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Working people in need of food assistance

Record numbers of employed people are hungry

The subject line in Connecticut Food Bank’s email inbox was just two words, Need Help.

It was from a working mother asking if she could attend the mobile pantry distribution in Middletown that week. “I am out of food for the week but still have some gas left.  We don’t have any fresh food, dairy or grains.  We don’t qualify for any assistance, have jobs but can’t make ends meet anymore. Please let me know.”

It was signed, Humbled in East Lyme.

This email could have been from anywhere in Connecticut as the number of employed people who are having trouble making ends meet continues to escalate.

This is not a surprise to Connecticut Food Bank, as results from the 2013 Map the Meal Gap research released by Feeding America in June show 57 percent of Connecticut residents who are food insecure do not qualify for federal food assistance (such as SNAP, formerly known as food stamps). That’s up five percent over last year. These families rely on Connecticut Food Bank, its 650 food-assistance programs and other charitable organizations for help. (See separate article in this issue about Map the Meal Gap’s Child Food Insecurity rate).

Among them are Annette and Todd of Branford.  Annette works full time as a medical office receptionist.  Todd lost his construction job six months ago. And because he is collecting unemployment benefits while looking for work, they earn just a bit too much to qualify them for assistance for their family of five. They turn to the Branford Food Pantry for help so they can put food on the table for themselves and their three teen-age children.

And then there is Penny. When she separated from her husband last year, Penny moved to Orange from Northwestern Connecticut to be closer to relatives. She’s also a construction worker who is having a tough time finding full-time work.  Although she does qualify for assistance between temporary jobs, she continues to have financial difficulty.

These situations are typical according to the Storehouse Food Pantry in Milford. Pantry workers there recently told us they served approximately 40 families when they opened 10 years ago. Today, they assist more than 300 families each month. Many of the people who turn to the pantry for help are working.  Some are earning minimum wages and working two jobs.

Although the country’s unemployment rate is lower than when the recession began in 2008, many of the jobs being offered are lower-wage jobs. As we go to press, underemployment (people who are working part time but want full time work and discouraged workers who are no longer looking for work) is on the rise. 

 One report shows that workers who lost their jobs in the recession can expect to earn up to 11 percent less than people with similar jobs who remained employed during the recession. It will take the families who experienced unemployment many years to catch up to where they were financially before the recession began when they re-enter the workforce. They are a strong reminder that it is not just the unemployed, but also people who work, who are in need of food assistance.

 

This article was posted in Food Pantry, Map the Meal Gap, Moble Pantry, Recession, SNAP/Food Stamps, Unemployment.

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