Fearful Symmetries

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23 April, 2010

Madison Poverty: The Food Pantry Addendum

My post yesterday on poverty in Madison drew comments from a foodie named Jenna. In it she said, "Madison has the LOWEST unemployment rate of any city in Wisconsin at 7% right now - take a look at Janesville in comparison at 12%. I know that poverty and unemployment are not the same thing, but it is an indicator..." The idea was that since Madison has a low unemployment rate, poverty and the disparity between the have and have nots here is probably not greater than it was in the past.

Today the Daily Cardinal posted an article called "Food pantries struggle for resources". Here are some important parts:

Food pantries are valuable resources that continue to feel a strain on their services, in large part because of the ailing economy. Over the last several years, St. Vincent de Paul, the largest food pantry in Dane County, has seen many people using its services for the first time.

Second Harvest Foodbank of Southern Wisconsin, a private, nonprofit organization that distributes food to 16 counties in southwestern Wisconsin, including Dane County, has also been stretched in terms of fundraising, according to Dan Stein, its president and CEO.

According to a hunger study compiled every four years on both a national and state level, Second Harvest had formerly served an estimated 78,000 unique people per year. Today that number has increased to 141,000, of which about 43 percent are children.

According to Chris Brockel, food and gardens manager at Community Action Coalition, also a nonprofit organization, 65 percent of all households—including seniors and people with disabilities—who visit food pantries in Dane County have at least one working person.

“It’s not that they’re not working, they’re just not getting paid enough for a living wage,” he said. “People who visit pantries spend 50 percent of wages on their household, including paying bills, and this is too much.”

The emphases here are mine. They correlate to a statistic I cited yesterday which is that 50% of students in the Madison public schools are receiving subsidized lunches and my reply to Jenna, who I would add is sensitive to the issues here, which was that being employed according to the government doesn't mean you're not poor or not having problems putting food on the table. Poverty is increasing here in Madison and southwestern Wisconsin generally. As I noted in my review of Eric Klinenberg's Heat Wave yesterday, I perceive that Madison is adopting a "big city" attitude that poverty is acceptable and simply a part of urban life and the struggles of area food pantries in light of a proliferation of stores and restaurants proffering expensive organic/locally-sourced foods reinforces this notion.
|| Palmer, 10:17 AM


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