Mayor Allen Joines and leaders of other government, non-profit and faith organizations announced today a major citywide campaign, called “Think Orange,” to combat hunger and food insecurity in Winston-Salem and Forsyth County.
"We are calling our campaign 'Think Orange' because orange is the color for Hunger Action Month during September and has become the symbolic color in the fight against hunger and food insecurity," Joines said. "By incorporating this eye-catching color into the name of the campaign we will further our goal of raising awareness of this issue throughout our community."
The campaign comprises nine major initiatives:
- Expand participation in summer feeding programs;
- Explore starting a hot meals after-school program for children;
- Add a mid-week farmers market and promote use of SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) cards at farmers markets;
- Expand participation in SNAP program;
- Provide fresh food to H.O.P.E. (Help Our People Eat) recipients;
- Create a food resources website;
- Engage Winston-Salem’s corporate leadership;
- Hold a childhood hunger “summit” to discuss a coordinated city- and county-wide effort to address the issue of childhood hunger in our community; and
- Raise community awareness of hunger and food insecurity.
Partnering with the city for the campaign are the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools, Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest North Carolina, the Winston-Salem Urban League, Ezekiel A.M.E. Zion Church, H.O.P.E. of Winston-Salem, and Cobblestone Farmers Market.
James Perry, the president & CEO of the Winston-Salem Urban League stated, "The biggest challenge we have is making sure folks in the Greatest Generation realize they have contributed to a system that ensures they can get some help." Referencing outreach to senior citizens experiencing food insecurity, Perry said, "We’re so excited about the SNAP fairs coming up."
Eric Aft, the CEO of the Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest North Carolina said, "We’ll look to engage partners who will look at ways to improve coordination of services, identify strategies to reach even more children and especially look at new approaches to significantly change the level of childhood hunger in Winston-Salem and Forsyth County. This isn’t about incremental improvement. What we want to do is look at transformational change. This initiative is helping to do just that.
The Think Orange campaign is being funded through a $115,500 grant under the CHAMPS (Cities Combating Hunger Through Afterschool and Summer Meal Programs) program of the National League of Cities in partnership with the Food Research & Action Center. Winston-Salem was one of six cities selected to receive a 2018 CHAMPS grant and technical assistance from the National League of Cities to expand the use of federal nutrition programs to fight hunger in the community. The grant runs through December 2019.
Complementing the city grant are initiatives by partner agencies:
- The Winston-Salem Urban League has received a $50,000 grant from the National Council on Aging to promote the enrollment of eligible senior citizens in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
- The Second Harvest Food Bank is exploring a pilot program, under the auspices of the Child and Adult Care Food Program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, that would deliver hot meals to programs serving lower-income youth as well as lower-income seniors and individuals with disabilities. Second Harvest Food Bank is also working with the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools to organize a childhood hunger summer later this year.
Additionally, the Think Orange campaign supports the efforts of other initiatives the city has in place related to hunger and health, among them:
- The Mayor's Poverty Thought Force, which identified hunger and food insecurity as a core issue.
- The Urban Food Policy Council, which was formed to initiate and promote actions that increase food access in Winston-Salem, and which has a Childhood Hunger Action Group working to implement a universal breakfast-in-class program in all city-county schools where 50 percent or more students receive free or reduced-price meals.
- The hydroponics/aquaponics urban farm, which would be constructed and operated by Goler CDC in collaboration with the city and H.O.P.E. of Winston-Salem.
- The Mayor's Childhood Obesity Prevention Program, which works to educate children ages 7-10 about nutrition and exercise.
The Winston-Salem metropolitan statistical area ranks seventh on a national list of MSAs with the highest rate of food hardship, according to the Food Action & Research Center. This is based on the center's "How Hungry is America?" report, which contains data for every state, the District of Columbia and 108 metropolitan statistical areas for 2016–2017.
According to the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools, approximately 60 percent of school children are eligible for free or reduced-price meals during the school year. However, only 16 percent of eligible children participate in summer feeding programs, according to information compiled by the Second Harvest Food Bank.
Overall, in July 2018, 52,912 individuals in Forsyth County received some form of food or nutrition assistance, according to the Forsyth County Department of Social Services.