Oct 28, 2009

More and more people visit local food pantries each week

Like a lot of people, Norma Cooper is worried about how her family is going to make it through the winter.
She and her husband live in Athens County on a fixed income, and they have a large family to support. Not all of the children still live at home, but some do and now there are grandchildren to help take care of, too.
Norma and her husband live on a little over $1,100 a month, and have a difficult time paying their bills. They heat their home with propane, and Norma knows it is going to be hard to pay for propane this winter, in addition to paying the other costs.
She is one of the hundreds of Athens County residents who benefit from the Lottridge Community Choice Food Center in Lottridge. Norma, along with two of her children and one grandchild, were at the center recently to enjoy the weekly free lunch and pick up some supplies.
The center provides a free meal at noon every Wednesday, in addition to providing food boxes, clothing, health care information and a wide range of services for area residents in need.
Lisa Roberts, director of the center, said that as more and more people fall into hard times in southeast Ohio, the number of new visitors to the facility increases every week. She often sees more than 100 families at food pantry and free lunch events, and said the lines include people who have never had to visit food pantries before.
Norma and her husband, for example, have always worked hard and provided for their family. Today, though, his health problems and the fact that they are getting older has them on a tight, fixed income where they are forced to rely on assistance programs and facilities such as the Lottridge Community Choice Food Center.
“It’s really great. It helps us out a lot,” Cooper said.
Jenny Lance volunteers at the center, and also brings her children along to work.
“I love to help,” Jenny said. “It’s not like a job. It’s just helping people.” One of her older children lives on his own and is getting by, but has no insurance and no money to pay for the medical care he needs, Jenny explained. Her son, like many people with no insurance, does not take care of different health problems as he should, simply because he can’t afford it, she said.
She sees people at the center every week who have no health insurance and do not have enough money to pay their bills. Jenny added that too many people today are forced to make choices people should never have to make, such as choosing between buying and medicine or buying food, or deciding between buying food for their pets or paying their utility bills.
And while Jenny and her family face their own struggles in paying all of the bills, she enjoys helping out at the Lottridge Community Choice Food Center.
Southeast Ohio residents and people and all across the country are facing desperate times today, but when area residents stop in at the Lottridge facility, they are able to relax, visit with each other and get a few things that they need in order to help them make it through another month.

Oct 21, 2009

New report, "TANF: Failing America's Poorest Children," released

At a time when the federal government is giving banks $700 billion in bailout funds, our country has 6.3 million children living in extreme poverty and we are doing little to help them.
The updated report, “TANF: Failing America’s Poorest Children,” details how cash assistance and food programs are underfunded and do not get families up to even half of the federal poverty level. Shockingly, over the last 11 years, only three states have increased their cash assistance funding to keep up with cost of living increases, and 23 states have not increased their cash assistance funding levels at all.
In Ohio, more than 160,000 children currently rely on the Ohio Works First cash assistance program. At the same time, Ohio has nearly 245,000 children who are living in extreme poverty, which means their family income is at or below 50 percent of the federal poverty level.
Welfare reform placed strict requirements on families receiving public assistance. But this newly-released report shows how people on public assistance fall further behind every year while our government actually reduces cash assistance funding in some states and turns its back on poor people all across America. Government leaders often argue that they do not have the money to increase TANF funding or other programs to help poor people. They say they have to make “tough choices,” but the choices almost always leave poor children out in the cold. Meanwhile, the government chooses to spend money in other areas:
· Financial institutions are allowed to hand out billions of dollars of the federal bailout money to pay for bonuses and special compensation for employees.
· The federal government chose to use more than $17 billion to bailout the auto industry. That $17 billion is more than the entire annual federal appropriation for the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program.
· States such as Ohio have chosen in recent years to roll back income taxes at a time when state budgets are losing money and welfare programs that poor families rely on are being cut.
· The federal government just chose to spend $79 million to see if there is water on the moon, while families all across the country don’t have water in their own homes.
The assistance programs that are supposed to help our neighbors are failing miserably simply because our government won’t adequately fund these programs. Too many families are going hungry. Too many children are living in extreme poverty. We need to greatly increase the funding for programs to help poor people. We need to choose to do the right thing.