The New York State Department of Labor recently reported that private sector jobs are up and the state added 40,500 jobs in a month. This is good news. However, after factoring in seasonal jobs losses (farming, parks, restaurant employment) our unemployment rate remains about the same as it has for some time-about 8 percent. This is high, and while economists say the worst of the recession is behind is, our economy is still fragile. People are still without jobs, and many are on unemployment. While unemployment covers some cost of living expenses, it by no means covers all.
Further, Census figures released in September reveal that the poverty rate in the state jumped from 14.2 percent in 2008 to 15.8 percent in 2009. This means 284,000 more people are living in poverty, for a total of more than 3 million, according to news reports.
High rates of poverty and unemployment bring greater need for well-stocked food pantries. Hunger is a very serious problem in the United States today. Despite our nation's great wealth, we still have 37 million Americans who rely on emergency food assistance, according to the Food Bank of Central New York, which represents and provides food for a network of food pantries in 11 counties. For the thousands of people who use charitable food programs here in Central New York, hunger shows no bias. According to the Food Bank of Central New York:
37% are children
5% are seniors
63% have a high school or college education
24 % have a family member who works
47% have a household income less than $10,000
In particular, working families are increasingly finding themselves among the ranks of the hungry and far too many regularly face difficult tradeoffs between the essentials of living: paying for food or rent, utilities or healthcare.