or Connect
TheCatSite.com › Forums › General Forums › IMO: In My Opinion › Many suburban families going hungry
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

Many suburban families going hungry

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 
I just came across this article in the NY Times, and find it disillusioning - isn't the U.S. supposedly the richest country on earth?

Agencies Say Hunger on Rise Outside Cities Across Region


Published: March 23, 2004

Come payday, the tough choices begin for Roxie Jackson. Her salary as a physical therapist's assistant has sustained her family of five in the middle-class suburb of Bloomfield, N.J., since her husband lost his job two years ago and income from her second job, with Mary Kay, declined before she eventually left it. So each week, Ms. Jackson weighs which bills she must pay and which must wait. And one factor is ever-present in her budget deliberations: hunger.

"My refrigerator and cupboard have been bare more than once," said Ms. Jackson, 35, who said that her home telephone has been disconnected since last year because she could not afford to pay for both utilities and groceries. "It's still a struggle."

According to hunger experts and federal statistics, a growing number of suburban families are struggling to put food on their tables.

Nationally, the rate of households facing limited or uncertain availability of food, what the federal government calls food insecurity, has been rising, reaching its highest point in four years. From 1999 to 2002, the latest year for which figures are available, the number of such households rose by about 15 percent, or about 1.5 million, according to the United States Department of Agriculture, bringing the number to just over 12 million. On the surface, hunger may seem more severe and more intractable in the hearts of the largest cities. But experts say that more and more people who live in suburban and outlying areas are also having to make hard choices that sometimes leave them scrambling for their next meal.

Nationwide, the number of suburban households facing food shortages rose by roughly a quarter-million from 2001 to 2002.

The number of people receiving food stamps in Connecticut, New Jersey and New York grew almost 11 percent in 2003 from 2002.

Hunger in the suburbs is far from a new phenomenon. But today, those showing up at suburban food pantries and soup kitchens throughout the metropolitan region are more likely than ever to include working families, experts say.

"There's a changing face of hunger, in the sense that more working people need help now than before," said Meara Nigro, a spokeswoman for the Community Food Bank of New Jersey.

Charlene Nickle, 52, for example, has turned to the Human Needs Food Pantry in Montclair, N.J., where she lives, to help feed the three grandchildren she raises, who are 8, 10 and 14. Each week, she visits the pantry to pick up fresh fruits, vegetables and meats, when they are available, along with canned goods, rice, powdered milk and cereal.

"It really, really makes a great big difference in my food budget," she said.

Before she took custody of her grandchildren in 1999, Ms. Nickle worked as a secretary. To take care of the children after school, she said, she quit her job and took a pay cut to became a home health aide.

Patty Dowling, executive director of Shoreline Soup Kitchens, which serves 11 coastal towns in Connecticut, estimates that 80 percent of her clients are working, mostly in low-wage jobs with no benefits.

"There are all sorts of invisible people here that folks just refuse to see - it could be gardeners, people living in the back of restaurants, lawn people, it could be the person working at the local grocery store who's making minimum wage," she said.

A few years ago, Maritza Rosa, was a single mother on welfare struggling to feed eight children. "I know firsthand how it is to have food stamps run out and have no place to go," she said. "It's either you pay a bill or you don't feed your kids." Now, Ms. Rosa works as the assistant director of the Father English Community Center Food Pantry in Paterson, N.J.

Like many food pantries, Father English asks for identification and proof of income to verify that clients are truly needy.

In New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, food banks - which collect food from manufacturers and the Agriculture Department and distribute it to charities - have reported an increased demand for food, particularly since 2001.

Lynn Needelman, executive director of Long Island Cares, a food bank on Long Island, said the demand is the greatest she has seen in her 17 years there.

Experts agree that hunger in the United States is not typically severe to the point where people are suffering malnourishment, but some disagree about how serious the problem is. For example, a recent report issued by the Heritage Foundation, a conservative policy and research organization in Washington, concluded that nearly all hunger in the United States is short-term and episodic rather than continuous.

But for some suburban residents, the reality is different.

Hunger relief groups throughout the New York region report helping people for longer periods as they wait through longer periods of unemployment, or are forced to take jobs that pay less than they once made, changing the nature of emergency food help.

Patti Perry, 40, lives in Montclair despite the high cost because she wants her seven children to be in good schools.

