North Carolina ranks 4th among states for its high level of food insecurity, nearly 1 in 6 North Carolinians has difficulty putting food on the table. For these families, the Supplemental Assistance for Needy Families (SNAP) program and the Women, Infant and Children (WIC) program provide an important support to help address hunger.
During the federal government shutdown, WIC was one of the programs that Governor McCrory’s Administration chose to stop for a brief period before contingency funds were applied. In July 2013, 261,000 North Carolinians received WIC. This program provides pregnant women, mothers, infants and children with vouchers to purchase food and formula as well as delivers counseling on healthy eating and health care referrals. Its positive results in improving birth outcomes and maternal health are well-documented.
Its economic impact is less discussed but important to local economies. WIC vouchers are spent locally at stores and farmers markets that are authorized to accept them.
As is clear from the map above, it is actually the more rural and persistently poor areas of the state where the ratio of WIC authorized stores to total county population is highest while urban areas have some of the lowest ratios. A lack of income is clearly just one barrier to accessing food, in some communities the geographic distance to food stores can represent another.