Starved for attention

by the YES! Weekly Staff

If you were looking in to the Piedmont Triad from the outside, you might think things were going pretty well.

In Greensboro, we have a city employee making a quarter of a million dollars a year after his $51,000 raise earlier this month. And plans for a downtown performing arts center continue apace. A private citizen — Steven Tanger, CEO of Tanger Factory Outlets — put up $7.5 million of his own money to grease the project’s skids. It is one thing to have $7.5 million, and quite another to have an extra $7.5 million.

In Winston-Salem, where they never saw an idea coming out of Greensboro they felt they couldn’t improve upon, the arts council unveiled plans for an $80 million theater district along Spruce Street.

Even High Point is enjoying high times: High Point University was recently ranked the No. 1 regional college in the South in US News & World Report’s annual feature. And we suppose it’s possible that they’re planning a new downtown performing arts center as well.

But another report that came out earlier this month did not get nearly as much play in the press. The Food Research and Action Center, a national non-profit that helps get food to hungry people, compiled a list of US cities with the most food hardship — people without enough to eat. Two of the Top 5 are right here in the Triad: Winston-Salem, at No. 3, and Greensboro right behind it in the No. 4 position. FRAC estimates that at some point in the past year, one in four Triad residents has not had enough to eat.

It bears repeating: In the past year, one in four Triad residents has not had enough to eat.

And that’s the problem in a nutshell. In the rarified air of the city’s better restaurants and country clubs they’re talking about projects that run into the tens of millions of dollars, while just a few miles away there are parents wondering if their kids will be eating dinner tomorrow.

There will always be poor people — more so in recent years as growth of the underclass has been exacerbated by policy, but this root cause is, unfortunately, a subject for another day. But here, in one of the wealthiest countries on earth, where our government pays people to grow food, there should never be those who don’t have enough to eat.

But if you judge a society by the way it treats the least among them — and we do, we do — the biggest cities in the Triad have failed on a fundamental level.

There are city council elections going on right now in Greensboro and Winston-Salem. There’s plenty of talk about performing-arts centers and real estate and restrictive downtown ordinances. And we get that: Decent people want to go to the theater.

But we need to talk about this. Now. And then we need to do something about it: jobs, social programs, grocery stores. We need to elect councils who care about the children going to bed hungry in their cities every night, and willing to do what it takes to stem the problem.

Our first priority is to make sure everybody gets fed. Then we’ll talk about the stage and the spotlights.