VERONA, Va. (WHSV) -- Rising wages nationally does not mean less hunger locally.
Last week, the Census Bureau announced that wages grew among middle and low-income Americans in 2015, but that news wasn't reflected in our local food pantries across central and western Virginia, who say they didn't see a change in their numbers.
Michael McKee, CEO of the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank, told WHSV they saw roughly the same number of people seeking food assistance from 2014 to 2015 even with the higher wages.
But he did say that there was a slight decline in the numbers: maybe 4% overall, during the first half of 2016.
While McKee is excited about the nation's progress, he said that national changes won't always fix local problems and that hunger is a major local issue.
McKee said that the number of people currently seeking help is still tens of thousands per month more than it was before the recession, and he attributes that to there not being enough benefits for those working in the valley.
"Healthcare expenses really contribute to food insecurity or hunger. Here in Virginia we have not expanded so other states are seeing more improvement because they have more people receiving health coverage and that allows for more disposable income," said McKee.
The Blue Ridge Area Food Bank believes that better jobs will lead to less lines at pantries, soup kitchens and shelters across Virginia.
McKee said that he's encourage by what he sees going on nationally and thinks we'll eventually see that type of improvement here.
To learn how you can help out with the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank or help the hungry in our area in other ways, take a look at the Related Stories by either scrolling to the bottom of this screen or looking to the right.