Our county’s obesity rate — plainly put, Robesonians are among the fattest people in North Carolina — is camouflage for another chronic health problem here, hunger.
If you doubt that there are people in Robeson County who go without food, or have to make decisions such as whether to buy medication or eat lunch, then you are simply wrong. Our poverty rate, with one in three Robesonians living below that line, is among the highest not just in North Carolina but in the country, and should be enough evidence that too many people here struggle to put food on the table.
More evidence can be found daily at the Lumberton Christian Care Center, where the less fortunate among us line up for a free hot meal that is served with a smile.
All this makes extra special a recent effort by a local business, the Meat Store, which is located on East Fifth Street.
Last week, the manager of the store, Daniel Fields, operating with the blessing of the store’s owner, Donald Stone, called The Robesonian asking us if we would run a short story telling the public that they intended to give away about a ton of food, on either Friday or Saturday, depending on when we published the story. Fields told us that the business is under contract to buy a certain amount of food from wholesalers and there was a surplus of food such as milk, lunch meat and yogurt that was in danger of spoiling before it could be sold.
So the decision was made to give it away instead of throw it away.
On Saturday hundreds of people lined up for the food, which was distributed by store employees and volunteers who came to help. We are told that about 8,000 pounds of food — four tons — was distributed.
It is the kind of story we like telling.
The Meat Store, because it is locally owned, has autonomy to make such decisions. Unfortunately that is not the case with most major grocery store chains, which are operated at the corporate level and are more concerned with liability issues than with growling stomachs.
It is a sign of this country’s wealth that each day food is tossed into Dumpsters across the country that is fine to eat, but not legal to sell. For one day at least, thanks to the thoughtfulness of those at the Meat Store, that food went to hungry people and not to the rats. Perhaps others will follow.