%

  • Orange: 14.3%

  • Chatham: 11.6%

  • Johnston: 13%

  • Nash: 18.1%

  • Edgecombe: 27.8%

The federal poverty level is $11,770 for a household of one, or $24,250 for a household of four. 

Sources: US Census Data 2015



 InterFaith Food Shuttle's volunteer and recipient Florence Calabrese. (Photo by Sara D. Davis for InterFaith Food Shuttle)

North Carolina is one of the 10 worst states for senior hunger with 18% of our seniors struggling with hunger.  

  • Almost 32% of seniors in North Carolina live in or near poverty.

  • Nationally, 1 in 6 older adults face the threat of hunger

  • 33% of older adults admitted to the hospital may be malnourished

  • Malnutrition can increase healthcare costs by 300%

Hungry older adults face a myriad of challenges such as financial constraints, poor health, mobility limitations, lack of adequate transportation, cognitive limitations and cultural preferences. The nation's senior population is expected to double by 2050, so the time to take action on senior hunger is now.

Source: Hunger in Older Adults, Meals on Wheels and AARP, Senior Hunger Map

Solutions to End Hunger & Poverty


Many of the programs and policies in operation in North Carolina are established under federal law. From SNAP to child nutrition programs, the new Federal Administration and Congressional leadership have suggested severely reducing the availability of these programs through block granting, eligibility restrictions and underinvestment.

It is critical that our policymakers ensure the effectiveness of North Carolina's hunger relief programs.

  • SNAP is one of the most direct ways to fight food insecurity.

  • North Carolina should develop a plan to provide a job, volunteer position, or skills training opportunity to all individuals, subject to time limit.

  • The State should recognize the critical role food banks and healthy retail options in food deserts play in providing food.

  • For children, school-based initiatives such as the Community Eligibility Program and Breakfast in the Classroom are effective policies to address hunger.

  • SNAP reaches as many or more rural and small town residents as metro residents; is especially important to families with children; and most families receiving SNAP are working or are recently unemployed. See SNAP Map By County.


Children are better equipped to learn when they have the nutrition they need. Yet too many low-income children who are eligible for free and reduced-price meals are not accessing them. More must be done to increase participation in school meals, summers meals, after-school meals, and child care meals.

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Research shows that food insecurity is linked with costly chronic diseases and unfavorable outcomes. According to the Root Cause Coalition, the annual costs of hunger to the U.S. health care system are $130.5 billion. Greater investments in nutrition programs would go a long way in addressing obesity and other negative health outcomes faced by low-income Americans.

  • A recent study shows adults who had access to food supports as children were 16% less likely to be obese

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SNAP serves as the first line of defense against hunger for millions of Americans. USDA research shows that each $5 of SNAP benefits generates nearly twice that in economic activity.

  • On average SNAP benefits lifted 175,000 North Carolinians, including 81,000 children, out of poverty from 2011 to 2014.

  • SNAP benefits pumped upward of $2 billion into the state's economy. Much of this economic activity benefits local grocery stores and food retailers.

  • More than 9,600 individual stores in NC accept SNAP.

Federal nutrition programs can’t do it alone. There must be a comprehensive approach. 

Hunger Policy Watch