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You are Viewing an Archived IssuePosted: 09/18/13
More Michigan families
enduring food insecurity
by CHRIS GRAYNational data show more people are having problems feeding their families, though local families are starting to see a recovery from their food insecurity.
Observer Staff Writer
The latest information from the U.S. Department of Agriculture shows 200,000 Michigan households experienced food insecurity in 2012, while statewide reports indicate residents are having a harder time affording such necessities.
The report, released this month, considers food security a reduced quality, value or desirability of a diet or multiple indications of disrupted eating patterns and food intake.
According to the report, 13.4 percent of Michigan households were food insecure in 2010 to 2012, the same percentage seen from 2007 to 2009. This is up from 9.2 percent in 2000 to 2002.
Karen Holcomb-Merrill, policy director of the Michigan League for Public Policy, said the numbers show a 45 percent jump in food insecurity over the past decade.
"Too many Michigan families struggle to make ends meet with nearly one in every seven households experiencing food insecurity,'' she said.
Nationally, the report shows an estimated 14.5 percent of American households were food insecure at some point in 2012. This is the highest recorded percentage since national monitoring began in 1995.
Holcomb-Merrill said continued support by legislators of the Food Assistance Program helps give Americans a lifeline when feeding themselves or their families.
At the local level, the numbers tell a slightly better tale. According to the non-profit Feeding America, 14 percent of Macomb County residents were food insecure in 2011, down from 15.4 percent in 2010.
Pamela Zendt, executive director of the Samaritan House, said this year marks the first time since 2004 that the non-profit organization isn't experiencing an increase in the number of families receiving food assistance.
"I think we're seeing a smidgen of a level-off," she said. "It's not necessarily a decline, but over the last four months we're not experiencing the growth rate we've been seeing."
The Samaritan House provides food and utility services to families and individuals in the greater Romeo area. As of Aug. 31, the Samaritan House was assisting 210 families with food. As of Aug. 31, 2012, the number of families served was closer to 240.
The Samaritan House spent $111,800 on food for its clients as of the end of August. Not counting produce or baked goods, $119,200 was collected in food donations to fill a total of 2,516 food orders.
"That is a lot, and we're only serving the northwestern corner of Macomb County," she said. "Even though people are going back to work, there is still a huge need for the Samaritan House."
Working hard to work
Zendt said many clients are gaining employment, but problems arise when they don't earn enough money to maintain their households. She said a few hours missed at work can force these families to choose between buying groceries or paying the rent.
"They're living paycheck to paycheck," she said. "That is what you'll be seeing in the future more and more."
In a report titled "Labor Day Report: Michigan's Paycheck Blues," the Michigan League for Public Policy states that most workers in Michigan saw a decline in the earning power of their wages in the past 30 years.
For instance, those making the median wage of $15.89 an hour can purchase 7 percent less with their earnings than median wage earners in 1982.
The report shows 28.5 percent of Michigan workers in 2011 didn't earn a wage high enough ($22,891) to bring a family of four out of poverty. This is the highest "poverty wage" level since 1993.
The report suggests that Michigan raise the minimum wage to help alleviate the problem, supporting state legislation that would raise minimum wage to $10 an hour by 2016.