Ms. Perry, who is raising her children on her own, was laid off from her job with a telecommunications company at the end of February but has since been rehired in a different position. She makes "a pretty decent salary," she said, but between bills and her monthly rent of $1,850 for a one-bedroom home that she has converted to four bedrooms, her paycheck never seems to go far enough.

At first, Ms. Perry said, she was reluctant to go to the Human Needs Food Pantry. After all, she had a college education and a job. But that was 13 years ago.

"When I first started coming, I felt kind of funny, because we had to stand outside," Ms. Perry said. "Now I'm just grateful for it."

NY Times
post #2 of 11
All I have to say is that it isn't as Dissilusioning as you might think. I know what it's like to decide between paying for my electric bill or eating. I make a fair amount, but just normal hosehold bills are more then what I can afford to pay. I even moved to a cheaper apartment just so I could "try" and make it. But even now the choice between food or heat is still very much present in my life. I can afford to eat one meal a day, hardly ever do I get more then that one meal. This is not something just I deal with, I have a friend who is just recently Divorced who has to make the same choice. Feed herself and her Daughter or keep the phone line in her house. It's hard times. all because 90% of the jobs out there don't pay enough to live. No one can live on Minimum wage, Let alone making less then 13 dollars an hour. It's a reality and one that not many people are awear of.
post #3 of 11
We live in the suburbs, and my mom makes very very good money for a woman. It is just the two of us, and we still barely make by, we live from paycheck to paycheck, right now we have barely any money for 2 weeks. The problem is that everything has gotten so expensive, gas is $2.00 a gallon, we have car payments,house payments (we are lucky, our house was only about $95,000, most houses now-a-days are around $350,000 and up here) Yes some of it is because of our animals, but we wouldn't have that any other way! Just yesterday we went and we bought a thing of cat litter, we could have used the money for food....but really, I would rather be eating the canned food in our cupboard then not have cat litter! LOL! The reason we don't have much money would also be that we recently filed for bankruptcy, not much money in debt, we have no credit cards. We make sure the house payment is in and car payment because we are trying to get our credit back up. We plan on moving out of this neighborhood (it is pretty bad here) and into a nice, new house, in a great neighborhood. The only reason we will be able to pay for it is that the job I plan on getting once I turn 18 makes around $15-20 dollars an hour. So I would be paying $500 rent to my mom. Ah, things will be getting better...except now some neighbors are threating to get us fined $500-1000 dollars because our front yard is full of high weeds (we have spent over $5000 dollars on that yard already trying to make it look nice, so now we have decided to just hire some people to get it down to dirt so we can grow grass!)

Ok I have said enough, lol.
post #4 of 11
2 dollars a gallon???? Man, here it's reaching 1.60 and it seems the world is coming to and end and the government is trying to impose prize controls because it's too high.

And btw, there's no way on earth you are going to find a house of less than 250 grand in PR.

In Puerto Rico the Departamento de Hacienda (Our internal revenue guys... worser than the IRS) classifies as Middle Class between US$10,000 annually and US$50,000 (We are high middle class according to that). However, despite the fact that here prizes and wages are much lower than in the US there's no way on earth you can eat with anything else than 20,000 dollars, so they did it to be able to say "80 percent of Puerto Ricans are middle class and there is no poverty problems".
post #5 of 11
Victor, while I don't know the exact numbers, the politicians have played with the incomes and levels to arrive at much the same conclusions. That's why when the Dems say that the "wealthy" are getting too many tax cuts, I look at my friends who are by definition above middle class, married, two kids, two dogs who are barely making ends meet. He was delivering pizzas as a second job to pay the bills and keep food on the table.

Is the US the "richest country in the world"? Yes, it still is. But of course you have the uneven distribution of wealth, the economy still isn't where it could/should be, and the average amount of debt that people are in is ever on the rise. Simply put, many people have lived above their means for so long that when times get tough - i.e. they lose their jobs, unemployment isn't equal to a full paycheck, gas prices are rising, electric/natural gas prices have skyrocketed (at least in Colorado, the bills have gone up 70-90% since last year!), housing costs are always on the rise, food prices have gone up especially since the Mad Cow scare in December, etc. etc. etc. - people have no savings to fall back on and can't manage to live on the smaller paychecks and larger expenses.

Is it a problem? YES! Been there, done that. Spending $20 for a week's worth of groceries for 2 people isn't enough. There are more people who are having a tough time or impossible time now than any time since the Depression, I think. But I also think part of the problem is people's (in general) expectation of a standard of living. Living within one's means isn't in many people's personal dictionaries.

