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Percent of Households that Experience Food Insecurity - Buncombe (with comparison)


Data Description & Source

Data description: Percent of households that experience food insecurity, meaning that residents of those households had difficulty providing enough food at some time during the year for all their household members due to a lack of resources.

Source: Feeding America (USDA ERS data). This data was provided by MANNA in May 2016. Data released in 2016 is 2014 data.

Note: Side-by-side comparison of Meal Gap and Food Insecurity with NC comparisons can be viewed here Food Insecurity & Map the Meal Gap with state and county comparisons and data discussion. The Meal Gap data highlights the economic components of Food Insecurity.

To view comparisons, click indicator title and the toggle comparisons.

Story Behind the Curve

Food security consists of access to healthy food as well as having the necessary resources to acquire healthy food. Healthy food includes specific food items such as fruits and vegetables and meat, “whole foods” that are not processed, growing and production practices, and how food is prepared. Food insecurity, in contrast, consists of a lack of access to healthy food and increased need for food assistance services.

In Buncombe County 14.3% of households experience food insecurity compared to 15.4% nationally and 17.7% in North Carolina. While we are ahead of these trends, we want to see this number at zero, and the prevalence of food insecurity in Buncombe County has remained stagnant over the past 5 years.

According a report from the the Appalachian Foodshed Project, healthy food availability is not a problem, but rather access to available healthy food is. Area collaborations aimed at alleviating food insecurity have been an asset to Buncombe county. Projects and organization are working to alleviate the effects of food insecurity. These are primarily in the form of emergency food assistance and community gardens.

Systemic poverty and inequity produces significant barriers to accessing healthy food. Current subsidized food programs are not sufficient to meet need and increasingly community members rely upon the emergency food system on a regular basis. Capacity and resource limitations impact what interventions local organizations are able to participate in. Barriers due to class and race issues impact access to healthy food. Difficulty in accessing food is primarily impacted by affordability and transportation but also impacted by knowledge gaps about how to shop for and prepare healthy food.

Many organizations are working on various aspects of this issue and several community plans exist to outline strategies, including:

What Works

Food Security strategies to address systemic and environmental change include changing access and availability to favor healthy foods and beverages and include pricing strategies and urban planning-zoning approaches.

These strategies are already being implemented in our community:

Market Bucks or Double Bucks: These programs expand the purchasing power of SNAP $ and provide additional incentives to shop at Farmers Markets and some farm stands and produce markets because often low income folks are more comfortable shopping at these types of markets rather than farmers markets. Learn more at ASAP.

SNAP $ at Farmers' Markets: This evidence-based practice works by implementing mechanisms for SNAP recipients to use their benefits at Farmers' Markets. Specifically in Buncombe County, Buncombe County Health and Human Services worked with farmers’ markets to expand payment options to Food Nutrition Services recipients. Implementing EBT in farmers’ markets started as an initiative of the US Department of Agriculture and has been a successful project in Buncombe County. Expanding the payment option is not only beneficial to EBT recipients; it’s also good for the local economy. Improving the income of local farm vendors ensures that they can continue to reinvest in growing fresh, organic produce and can help them expand their growing capacity. By providing the options for individuals to select local fresh fruits and vegetables, we can reduce health problems and health disparities.

Bountiful Cities Project: Bountiful Cities is an urban agriculture non-profit that partners with community groups to create urban agricultural spaces. They emphasize social justice, access to education, sustainability and economic viability while sharing agricultural skills and resources. Bountiful Cities works towards abundance and food sovereign communities.

Urban Planning & Zoning: The Asheville Buncombe Food Policy Council worked with the City of Asheville to craft and facilitate adoption of a Food Action Plan in 2013 that continues to guide planning and zoning approaches to support food access and sustainability. Policy has been passed to enable Farmers Markets in residential areas and incorporation of edibles native plants into Greenways Plans. Read more here.

