Approximately 13% of North Carolina voters say that they have skipped meals in the last year because they were unable to afford food. The John Locke Foundation conducted a poll of 800 registered North Carolina voters on May 28-29. The poll has a 95% confidence interval and a margin of error of 3.46%.

Well over three-quarters of the respondents said they “rarely” (24.8%) or “never” (55.5%) use a phone app or online delivery service such as DoorDash or UberEats to order food from a restaurant.  Similarly, over half responded that they “rarely” (15.9%) or “never” (49.7%) use a phone app or online delivery service such as Instacart, Amazon, or Walmart to order groceries. These services charge premiums for convenience, making it unaffordable for many. Only 15.4% said they use such a service “regularly” with 12.4% saying they use such services “sometimes.” 

While farmer’s markets are growing in popularity, over half respondents said they “never” (22.8%) or “occasionally” (56.2%) visit a farmer’s market. When asked about the leading barrier preventing them from visiting a farmer’s market, limited hours were the leading barrier, coming in at 25.9%, with distance to the nearest market a close second at 20.8%. 

Of those polled, 13.4% said they have “sometimes” skipped meals in the last year because they could not afford food; 12.4% said “rarely”; and, 70% said “never.” There was variation cross more affluent and poor counties. Robeson County, one of the poorest counties in North Carolina, is almost 15% food insecure

However, only 6.8% said they received government or non-profit assistance from food programs such as SNAP, WIC, or food banks.

Dr. Jeffrey Dorfman, a Hugh C. Kiger Distinguished Professor of Agriculture and Resource Economics at North Carolina State University, said this number is actually closer to 15%.

“About 1.6 million people in North Carolina are signed up for SNAP, or about 15% of the population,” Dr. Dorfman told the Carolina Journal in an email. “Thus, even if the sample was skewed somewhat to higher income people (which it didn’t seem to be), there should be a lot more than 6.8% of respondents on SNAP. Research has shown that people underreport their participation in SNAP by between 20 and 50%, meaning in some cases, half the people getting SNAP tell the survey that they don’t receive it. Researchers need to be very careful and recognize this problem when using survey data.”

Research shows that 23% of households receiving food stamps do not report as participating in the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP), 35% in the American Community Survey (ACS), and 50% in the Current Population Survey (CPS). 

Of those reporting they receive such benefits, more than half (52.7%) reported that food assistance programs adequately satisfy their food needs, with 41.1% reporting “somewhat adequate” and 11.5% reporting “very adequate.”

While more than half of those polled (54%) said they “never” worry about running out of food before they have money to buy more, 16.4% responded they “sometimes” do. Moreover, 22.9% said that they or someone in their household had to choose between buying food or paying for other necessities, such as rent or utilities, in the past year. 

Nearly two-thirds (62.5%) said they knew of local resources such as food pantries and community gardens. 37.5% said that they needed to be made aware. Well over three-quarters (80.3%) said that they had not utilized these resources in the past, but 19.7% said that they had.  

These are just some of the highlights of the John Locke Foundation’s poll gauging food insecurity in North Carolina.