Eastern Kentucky hunger rate climbing

By: Whitney Burks Email
By: Whitney Burks Email

PAINTSVILLE, Ky. (WYMT) - It is a problem that seems to keep growing.

The Kentucky Association of Food Banks says more than 20% of Kentuckians cannot afford to buy enough food, and Eastern Kentuckians are some who struggle the most.

Spend a Tuesday afternoon at Highland Community Food Basket, and you will quickly see they have plenty of people in need.

"It's tripled since we opened. We was open one day a month when we first started and then we started going to every Tuesday," said Director Sharon Adams.

She says they serve 80 to 100 people in one week and up to 400 in one month.

"That's a big increase, and then there's another food pantry that does more than that, and we have another one that does a lot less that so that's almost like 1,000 family members a month," said Adams.

The Food Research and Action Center says nearly one in five Kentuckians (20.3%) struggle to afford food each month. That is more than the national average of 18.2%.

Brenda Castle lives in Johnson County and says without the food pantry she too would fall on hard times.

"At the end of the month people don't have, all the money's gone, and at the end of the month I come here," she said.

Her story is not uncommon, because Eastern Kentucky's hunger rate is even higher than the state average with more than 25% of households struggling.

"It would make it hard on a lot of people, not just me, but there's people out there that have little kids," she said.

Volunteers there say they do whatever they can to help.

"People are very appreciative of what they get. They really are. Around here it's such a small community everybody knows everybody, so we know pretty much everybody who's coming through here," said Adams.

And they only hope things begin to improve for their neighbors.

The FRAC says Kentucky's statistics give it the 19th highest food hardship rate in the nation.

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