Franklin County’s poverty rate increased significantly from 2011 to 2012, and local charities say they are seeing more need.
Census data released last week shows that incomes in Franklin County have gone down, and the percentage of people without health insurance has risen.
The county’s estimated poverty rate in 2012 was 16.2 percent compared to 8.5 percent in 2011.
“I think a lot of people are alarmed with that number,” said Sandy Crider, executive director of Loving Hearts in Washington.
The increased need is putting stress on the charity’s food supplies, Crider said.
Likewise, Dana Gorzik, administrative coordinator of Meramec Community Mission in Sullivan, said she is also seeing more people in need for food and utility assistance.
She said her charity is “falling short” of meeting needs for utility assistance.
There are a lack of jobs, and people are concerned about possible cuts to food stamps, Gorzik said.
Kim Strubberg, executive director of the Franklin County Area United Way, said she has “absolutely” seen an increase in the amount of people calling for help. The biggest needs she hears about are rent and utility assistance, she added.
“People are still hurting from the recession,” Strubberg said.
The Union Food Pantry also expects to serve more families this year compared to last.
At the end of August, the pantry had served 1,291 families this year, for a total of 3,514 adults and children.
“That’s a lot of families that we’ve served,” said Union Food Pantry volunteer Jan Brennan. “Our need has really grown.”
The pantry is serving an average of 18 new families per month, she added.
“I think a lot of our clients can’t get employment,” Brennan said, adding that some are senior citizens on fixed incomes. Food and gas prices keep going up, Brennan said.
As for the poverty rate being 16.2 percent, Brennan said, “I think that’s quite high.” The poverty rate has a margin of error of +/-3.7 percent.
Food for Children
Loving Hearts has established two new programs to provide children with food while they are out of school, Crider said.
In the summer, Loving Hearts was running a program that allowed children to get a box of food each week with a voucher.
Now that school has started back, Loving Hearts is making sure children don’t go without food on weekends. The program is being offered in all 10 of the Washington School District schools after a pilot program was done with six schools last year, Crider noted.
Now the Union School District is doing a pilot program, she said.
Children need to be well fed so they come to school ready to learn. When they are at school they can get free and reduced lunch, but Loving Hearts wants to make sure they have food when they are not in school, too.
“We can’t expect these children to learn when they are food-deprived,” Crider said.
United Way Drive
This is a good year to donate to the United Way’s fund-raising campaign, Crider said, adding that the United Way supports Loving Hearts. By supporting United Way, people are also supporting Loving Hearts, Crider noted.
Strubberg said donations should be made by Oct. 31.
Agencies request more money from the United Way than what is available. For instance, Strubberg said the United Way is distributing $791,000 to agencies this year, but there were “well over” $1 million in funding requests.
The Franklin County Area United Way’s 2014 campaign seeks to raise $1,000,060, in honor of the local agency’s 60th anniversary.
She expects that once again the applications for funding will exceed the amount of money available.
“Every dollar makes such a huge difference,” Strubberg said, adding that the local community is very generous.
The new Census data shows that the estimated median household income in Franklin County fell from $52,127 in 2008 to $42,214 in 2012. And the percentage of people without health insurance rose from an estimated 9.3 percent in 2008 to 13.1 percent in 2012.
“You’ve got people falling through the cracks,” Crider said.
While the recession may be technically over, people in Franklin County are still in need, she said. Some people who lost jobs that paid well are now working two part-time minimum-wage jobs, Crider added.
Unemployment benefits have run out for some, and they don’t have health insurance, she said. All it takes is one emergency for a family with no savings to be put into a desperate situation, Crider said, adding, “They’ve sold everything they can.”
Canned foods such as spaghetti and meatballs, ravioli and tuna are needed as well as macaroni and cheese, canned chicken, milk, chicken and rice, soup and cans of fruit.
“We are trying to make sure we get nutritious food,” she said.
Clothes, dishes, pots and pans are also needed.
Every $10 buys 100 pounds of food, and Crider said Loving Hearts gives about 60,000 pounds of food each month.
“We are not government funded; we are community funded,” Crider said.