Backlog in recertification requests causes strain for Charlotte food banks

CHARLOTTE — Some families say they’re going weeks without receiving their food benefits, and the delays are because of lingering red tape in Mecklenburg County.

There’s a backlog of recertification requests for food benefits in Mecklenburg County, and the gap in benefits is putting a strain on local food pantries.

Some viewers contacted Channel 9′s Genevieve Curtis about the delays in getting their assistance renewed. It’s leaving them without money for groceries for weeks.

We dug through state data and found that the county backlog is nowhere near what it was this time last year, but some families are still waiting.

“We just have empty pallets,” said Kelly Vass, the program director for friendship trays at Loaves and Fishes, a food pantry organization in Charlotte.

The warehouse for Loaves and Fishes should be fully stocked, but with a recent spike in demand, Vass says they are just trying to keep up. From April to MAy, the food pantry saw around 2,000 more clients referred to them.

“The phone is ringing constantly,” Vass said. “We went from 8,000 to 10,000 and over the last year, we did increase 20%.”

The organization doesn’t know all of the reasons for that spike, but families often turn to the food pantry anytime food benefits are delayed.

Earlier this week, a spokesperson for Mecklenburg County said they were working on recertifying many cases. It’s a process families have to go through to continue qualifying for the benefits.

A county spokesperson said the 2024 budget approved additional positions to help the department process cases quicker. It’s been an issue for months, and Channel 9 uncovered data that showed Mecklenburg County was one of the slowest at processing cases.

But the county has made progress -- while almost 50% of cases were behind in April of 2022, that number is down to about 4% this past April.

Still, if you’re one of those families left waiting, it’s stressful.

Vass says families in need can get a referral to Loaves and Fishes through a doctor, religious leader, or social worker.

“The need is not being met and we are here to provide that gap to meet the needs of those individuals who need a hand up,” Vass said.

Spikes in demand also mean that Loaves and Fishes needs more donations and companies who may want to host their own food drives. You can find more information on how to help at this link.

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