(This was meant as a commentary on our society as a whole, and goodness knows I've fallen into the same trap of wanting more than I could afford and finding a way to do it. This wasn't directed at any one person here....)
post #6 of 11
Valanhb, you are exactly right about the last part of your post, a necessity (sp?) to people these days is; car, tv, cable, internet, computers...etc. I know I am one of those people, I don't know what I would do without the internet and a computer, I could live without satelite tv, even with 300 channels there is nothing to watch, so what is the point?

Victor- 10,000 a year? how can that be considered middle class income when 50,000 is as well?

I also think that the wealthy (80,000 a year and more) should pay extra taxes. Oh well...
post #7 of 11
What would I do without digital cable, computers, cell phones.... I don't know. I am one of those, and like it that way.

As for the ten thousand dollars: Good question, for with that even people on government welfare are middle class. We've got Mr. Juan Flores Galarza, "olorable" secretary of internal revenue to thank for that.

So, if a politican ever tells you "We've reduced poverty in PR so much that 80% is middle class" ask them how many of that middle class is between 10,000 and 20,000 dollars.
post #8 of 11
It's funny that this article should show up now. Thank God, my husband and I do fairly well and pay our bills with no problem. My brother and his wife, though, should be in the article above. He is an assistant manager at a video store and she works on a day cruise ship. They have trouble paying their bills every month. It really is amazing how expensive everything is and that two people working cannot cover the bills.

I always thought that problems like that happened to "someone else". Now, that someone else is my brother and it really brings home the reality of it. They already have no car payment and their rent is cheap.

My mom and I were trying to come up with ideas to help them lower their bills (my sister in law is pregnant so they have to manage somehow). Here's what we came up with.

Only basic cable
Basic phone service
regular internet connection (not DSL)
Get rid of the cell phones and buy "prepaid" phones for emergencies only.
Stop using credit cards/debit cards
Call the Credit Card companies and work out a payment plan
Shop with grocery coupons and only at sales
cook at home

I just pray that after the baby comes they'll be OK.
post #9 of 11
Thread Starter 
I came across the article right after watching a news report here on how many people in Berlin have had their gas and electricity turned off because they can't pay their utility bills. Social security benefits have been cut here, and health insurance companies no longer cover as many costs as they used to, even though by law we have to pay 13% to 14% of our monthly incomes on mandatory health insurance (about 19% for retirement insurance). Everything Germans earn from January till the end of July goes to taxes and contributions. Gasoline is now about $7.50 - $8.00 a gallon (I'm not joking). What do governments do with all the money? Here it all seems to disappear into the black hole called the European Union (and politicians' pensions). This "land" (state/province) is closing police stations in order to save money - does that make any sense with the threat of terrorism? And yet the members of the local legislature gave themselves a raise. Many of the Euro-MPs earn more than Bush does.
I agree that many people live beyond their means, but as most of you have pointed out, there are so many people who are working, but don't earn enough to pay for groceries, utilities, housing, or transportation, let alone to put something aside for emergencies. My sister rarely makes it from paycheck to paycheck, although her job pays fairly well (she's an RN), and her s.o. contributes what he can (he's helping to support a couple of his brothers, who are unemployed). She has "borrowed" tens of thousands from my mom over the last two decades, and I've lost count of the times I've had to pay her utility bills, or have bought the kids shoes and clothes.
The whole situation is depressing. No wonder so many people "hate" Bill Gates! At least he gives away a lot of his money.
post #10 of 11
Jcat, I thought Schroeder was hammered in Hamburg elections earlier this year because of his reforms, cut in welfares, increase in payments to healthcare, freeze on pensions.
post #11 of 11
Thread Starter 
Schroeder was hammered, and probably will be in the next local elections, too. However, the opposition CDU and FDP don't have any better answers, and were in fact major contributors to the current misery, as Kohl and his foreign minister, Genscher, made too many concessions to other EU members in an effort to prove what good Europeans they were. The biggest problem here is the aging population (Germany has one of the lowest birth rates in the world). The reforms the SPD is trying to push through are necessary, but the politicians aren't making any sacrifices that would sweeten the bitter pill for the rest of the population. Reunification has also been a tremendous burden, and most of the efforts to stimulate the economy in the "new länder" have failed dismally.
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
  Back to Forum: IMO: In My Opinion
TheCatSite.com › Forums › General Forums › IMO: In My Opinion › Many suburban families going hungry