One North Carolina Housing Authority in Robeson County has plans to launch a mobile “pay-what-you-can” food bus loaded with fresh fruits, vegetables and other foods that will serve families lacking transportation. The pilot program is one of a handful across the country to receive a $100,000 dollar grant from Save the Children’s Rural Child Hunger Research and Innovation Lab to tackle rural hunger.
Colton Allen Oxendine, resident services director with the City of Lumberton’s Housing Authority, said many residents have to walk miles to the nearest grocery store because they have no transportation.
“So this bus is going to reach well over 3,000 to 5,000 people,” he said. “The goal is to make this a success.”
He said residents will be able to use debit, credit, food stamps and whatever cash they have on hand at the mobile bus, and added he expects the program to be up and running by August. According to data from UNC-Chapel Hill, more then 30% of kids living in Robeson County live in food-insecure homes.
Allen Oxendine said many housing authority residents persist largely on processed, unhealthy foods.
“A lot of them resort to the smaller stores like gas stations, Family Dollar, Dollar General. We all know they do not carry fresh fruit and vegetables,” he said.
Esther Liew, Lead Associate for Food Security Projects with Save the Children, said solutions to stop child hunger must come from within rural communities.
“What we’re hoping is that they will be able to develop ways of working that maybe look a little bit different from how these similar types of programs would work in urban settings, so that we can help them to develop solutions that are specifically for rural contexts,” Liew said.
A recent survey by Save the Children and the Child Action Network found 77% of rural parents report being worried they might not be able to afford enough food to feed their family.
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