YES! (Youth Empowered Solutions): Youth staff have been working locally to provide training and support to enable more convenience stores to transition to Healthy Corner Stores. To date their success includes a single store; however, they have been engaged in advocacy work at the state level around fresh food financing that was instrumental in a policy being passed to enable financing to assist in corner store transition. While the legislation passed in 2015, associated funding did not. (may be in this year's budget)

Financing Fresh Food: Fresh Food Financing Initiative is a state-level policy designed to increase access to affordable, quality, healthful foods in underserved areas by providing critical, one-time loans and grants for the development, expansion or renovation of fresh food retail establishments, such as supermarkets or grocery stores. Eligible communities are defined as low- or moderate-income census tracts, areas of below-average supermarket density, areas with a supermarket customer base where the majority live in a low-income census tract or in other areas demonstrated to have significant access limitations to supermarkets due to travel distance.

Healthy Corner Stores Education and Policy: This intervention is designed to increase the availability, accessibility, awareness and attractiveness of fresh fruits and vegetables and other healthy foods in corner stores by supporting changes in corner stores’ practices. The program addresses multiple levels of the socio-ecologic model with a primary focus on changing the organizational level. The Healthy Corner Store Initiative increases access to fresh fruits and vegetables in corner stores by linking small stores with produce distributors on a year-round basis. The policy established new minimum stock requirements for retail stores authorized for the WIC Program.

Buncombe County Pop-Up Markets and Community Service Navigators: These markets run bi-weekly in the community centers of local housing communities in Buncombe County. They rely on “just-in-time” food donations from MANNA FoodBank which often includes the healthy but perishable fruits, vegetables and bakery items that many local food pantries are not equipped to accept because they require immediate distribution. At each site, neighbors who qualify for the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as Food Stamps) come to “shop” for groceries in a colorful, farmers’ market style setting, choosing their food items while catching up with friends and neighbors. View video here.

These strategies have worked in other communities:

Oregon Farm to School/School Garden: Each farm to school and school garden program in Oregon is unique. Designed to increase access to and consumption of locally grown foods. They also seek to improve knowledge of and attitudes toward eating a variety of locally grown foods through a) local procurement, b) promotion of local foods and their producers, and c) food, nutrition, and garden-based educational experiences.

For more information visit the Center for Training and Research Translation or see Food Access Policy and Planning Guide

Action Plan

Action plan work to date prioritizes building on local successes related related to 5 categories of intervention approaches. Using current assets and that can be committed to this work, teams are identifying strategies that 1) establish a community-wide approach to collaborating with and referring to existing skills-based education programs to address healthy eating and food security; 2) Implement a Double Up Food Bucks program in local retail settings; 3) Create a systems change model to support food security. The additional strategies of addressing health disparity and communication strategies are seen as crosscutting strategies and will be incorporated into all of our work.


  • Continue to explore population indicators that may be more relevant to guiding our work. In particular, school Free and Reduced Lunch data, SNAP participant data, and indicators that better reflect food security rather than insecurity.
  • Education/Skills subgroup to expand membership and develop framework for agency/organization collaboration and referral for addressing food security.
  • Policy and Systems Change subgroup will explore feasibility of moving the following strategies forward: 1) Expansion of Food Insecurity Screening & Referral project, 2) Collaboration with YES! (Youth Empowered Solutions) around several possible opportunities including advocacy and activities to increase broader community awareness and engagement around food security; 3) Increasing community awareness and alignment around critical issues related to food security including funders, poverty simulations to educate community leaders and the public, and with community organizations that have untapped resources to support this work (such as church vans helping support transportation to needed services.
  • Environmental Change/Double Up Food Bucks subgroup will 1)secure funding for small retail store pilot. 2) will identify second retail market or a strategy to support development of a second market 3) will prepare presentation for CHIP leadership to assist in creating community awareness and engagement.

6-12 months:

  • Update the HLO map
  • Create standard language about the model so all can use to invite partners
  • Engage additional partners
  • Identify sites making referrals
  • Memorandum of Agreement for participation in collaboration
  • Develop data reporting and integration process
  • Identify distribution and program participants

For more information contact Terri March

For information on workgroup activities visit the Food Security Blogsite

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