According to Feeding America, an organization geared toward combating hunger in the United States, one in six Americans face hunger everyday. In 2011, 50.1 million Americans lived in food insecure households, 33.5 million adults and 16.7 million children. With 2011's national food insecurity average being 14.7 percent, seven states exhibited statistically higher household averages including North Carolina which stood at an overwhelming 17.1 percent. That means 17.1 percent of people across North Carolina have food insecurities and uncertainty about where their next meal will come from.
Organizations like Feeding America exist all over the country to fight hunger within our borders. While many of those are national efforts, a number of organizations here in Macon County are joining in the fight. According to the 2012 U.S. Census, of Macon County's 33,869 population, about 15.9 percent experience food insecurity. The child food insecurity rate is 30.6 percent, while persons living below the poverty line is 18.3 percent.
From community meals to food pantries, churches, organizations, businesses and community members are working to eradicate hunger in Macon County. One of the most well-known organizations in Macon County is CareNet.
The mission of CareNet is to provide food and assistance to individuals in need for whom government or other forms of assistance are not available. The goal was to form a collaborative effort between local agencies and churches in a central location to better serve the needs of the community without duplication of services. In addition to food, when resources are available, CareNet provides limited financial assistance for utilities, fuel, prescriptions and rent on an emergency basis.
In 2012, CareNet distributed 306,476 pounds of food to 8,859 different families in need in the community. With the wavering economy and financial uncertainty an ongoing factor, the need for added food assistance continues to grow in Macon County. The community has started to ban together to join CareNet in their efforts of feeding the community.
A weekly free meal known as “His Table” is offered every Monday as a ministry of LifeSpring Community Church. According to Toby Pickartz, who oversees the project, it first started in March 2011, simply named "Soup Kitchen."
“I took lead of it with the assistance of Bobby Johns in March 2013,” said Pickartz. “Our mission is simple – spiritually, emotionally, and physically feeding the community. Whether it is a homeless individual, or a family just wanting that extra meal, that's where we want to help.”
Pickartz is the community contact for businesses and churches in the community who want to know more and to join in to help. “I'm also the contact for people who might just want food from our pantry. I'm just God's servant. This is my calling.” said Pickartz.
His Table is manned by a number of volunteers each week. As a once a week, every Monday service, His Table has used anywhere from 10 to 14 helpers to pack food boxes or to serve meals. Since its inception, LifeSpring has been joined by other churches in the community working to make His Table effective against hunger in the community. Patton United Methodist and Resurrection Lutheran are two of the churches working at His Table. “We are always looking for more to join in on the cause,” said Pickartz.
In addition to the churches and volunteers on Monday nights, area restaurants and businesses have stepped up to make sure His Table has the essentials it needs to feed community members. “BiLo, Taco Bell, Subway, Gondolas, Fatz Cafe, and Highlands Smokehouse have all helped us to continue serving the community,” said Pickartz. “We've even been as blessed as to have food donated to us by CareNet, and shrimp donated to us by Habitat for Humanity.”
“We donate food a couple times a month in an effort to give back to the community,” said Josh Drake, owner of Highlands Smokehouse. “Sometimes people just get down on their luck, and it is the least we can do and we are glad to do what we can to help.”
On average, His Table serves about 25 people each Monday, but have served anywhere from 15 to 39 people. “We are still small in numbers but we always welcome more,” said Pickartz. “We all need support every now and then, whether it be emotional, spiritual, or physical. That extra meal once a week may help someone pay their electric bill, or get gas. The support we can all provide - as a community - that's why I truly believe it is important. Recent cuts in unemployment benefits have left more people on the edge, so the need is growing.”
His Table acts as more than just an organization providing a hot meal. Those who have come to His Table for a meal are treated to music and an atmosphere that allows them to escape and relax from the everyday world. Volunteers at His Table have also worked to meet other needs by people seeking assistance such as furniture needed for their homes or everyday household items.
To learn more about His Table, check out their Facebook or call Toby Pickartz at (828)342-1465.
Other organizations are also working to combat hunger in Macon County. From community meals, to food pantries, to donating food to CareNet, many churches and organizations are doing their part to reach out to the community.
Highlands United Methodist Church offers a food pantry to the community every Monday from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. When other items such as household essentials are available, they also provide those to the community. For more information, call (828)526-3376.
St. Francis Catholic Church offers a food pantry every other Wednesday, the next to be held on Sept. 18. The pantry is open from 9:30 to 11:45 a.m. and 2:30 to 4:15 p.m. For more information, call (828)524-2289.
Hickory Knoll Methodist Church offers a food pantry every Wednesday from 4 to 7 p.m. Food and household items are distributed when supplies are available. For information, call (828)421-0613.
Prentiss Church of God offers a food pantry on the last Thursday of every month from 5 to 7 p.m. For more information, call (828)369-3885.
Holly Springs Baptist Church offers several services through their Second Mile Ministries. Their food pantry is open from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Monday. They also offer a clothes closet and will provide monetary support for shelter and utilities. For more information, call (828)524-5913.
His Table is a combination of churches working to provide meals every Monday starting at 6 p.m. For more information, call (828)342-1465.
First Christian Church of Franklin works with other churches in the community to provide a free community lunch on Saturday's throughout the month. First Christian Church offers a free lunch on the first Saturday of the month from 12 to 2 p.m. For information, call (828)524-6840.
First Baptist Church of Franklin works with other churches in the community to provide a free community lunch on Saturday's throughout the month. First Baptist offers a free lunch from 12 to 1 p.m. on the second Saturday of each month. During the Christmas season, First Baptist also works to provide food boxes for families in the community. For more information, call (828)369-9559.
Franklin Covenant works with other churches in the community to provide a free community lunch on Saturday's throughout the month. Franklin Covenant offers a free lunch from 12 to 2 p.m. on the last Saturday of each month. For information, call (828)524-8854.
Macon Program for Progress offers a Summer Food Service Program to ensure that low-income children have meals when school is not in session. Over this past summer, the program provided 14,828 meals to local children. For information, call (828)524-4471.
Food to CareNet
First United Methodist Church of Franklin has a community garden tended by Boy Scout Troop 298 and church members. The harvest in donated to CareNet. For information, call (828)524-3010.
Louisa Chapel Methodist collects food throughout the year to donate to CareNet. For information, call (828)524-1948.