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    The floor of the Second Harvest Food Bank of Southeast North Carolina is full of pallets of bottled drinking water. Unfortunately, the shelves are nearly empty of the one commodity the facility on Deep Creek Road needs the most: food.
    David Griffin, the food bank director, says the demand by hungry folks seeking emergency supplies of food has increased 59 percent over the past two years — a hike he lays squarely on the shoulders of a faltering economy and high gas prices.
    “Those factors have made it tough,” said Griffin as he surveyed the warehouse’s empty pallets and the bare freezers of a facility that serves seven counties. “In addition, our seven counties are mostly rural and they’ve lost a lot of jobs, especially in Robeson County. A lot of people just can’t make it with the increasing cost of food.”
    {mosimage}Griffin says that the ever increasing poverty rate contributes mightily to this perfect storm of hunger. He adds that Cumberland County alone has 51,000 folks listed as subsisting below the federally mandated poverty line — many of them children.
    “It’s heartbreaking to see someone with small children needing food,” said Griffin. “It really takes something out of your heart. People don’t just ask for food unless they really need it.
    “As long as I am director here, I will make sure people have plenty of food,” said Griffin. “But we need help.”
    That help is on the way in the form of the 2008 Cumberland County CROP Hunger Walk. The event — scheduled for Oct. 19 — is sponsored by Church World Service and has taken place off and on since 1980, with county residents soliciting sponsors to fund their walk for the hungry and provide money that is distributed locally and nationally — 25 percent of that money goes to the food bank.
    Michele Bedsole, the crop walk’s coordinator, said the 10K walk — which had more than 325 participants last year — raised $16,000 in 2007; however, she says this year’s walk is seeking a 59 percent increase in money raised — the exact amount the food bank says requests for food have increased.
    “We’re still looking for participants and sponsors,” said Bedsole. “So far, Methodist University, Fayetteville State University and Fayetteville Technical Community College have agreed to participate, as has Cape Fear High School. The more people and sponsors we get, the more money we raise for the food bank.”
    The walk has 2-mile and 6.2-mile options and will begin at 3 p.m. at Haymount United Methodist Church. Some runners will compete, but they will start before the walkers. 
    Bedsole says the walk is mostly symbolic, with participation by families pushing strollers and even senior citizens.
    “We had one lady who was 84 walk last year,” said Bedsole.
    Griffin says he is appreciative of any help the crop walk can provide the food bank.
    Even though the food bank, which is part of the Cumberland County Action Committee, Inc., is helped out by a long list of sponsors such as Food Lion, the Campbell Soup Company, Wal-Mart, Frito-Lay, Coca-Cola, Pepsi and Sam’s Club, more help is needed.
    “The demand continues to rise,” said Griffin.
    Griffin says the food bank generally provides food through the various organizations that identify families in need, though anyone showing up at the facility on 406 Deep Creek Road needing food will not be turned down. For more information on the food bank or to donate, call 485-8809.
    If you would like to participate in the crop walk or make a donation through that organization, check out the Web site at www.crophungerwalk.org. You can also call Bedsole at 484-6896 or contact the Rev. Laura Lupton at laura@techtutors.org.

Tim Wilkins, Associate Editor
COMMENTS? 484-6200 ext. 105 or tim@upandcomingweekly.com


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