WASHINGTON COUNTY, Va. - Going hungry is a silent battle many families are struggling with throughout our region. Some families struggling with hunger are able to get help with food stamps, but there are other families that fall between the cracks.
Here's a startling number: about 160,000 people in southwest Virginia are 'food insecure;' that means they're not sure where their next meal is coming from. An even more alarming fact -- that number is growing.
A lot of work goes into keeping the shelves stocked at Feeding America Southwest Virginia. But those empty shelves are a problem -- supplies are going out way too quickly. "According to a lot of the pantries that we serve, that number is growing and we're constantly struggling," said Gary Mitchell with Feeding America Southwest Virginia in Abingdon.
An even bigger problem is that about 51 percent of families in southwest Virginia do not qualify for food stamps. "It is a lot of what we call the 'working poor,' people that are out working maybe for minimum wage, struggling, and trying to make ends meet," added Mitchell.
That number of those families is growing. That's why by serving more than 300 meals from their soup kitchen three days a week.
Feeding America Southwest Virginia hopes to simply help, but there are other ways to solve this problem. "With our mobile food pantry we're doing seven distributions a month and averaging 10,000 pounds per distribution," said Mitchell.
Paul Warner's family manages to get by without food stamps. "The way things are going now, just about everybody has been laid off. They're all hurting and lines are getting longer," he said.
He hopes by raising awareness the number of struggling families will stop growing.
News 5 also checked with the Washington County Virginia Department of Social Services and learned that about 3,600 households receive food stamp assistance. Over the last few months there has been a slight increase in that number, less than 5 percent.
Officials believe families are still struggling because of the economy, the price of gas, and the price of food.