Just spent the day in Yadkin County. Here’s what I learned.

First we met with a young family. Two young kids, Mom works at a hospital, Dad works for Lowes. They met playing church softball years ago.

I heard about what it meant to their finances to have two kids in daycare — and as a parent with two kids in daycare, I get this loud and clear.

I also heard about how Mom travels to another county to work at a hospital because the hospital in Yadkin closed five years ago.

Then I drove over to that same hospital that closed five years ago and met with a doctor who had worked there when it was open.

It was the only hospital in the county. Now folks who need to go to the emergency room have to travel to a different county 30 minutes away.

Dr. McGrath worked there as a family doctor and told me about how hard it was for the community when it closed. Now he rents space there and operates his family medical practice out of a small section of the large, mostly empty building.

He explained the situation like this:

“When you have a hospital, that means you have departments with large overhead costs, like an emergency room. And emergency rooms are required by law to treat everyone. So if you have people who can’t afford insurance who need treatment, it means the hospital covers the cost. With these folks, we call it, ‘Full pay, no pay’ because we know they’ll be charged the full amount and they can’t afford it.”

Roughly 10–15% of his current patients are uninsured because they fall in the Medicaid gap and the only reason he can afford to see them is because he doesn’t have the overhead of an entire emergency room.

He spoke with genuine passion about caring for people in his community. He’s been there for years and has treated thousands of patients. All he wants is to see more people get better treatment.

Then we did a virtual town hall from the Yadkin Cultural Arts Center. It’s a building that was originally a car dealership in the 1950s, then became a roller rink, then a kitchen manufacturer, then a BBQ restaurant, and now serves as the cultural hub for the county and features a beautiful art gallery called The Front Yard, which we used for our virtual town hall.

We had a broad conversation, but I want to focus on one piece because it’s exactly what I heard from Dr. Wells, President of Hoke Hospital, yesterday.

The concern was about access to nutrition. And the point that was made today in Yadkin was the exact same that Dr. Wells made yesterday: “Our county needs more than dollar stores to provide nutrition.”

It was striking to hear the same point made — in virtually the same words — in two completely different parts of the state, and by people looking at this from two completely different perspectives. One was a citizen concerned about his community and the other was the president of a hospital concerned about her patients. And they were both telling me the same thing.

So we talked about local farms and the importance of finding a model that allows them to be sustainable. We talked about some ideas around ending food deserts and making sure people have access to full nutrition. And I forgot to make a point I wish I had made about the importance of improving school lunches, given that for many students it’s the most complete meal they’ll receive all day (of course it occurred to me as soon as the town hall was over…).

Tomorrow is Transylvania County. Got a bunch of great conversations lined up, including several about the incredible work they’ve done around early childhood education. Really looking forward to it.

Will keep you posted.

- Jeff