Staff photo by Allison Potter
Congressman Mike McIntyre, left, speaks to Peter Werbicki, president and CEO of the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina, after arriving for a meeting and tour of the facility on Monday, Sept. 16.
Food assistance groups have voiced concerns to U.S. Rep. Mike McIntyre regarding a continued and growing need for nutrition services in southeastern North Carolina and uncertainty about future funding for the nation’s food stamp program.
McIntyre, D-N.C., stopped by the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina’s Wilmington location Monday, Sept. 16, and met with representatives of the nonprofit and partner organizations in Brunswick, Columbus, New Hanover and Pender counties for a roundtable discussion.
Food Bank President and CEO Peter Werbicki asked McIntyre where he stood on a proposed $40 billion reduction to the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Werbicki had earlier expressed concern the cuts could mean more people needing hunger relief services.
The House of Representatives was scheduled to soon consider a bill to cut SNAP, a program that traditionally had been part of the Farm Bill until Republican leadership split them into separate measures, McIntyre’s office said.
“There is a movement afoot that I’m very concerned about that would completely cut out any of that food program as part of the Farm Bill,” McIntyre told Food Bank members and partners, adding that is why he had voted against the Farm Bill this summer.
“Now where we are, it’s not just the ($)40 billion,” McIntyre added. “I’m afraid it’s going to be possibly double that.”
Roundtable participants included Rick Zigler of Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard in Wilmington, who said the volunteer organization had a growing demand and was relocating to a new building.
Stephanie Smith of the Greater Restoration Enrichment Center in Columbus County said food services are important to her area, which she said has a high unemployment rate due to closures in the textile industry.
“It is a dire need in our county for assistance,” Smith said.
Roy Tucker of the Southport Oak Island Interchurch Fellowship said the nation should increase the minimum wage to help lessen the need for nutrition assistance.
“Long term, we’ve got to get people away from food pantries and food stamps,” Tucker said.
Jim Leutze, a Food Bank board member and former University of North Carolina Wilmington chancellor, said while there may be some fraud in welfare, most people helped by nutrition services want jobs and the ability to support their families.
“They are helping people who deserve help and who need help and would not be in the position that they were in if they hadn’t lost their job, if the economy hadn’t turned down, if the plant hadn’t left,” Leutze said.
Nearly a third of the more than 69,000 people at risk of going hungry in the Wilmington branch’s four counties are children, reports the Food Bank’s website.
McIntyre, a senior member of the House Agriculture Committee, later said in a phone interview he planned to take roundtable stories to his colleagues and hoped the House and Senate could resolve differences in their versions of the Farm Bill.
He emphasized that the Farm Bill goes beyond agricultural issues and includes rural economic development programs that could affect 85 of North Carolina’s 100 counties.