Just taking a ride through Robeson County’s 15 cities: Red Springs, Pembroke, Fairmont, St. Pauls, Maxton, Rowland, Parkton, Orrum, Lumber Bridge, Rennert, Proctorville, Marietta, Rayham, McDonald and Lumberton shows how poverty has engulfed Robeson County. Robeson County is one of the poorest counties in the United States. In an American Community Survey from 2012, 34.50 percent of Robeson County was discovered to be below poverty. There are places in the county that provide help for those who are hungry or in need of shelter. In 2013, the News & Observer published an article about poverty in North Carolina. It was discovered that over a half-million households, in 2012, participated in the food stamp program. In Robeson County, that included 33 percent of families, the third-highest figure in the nation in counties over 65.
The county has the third-highest poverty level in the country for a county its size. Among the issues in the poverty stricken county, lies the issues of hunger and food insecurity. In 2013, 23 percent of Robeson County’s population was food insecure. That is 30,500 people. In the midst of those who are hungry and food insecure, there are children. USDA Economic Research Services showed that 50 million individuals in the United States are food insecure. Seven million of these individuals are children. 4-H Youth Development Extension Agent, Shea DeJarnette said that statewide, the estimate of youth that have food insecurities is one in four. A recent USDA study showed that North Carolina’s hunger numbers are increasing. However, even with the increase over the last few years the USDA is reporting food insecurities statewide at just over 15% which equates more to one in six.
“Kids often do not say “I’m hungry, I don’t get enough to eat.” However when you sit down they eat everything in sight and want more, often you question if it is a growing child or a hungry child”, DeJarnette said. She works at the Robeson County Cooperative Extension (RCCE). RCCE Is affiliated with North Carolina State University and A&T. “I can tell you that Robeson County 4-H works with communities in schools to offer food for their backpack pals program,” DeJarnette said. The backpack pals program gives students in specific elementary schools backpacks of food on Friday so they will have three meals a day over the weekend.
The Church and Community Center in Red Springs helps those who are in need of food. They provide quarterly food boxes and Second Harvest daily.