CAMBRIDGE, Minn. — There is a new face in town. It is called hunger. It has taken on a new look.
The old face of hunger was lower-income families or generational-poverty families. Generational poverty means a person who has grown up in poverty and now as an adult lives in poverty. This group of people knows the “system.” They know whom to go to for help. They know what agencies help with what programs. They know whom to call and where food shelves are located. They are living paycheck to paycheck and are not having their needs met by those paychecks. This is the life they know.
Welcome the new face of hunger: They are often middle-aged people who have been turning their thoughts toward retirement in the next 5 to10 years. They never would have believed they were going to be in this position. They grew up without ever thinking, “I need help.” They never knew anything about food shelves. Their family, when they were growing up, did well and lived comfortably.
For this new face, some have children who have grown and started their own families and are struggling, as many young families do. Some do not have parents any longer to rely on for help. This new face has been laid off, is possibly losing his or her home, and has exhausted all savings. In some cases, both adults in the household have been laid off.
Embarrassed — and lacking knowledge of services
They are very embarrassed this has happened to them. They have no idea where to turn for help or what help is available to them. They are hopeful that next month will bring a solution for them. Unfortunately, this may not happen. In today’s economy, a second interview no longer means you have the job. Jobs are hard to come by and this new face is used to making more than entry-level wages.
We need to help both the old and new face out of their situation, to encourage them to ask for help, to let them know it is OK to use the food shelf.
Please consider stepping up and contributing. Ways to do this would be:
• Contribute food or money to help your local shelf.
• Give a gift to the local food shelf in honor or memory of someone instead of birthday cards, anniversary cards, or memorials.
• Plant extra this spring and share your garden produce with the food shelf. Clients love homegrown vegetables and fruits just like you do.
• Buy one, get one free — consider donating that free item.
• Buy 10 for $10.00 — if you do not need all 10, donate some of those 10 items.
• Collect food when you meet for cards, at work, or in your neighborhood. What you donate does not have to be a lot every time.
• Consider volunteering at your local food shelf. With many more clients coming, the need for more volunteers is great.
Please help those in need. Many of us need your help, and especially right now. Our economic recovery is not yet in sight.
Kathy Wills is the basic life services manager for Family Pathways, a grassroots, community-based service agency based in Cambridge, Minn. Family Pathways serves communities in Chisago, Isanti, Pine, Kanabec and Mille Lacs counties and has expanded in response to needs in the communities of East Central Minnesota, including the city of Forest Lake.