FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (WTVD) -- North Carolina's food banks say they've seen a steep increase in hunger since SNAP benefits launched for the pandemic ended in February.
The Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina said it has seen a 24% increase in the number of people being served at its partnering agencies from January to March. It's serving about 80% more people than before COVID-19.
Experts say inflation is another factor pushing low-income people further into hunger and financial precarity, and Jessica Slider Whichard, the VP of communications and public policy for the Food Bank said she is concerned that major gains that were made with those COVID-relief programs for low-income people may be slipping away.
"We don't want, you know, constituents, food banks, elected leaders to kind of take their foot off the gas. We have the data that shows that those programs work, and we're hoping to continue those investments because it's helping lift folks out of this situation," Whichard said.
The Second Harvest Food Bank in Fayetteville said it's seeing a similar increase in demand there, too. Officials are urging people to not let their pride keep them from asking for help.
"We don't want anyone who's out there in need of assistance to not do it because 'my neighbor might say this, or this might say this.' Guess what, your neighbor might be doing the same thing," said David Griffin, the food bank director of Action Pathways.
Griffin and Whichard encourage those with the means to extend a helping hand to the less fortunate.
"Whether that is picking up a few extra groceries at the store to drop off at the food bank when you're shopping for your family or you know, just sharing those resources with food banks or with our agencies, you know, in their communities -- if you got a few extra funds, that can go a long way with organizations that are trying to serve folks."