ROCHESTER, Minn. – U.S. consumer confidence may be at its highest level in the past 15 years, but a recent survey is showing an increase in the number of people struggling to put food on the table.
The U.S. Conference of Mayors surveyed 25 major cities and found 41% of them reported an increase in demand for emergency food assistance. We wanted to find out if the largest city in our area was noting that trend as well.
The Channel One Regional Food Bank serves around 3,400 families each month throughout Olmsted County. The Executive Director Jennifer Woodford tells us while they’re not seeing a huge increase in demand, there is a steady stream of new people coming into the system and needing help from the food shelf.
“What we’re not seeing is a decrease, and our economy is continuing to get better. So one would hope that we would see a decline in service; we are not seeing a decline in service which is essentially almost like an increase in clients,” Woodford says.
She says there are three main reasons why folks are struggling to fit food into their budgets locally; a lack of affordable housing, transportation issues, and a lack of quality and affordable child care.
“There are so few places [in a monthly budget] you can cut,” she adds. “When you’re already paying 30% or more of your income for your rent or your mortgage, which so many of our families, especially low-income families are doing, that really causes a problem in the family’s budget in a month.”
The national survey found slow wage growth and higher rents are the main factors leading to the rise in hunger.
Of the clients using Channel One, Woodford says a majority of them are currently employed.
“80-85% of people who are working every day and doing their best to make ends meet still need a little bit of help,” she says. “It’s because of those other three things that are going on in our community and communities all across the country, certainly we’re not unique in this area.”
Nationally, around half of those applying for food assistance are employed.
Of the 25 cities surveyed by the U.S. Conference of Mayors, Des Moines, IA reported the largest increase, with 15% more requests for food help.