A survey in 2005 revealed that over 58,000 people received support from local food pantries and meal sites in northern Nevada. Many people assume that these people must just be the homeless who are unwilling to work. But a key finding of the survey showed that the problem was related to stagnant low wages and a dramatic increase in the cost of living.
The data revealed that 35 percent of families using food assistance had to make a choice between paying rent or buying food. Those living below or at the poverty line (two parents with two children making $1,612.50 per month or less) made up 61 percent of the users. If you include families earning just 30 percent above the poverty line it accounted for 81 percent of those seeking food assistance.
The Economic Policy institute found that a basic family budget in Nevada for a family of four in 2004 actually needed to be $39,904 per year or $3,325 per month. That is about twice the poverty level. What this means is that in Nevada, if you are earning twice the poverty level, you still might not be able to make ends meet.
So what are we doing about the hungry here in Sparks and Reno? One organization, the Food Bank of Northern Nevada, is providing food to those in need. The Food Bank is a central depository for government and donated food. I just toured their facility in Sparks last Friday. It is a very impressive organization that is directly helping those in need of food.
The Food Bank has direct service programs that provide free after-school meals for children and summer meals through its Kid’s Café. Through its Back-Pack program, kids can get food for the weekends when school meals are unavailable. The Food Bank is also a generous supplier of food to local church pantries and soup kitchens. Two-thirds of the people served by the Food Bank are either children or seniors.
But the problem of hunger isn’t going away, it is getting worse. With the recent downturn in the local economy, the number of families needing food will rise even higher. The Food Bank is looking to expand its services and reach more of those in need. But just like any epidemic, we not only need to find a cure but we also need to prevent the outbreak in the first place. If families could make a livable wage they wouldn’t have to choose between paying the rent or getting food. People are willing to work, but that doesn’t necessarily get them out of poverty. If we are truly the greatest nation on Earth, then no one should be going hungry. But it’s happening right here in Sparks.
For information on how to get involved in feeding the hungry, contact the Food Bank of Northern Nevada at (775)331-3663. Our community needs your support.
Jeff Blanck is a lawyer in private practice in Reno. He can be reached at: email@example.com.