Elizabeth Young, Hunger and Health Coalition
Elizabeth Young is the executive Director of the Hunger and Health Coalition, a nonprofit organization established in Boone in 1982 with the initial goal of serving “neighbors in need.” What began as a local ministry based out of a closet in the Boone United Methodist church grew over time to address the significant and ongoing demand for food and medicines. Elizabeth joined the Hunger and Health Coalition as its executive director in 2014.
Poverty and hunger are significant issues in Watauga County. Some statistics on poverty in Watauga:
• According to the US Census, approximately 21 percent of the people in Watauga County live in poverty, defined in 2019 as $13,300 for an individual or $26,172 for a family of four.
• In 2019, the median family income in Watauga County was $47,526, significantly below the 2019 national median family income of $65,712.
• In Watauga County, 17.9% of the children are food insecure (Feeding America, 2018) and rely on the National School Lunch Program and food pantries.
For nearly 40 years, the Hunger and Health Coalition has been working to alleviate food insecurity and increasing access to needed medication. 2,003 households (4,725 individuals) received regular food assistance support from the organization in the 2019-2020 fiscal year, a total of 36,833 meals worth of food.
Additionally, the Hunger and Health Coalition is the Backpack Program provider for all 10 Watauga County schools and provided more than 5,800 food boxes for schools to distribute to food insecure students.
In addition to its food pantry, the Hunger and Health Coalition is the area's only free pharmacy and its pharmacy program meets medication access needs for uninsured local residents. 12.8% of Watauga residents are uninsured (Census Bureau, 2019). In FY2019, the Hunger and Health Coalition provided access to chronic illness medication for 727 individuals and dispensed 14,571 prescriptions.
Without the free pharmacy at the Hunger and Health Coalition, the need for these life-sustaining and high-dollar items would go unmet, depriving many Watauga residents of access to medical necessities or forcing them to take on debt to stay alive.
For more information about the Hunger and Health Coalition, please visit their website or call them at 828-262-1628.