DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- June 4th is World Hunger Day, and on Sunday an event in downtown Durham sought to raise awareness of food insecurity issues in the Triangle.
Durham County Social Services, NC Cooperative, and various charities and food pantries helped put on the event, which took place at the Pavilion at Durham Central Park.
"I think just making people aware of how big of an issue it is in Durham County is really important so one, they are aware, but then they can really think about how they can contribute to solutions to end hunger," said Mary Oxendine, Durham's Food Security Coordinator.
Durham County Social Services estimates that 12% of people in the Bull City skip or cut back on meals because they can't afford to buy food, which translates to roughly 38,000 residents. That issue is amplified during the summer months when kids that typically rely on the public school system to provide meals don't have the same access to that resource.
In fact, event organizers say school meals account for the largest food security program in the city. Breakfast is provided free to all Durham County Public School students, and 55% of lunches are subsidized through various programs. Oxendine says losing that can greatly affect a child's development.
"That really does impact, particularly thinking about young children growing, not having the nutrients they need -- that really does impact their growth and development," she said.
Dennis Dickerson knows what it feels like not knowing where your next meal is going to come from. The father of three said he relied on food pantries at Durham Tech not only for himself but to help with his kids. He says it would have been tough making it work without those resources.
"It'd have been more difficult, on top of the added stress of school, work, and all the other stressors in life," he said. "So, it's just one burden taken off of you when it's provided to you when the help is offered to you."
Now, Dickerson is pushing to increase awareness -- not only of the issue's prevalence but of the resources out there.
"The resources are there, but unless we know about it, food will just be sitting there, it may be rotting," he said. "Families and children would not have those resources, so it's extremely important that that information gets out there for people to know about."