Some of us have absolutely no idea what it’s like to have to choose between paying our electric bill or buying groceries to put food on our family’s table. (If you’re reading this post, then it’s likely that you have the “luxury” of being able to afford internet access, although some may argue that it’s a “necessity”; therefore, it’s safe to assume you can’t relate.) Or what it’s like to be an elderly person who has to constantly worry about whether he or she can get the health care needed. Unfortunately, many know all too well how it feels. They live here in our backyard, right here in Grand County.
Let us tell you about a few instances of situational and generational poverty in our community. To hear some of the stories will most likely tug at our hearts, and it should.
Story lines of real situations in Grand County:
- Take this family of four who lives in Grand Lake. Dad has reliable work earning a good wage, while mom stays home with the two kids. (If they don’t make enough to cover their needs, perhaps you’re thinking that the mom should also get a job.) Mom occasionally picks up some cleaning work; however, they cannot afford for mom to work full-time because of childcare costs. They make just enough to NOT qualify for child care subsidies or food stamps. The family needs the community’s assistance with groceries two times a month in order to pay their other household bills. Every 12-14 months, they also ask for rent assistance. Typically this follows, a major car repair or dental need. (We all know how those unplanned expenses in life tend to catch us by surprise and put us into a bit of panic mode, right?)
- Here is a family of five currently living in Kremmling. Mom and dad own a family business but their income depends on weather and available work. They landscape, clear trees, roof, clean houses, and provide handyman work. (Anyone who has spent any time at all in Grand County realizes that weather can be a critical factor that affects their monthly income.) They do qualify for Medicaid because of their family size and household income. Yet, they still need to use the local food pantry weekly so they can offset expenses and pay other bills like rent, utilities, phone, gasoline, etc. In this case, rent assistance is needed to keep this family safely housed. (Imagine for a minute how it would feel if you were this family and you didn’t have the assistance needed to feed your family and put a roof over your heads.)
Both of these situations are classic examples of situational poverty, how either “the system” or circumstances beyond the families’ control does not allow for these two families to be completely self-sufficient. Yet both of these families have the capabilities, and desire, to not only be self-reliant but to actually get ahead to provide a better upbringing for their children.
- Generational poverty is something else that is prevalent in Grand County’s senior community. Most of us probably have an understanding that seniors are on “fixed incomes”, but what does it mean in their real lives? Having a limited income with health issues often means some reliance on the County’s Senior Commodity Food Boxes being provided once a month. Usually, one-time rent, mortgage or utility support is requested, especially, if a health factor has reduced a senior’s income. The scary part is that not only in Grand County but across the nation, the senior population continues to grow and this demographic continues to have limited resources for limited incomes.
What resources are available in our County to help families and individuals in need?
This is where the Mountain Family Center comes into play. As a nonprofit that has been helping Grand County residents for 38 years, they focus on building strength and self-reliance for individuals and families through responsive and collaborative services.
For people facing poverty, hunger is just one issue. To highlight just one of the many valuable services Mountain Family Center offers, let’s talk briefly about Hunger Relief. This service provides three to five days’ worth of food to folks to prepare nutritious meals and snacks. So far this year, they have had an astounding 2,768 visits to their door and that number continues to grow each and every year. If you’d like to be WOWed some more by the benefit Mountain Family Center is to our little, mountain community, here are Mountain Family Center’s 2017 Program Numbers to date with comparisons to the past two years.
How does Grand County compare to the rest of the state? Let us give you the facts.
Together, federal nutrition programs and the charitable food system weave a comprehensive nutrition safety net reaching food insecure individuals at different income levels and in different settings. Here are some noteworthy figures to point out about Grand County specifically in comparison to the rest of our state, as reported by the FeedingAmerica.org 2015 Overall Food Insecurity Data.
- In 2014, the Food Insecurity Rate was 12.4% for the County and 12.9% for the state.
- In 2015, the Food Insecurity Rate was 12.6% for the County and 12.2% for the state.
The statistics show that Grand County’s Food Insecurity has grown, and was higher than the state’s rate at the last official calculation. Mountain Family Center’s numbers reflect that need as well, serving just over 1,850 people in 2015. Now, look at the chart again. From a population of 14,411 for Grand County in 2015, the estimated number of food insecure individuals was 1,820. Coincidence? Or is perhaps Mountain Family Center filling that gap? Interestingly enough, the Census always places poverty at less than 10% for Grand County. In talking to Helen Sedlar, long-time executive director of Mountain Family Center, she feels that the food insecurity rate is more reflective of the needs in our community. Wouldn’t you agree?
What does success look like for those who benefit from Mountain Family Center’s services?
“It typically takes our clients 6-8 times to succeed after a setback,” says Helen. “Typically when our clients have another setback, they don’t get knocked back as far, and get back on their feet to regain the stability in their household.” With each step in the right direction, their clients’ resiliency shines through. “Mountain Family Center is here not only to provide necessary services to individuals and families in need but to coach and encourage these individuals to help them become self-reliant.” Anyone who knows Helen knows she is being genuine when she says, “Nothing makes me happier than to see a smile on a client’s face as they tell me how the Mountain Family Center’s resources and staff helped them get – and stay – on their feet.” And yes, as you suspected, there are usually hugs involved.