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Poverty & Food Insecurity

Poverty and food insecurity are inextricably linked to individual health outcomes. “Income provides economic resources that shape choices about housing, education, child care, food, medical care, and more. Wealth, the accumulation of savings and assets, helps cushion and protect us in times of economic distress. As income and wealth increase or decrease, so does health.” (County Health Rankings, 2021). 

Jackson County’s median household income for the 2015-2019 period was $47,252, which is $7,350 less than the state’s median household income. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, 2020 poverty guidelines for a family of 4 is $26,200. Of Jackson County’s population, 18.7% are below the poverty level. Percentages for children are even higher, with 24.9% of children under 18 and 28.8% of children under 5 living below the poverty level. 

As of 2016, there were 7 grocery stores and 4 farmers’ markets available within Jackson County for residents and visitors. There are close to 5% of households that have no car and low access to a store (U.S. Department of Agriculture, 2021). In 2021, one quarter of Jackson County residents ran out of food at least once and/or worried about running out of food in the past year. This is an increase since 2018 (19%) and Jackson County’s rate is the highest of all WNC counties, though it is significantly lower than the United States average of 34% (WNC Health Network, 2021).

Community Partners that actively work with WCU in the Poverty & Food Insecurity focus area are listed below. If you are interested in working on a project with one of these organization, please contact the CCESL office. For all volunteer opportunities, visit the CCESL Engage page.


ASAP (Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project) is a nonprofit based in Asheville, North Carolina, serving the Southern Appalachian region. Our mission is to help local farms thrive, link farmers to markets and supporters, and build healthy communities through connections to local food.

Circles of Jackson County

Circles of Jackson County’s mission is to provide the short- and long-term support that enables these families to move into self-sustainability. Circles meets weekly to provide educational opportunities and support, as well as a free meal and childcare.

Community Table

The Community Table is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization whose mission is to provide nutritious meals to our neighbors in need in a welcoming environment. Since 1999, our vision has been that no one in Jackson County, NC goes to bed hungry. We are more than a soup kitchen, more than a food pantry. Through our partnership with MANNA Food Bank, and the with the ongoing support of our community, we are a powerful resource for those in need.

Cullowhee Community Garden

The Cullowhee Community Garden is an organic, allotment plot, donation-based garden. One half of all produce grown is donated through our food relief partner organizations. We have fruit trees and bushes, native wildflowers, shrubs and trees all around the property.

Haywood County Meals on Wheels

To provide nutritious meals, friendly visits, and safety checks that enable homebound seniors to live nourished lives with independence and dignity through the efforts of staff and volunteers.

Rolling Start

Rolling Start is a non-profit group of car enthusiasts that refurbish donated vehicles that are then given to individuals in need of transportation to help work their way out of poverty in Jackson County, North Carolina.

St. David's Episcopal Church

We are intentionally inclusive, welcoming all people as they are, joined in our search for God as much by our questions as by our answers, by our need to be challenged as much as our need to be comforted, by the knowledge that we meet God in our work as well as in our worship, and by our commitment to serve God by serving others.

Sylva Community Garden

A Community Garden in Sylva, NC with individual plots that are maintained by gardeners who donate 1/2 of their produce to The Community Table or other low-income people in Jackson County.

Uncomplicated Kitchen

We are a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization based in western North Carolina.Through educational outreach, we work to empower our friends and neighbors to cook and grow the nutritious foods they want to eat. Our mission is to teach community members how to plan meals, shop for ingredients, and cook healthy, simple and affordable recipes.We bridge the gap between the food people have access to and the tools and knowledge they have to prepare nutritious meals for themselves and their families.Whether people shop at the farmers market, grocery store, or receive food through charitable organizations, Uncomplicated Kitchen teaches our community that healthy food is affordable and simple. 

United Christian Ministries

An interdenominational crisis ministry, UCM helps Jackson County people who have urgent physical, economic, social, and spiritual needs. UCM offers a client-choice food pantry and financial assistance. UCM also works closely with appropriate county, state, and federal agencies to acquire various forms of aid.


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