No food for the hungry

by YES! Weekly staff

No food for the hungry


An old journalism adage dictates that one should never believe anything until it has been officially denied.


The quip applies to a situation back in July, when our newsroom heard about a glitch in the NC FAST program that was preventing hungry people from getting food.

NC FAST — North Carolina Families Accessing Services through Technology — is a statewide program that bundles social services, helping poor people get access to healthcare, employment services and food. We heard from readers in both Forsyth and Guilford Counties that benefits had been delayed in some cases for months, particularly food stamps, which caused extreme hardships on NC families and further stressed the resources of local food banks and charities, from whom we heard similar complaints.

So when Forsyth County Social Services Director Joe Raymond told us, “I’m unaware of any macro-statistical thing going on here. I’m unaware that any technology glitch is throw ing people out of the system,” we suspected something was up.

Never believe anything until it has been officially denied.

A letter from a reader just last week described one woman’s experience at the Forsyth County Department of Social Services thusly:

“[S]he [said she] had been waiting months for her benefits. ‘I have went to every church and food bank possible. I have sold or pawned everything I have ever owned, even my children’s things, just to put a bite on the table for them. I have nothing left, nowhere to go, and no more answers for my children when they are hungry. I have been waiting since May. How much longer should I have to wait?’” She also alleged that calls to Forsyth DSS went unreturned, even though policy states that calls must be returned within 72 hours.

Now, social service directors from several counties across the state are meeting in Raleigh to address the problem, according to Nancy Young of the Forsyth board.

NC FAST dates back to 2008, under the governorship of Mike Easley — you can read about it here: It promises “efficient, effective assessment,” comprehensive case management” and “better outcomes.”

But clearly that’s not what’s happening, no matter what you read on the internet… or, apparently, hear from county staff.

Fortunately, there are still some in Forsyth who acknowledge the problem and have the will to do something about it.

NC Rep. Evelyn Terry, who sits on the Forsyth social services board, said that an understaffed department adds to the problems, but is sympathetic to the people in need. And NC Sen. Earline Parmon says she’s on it with a plan to revert to the old process, which at least seemed to do what it purported to, until these glitches are eliminated.

We’ve come a long way since July — at least the issues with the food stamps are being acknowledged. But, as Terry said. “At the end of the day that still doesn’t feed a hungry child.”

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