196th Week Update – Miles Neighborhood Food Collection Project
In the last two weeks of September, Food Banks across the country were promoting and encouraging leaders and ordinary citizens to participate in their Hunger Awareness Program. The idea was to live on the daily food stamp stipend of $4.16 for one week. Of course, there were news articles everywhere covering the pangs of anyone who participated.
The story I read on the Huffington Post featured our very own Mayor Greg Stanton, in Phoenix. It is a good thing to promote the need to help the needy, but my question is why can’t people—in this very expensive country—vicariously understand the struggles of others with no job … or a very low paying job? The truth is, I just don’t understand this empathy deprivation thing at all.
Do people actually have to skip meals and loose 4 pounds to say as Mayor Stanton said, “…people need a job with a living wage?”
And what is a “living wage” anyway?
“About the Living Wage Calculator
Dr. Amy K. Glasmeier and implemented by West Arete.
Eric Schultheis, a doctoral student in the Department of Urban Studies at MIT, collected, processed, and aggregated the site’s data.”
© 2012 Dr. Amy K. Glasmeier and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology”
My Google search quickly found a terrific data-filled website about the “living wage” created by Dr. Amy K. Glasmeier and her team at MIT. The economics of each state is considered including county and city breakouts. The information is extensive and exhausting, I might add. (See chart above to get a taste of what a “living wage” is all about.)
After studying the numbers I realized that a person on food stamps—working 20 hours part time per week—adds only $20.80 to his or her $153.00 gross minimum wage paycheck. That comes to a total of $173.80 per week or $9,037.60 annually. Poverty income is under $11,170* for a single individual.
Even the gross annual income calculated on the “living wage” still does not add up to $10,000 for a single individual working part time. And since part time workers don’t get paid vacations or health care the $10,000 figure is for 52 straight weeks of work.
Then on top of that, part time positions are nearly always kept to the 20-hour limit to avoid paying benefits. Two part time jobs working the maximum hours each week will yield less than $19,000 a year. The poverty level for a family of four is $23,050*.
And when these folks work two part time jobs, they are not just working 40 hours but perhaps 60 because of long bus rides between their home and the different jobs, staying up late or getting up extra early to juggle two different work schedules.
(As an aside, no matter what is said, most folks would rather work and feel good about themselves than take assistance. If you doubt your fellow man or woman wants to work, view this link. From Homeless to Building Homes The story ends with the words, “for once in a long time, they think they are worth something.”)
These minimum wage folks who do the very necessary work of serving us our fast food, or groceries or box store products are often hung out to dry because they are the 47% of Americans locked into the very bottom rung of our society. But if you are like me, you don’t have to be “hung out to dry” to know what that would feel like.
*The Department of Health and Human Services sets poverty income levels.
A “living wage” is a little better than minimum wage but there is still going to be single mothers, veterans, seniors, and just plain disadvantaged folks who won’t be able to support themselves. Right now
46 million Americans rely on SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program)
As Bill Carnegie, President/CEO of the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona wrote in his “From the President” article in this month’s Nourishing News, “I’ve heard the economy is improving, but it’s not apparent at the Community Food Bank. Did you know that more than 77,000 children are at risk of hunger in Southern Arizona? That’s up from 50,000 a couple of years ago.”
With the holidays fast approaching, there is even more urgency to donate food and cash to the food bank.
What the food bank most needs is pictured above. We may call it just basic stuff, but for those hungry kids and parents it is the stuff of life itself.
From One Can to One Community
Sunday, Renée and his wife Barbara, new One Can A Week participants, chased me down in their car and handed me a full paper shopping bag full of cans. A little later, Dan and his wife Therese left me an invitation taped to their can for a “Q & A Session” in their home with Ralph Ellinwood, a candidate running for the TUSD school board. Monday, Jamie called to ask me to include the Broadway Expansion Project in the next neighborhood meeting flyer.
Folks are great at getting involved; they just need something simple to get connected.
We collected a total of 246 lbs. of food. The money we donated amounted to $13.00 in cash.
See you Sunday,