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Poverty Increased Last Year In The Carolinas

Poverty is one the rise in the Carolinas. The Census Bureau announced Thursday morning that almost 100,000 more people were driven into poverty last year in North and South Carolina.
No matter what the official numbers said, Lucy Mitchell already knows more people need help in Mecklenburg County. She’s in charge of fundraising at Loaves and Fishes, which runs 19 food pantries in the area.

"Before the recession we were feeding on average or providing groceries to an average 6,000 to 7,000 people a month," Mitchell said. "With this spike, we’re now at 10,000 on average per month."

The pantries served more than 12,000 people in August. Mitchell said that’s the most they’ve served in a single month in their 37-year history.

She said she hopes the numbers level off soon.

"But the people who are coming to us are the people who are going to see the benefits of an economic recovery last," Mitchell said. "They’re the lowest paid. Their hours are cut. Their wages are cut, so they’re really struggling to make ends meet."

Like Cynthia Jackson, who went to a Loaves and Fishes in uptown Charlotte to get food for her family. Her 4-year-old son and 2-year-old daughter came with her.

"OK, apple sauce, that'll be good for them right there because it goes with their lunch and their dinner," Jackson said as a volunteer grabbed a couple cans of apple sauce and put them in Jackson's cart.

It was Jackson’s second time here. She’s a nurse’s aide, and she said she’s not getting as many hours lately. She says she currently makes about $800 a month.

"That makes things kind of hard," Jackson said. "I need help with my bills right now. I thank God for the pantries."

And there are more and more people who also need help in the Carolinas.

The federal poverty line for a family of four is a household income of about $23,000.

Thursday morning's report from the Census Bureau shows that in South Carolina, about 41,000 more people fell below that line last year. That increased the state’s poverty rate 0.7 percent.

There was an even bigger increase in the number of poor people in North Carolina. But – and this is a little confusing – that didn’t increase the state’s poverty rate.

"Because the state has been growing during this period, that’s kind of made it not show as a statistically significant increase in the poverty rate," John Chesser explains. He's a senior analyst at the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute.

About half the other states didn’t show an increase, either. But there was only one state in the entire country where the poverty rate declined – Vermont.