“I want them to know we are trying.”
“I try to give them $20 every month. It’s not what I owe them, but I want them to know we are trying.”
Anita Chapman’s small voice is very direct and earnest. She explains that she and her husband both owe large medical bills from injuries in recent years, and they are slowly whittling away at what is due.
“We cover our main bills first: car insurance, lights, water, those things. Next we bring something to the doctor’s office. Usually we end up with about $50 after all that.”
Anita is good at math. It is her job to stretch a tight budget over the expenses of a family of four. After years working poultry industry, her husband had to leave that work due to the stress on his body. He now works as a “de-nailer” at a wood restoration company making $8 an hour. Until recently, Anita worked in furniture manufacturing, driving 40-some mile each way to Lenoir, North Carolina. “I would love to have that job back,” she says but tendinitis in both elbows and osteoporosis in both legs is making that work no longer possible.
Now her days are spent doing the necessary calculations so the family can stay in front of the bills.
The story of Wilkesboro and Wilkes County is an all-too-familiar American story. Once a bustling hub of manufacturing, the good paying furniture manufacturing jobs have predominantly moved overseas. The good news is that unlike many areas in the Second Harvest Food Bank 18 county service area, some new jobs have come to Wilkesboro–but they tend to be low-paying service sector jobs that do not offer the security that manufacturing work provided. There is no better evidence of this trend than driving through Wilkesboro on Highway 421: where a large furniture manufacturing plant used to be, the highway is now lined with fast food restaurants and gas stations, some still being built.
Anita, her husband Roy, and her two sons limit their food purchases to what they can afford on SNAP (more commonly known as “food stamps”). The $320 dollars a month that the family receives is designed to supplement their food budget, not make up it’s entirety.
“With our food stamps, we get cheese, bread, milk, sugar, cereal, flour… those things. The basics. It doesn’t sound like a lot of things, but we are buying for four people.” Like many people in Wilkes County who have lost jobs, Anita comes to Samaritan’s Kitchen of Wilkes once a month to collect a box of food, including dairy, vegetables and meat. “Without them, we wouldn’t have much else,” she says appreciatively.
We ask Anita what she would purchase at the grocery store if money were not so limited. Perhaps something that her doctor has recommended for her health? Perhaps something her sons really enjoy? Perhaps a favorite meal she likes to cook for her family?
“Oh, I don’t know,” she says. “I really try not to think about that.”
Want to take action?
Speak out! While food donations are essential to Second Harvest Food Bank’s mission, they can be unpredictable. To help ensure regular supplies of staple food items are available to our partner agencies, the NC Association of Feeding America Food Banks works to inform NC General Assembly members about the problem of hunger – who is affected, the impact of hunger on the health of individuals and communities and what is needed to address the problem. Please express your appreciation to our leaders for their support of North Carolina Feeding America Food Banks, SNAP benefits, and other programs and organizations that support food security in North Carolina.