With recent news about a possible economic upturn in the Tampa Bay area is there really a need for what the Kaye Prox Food Bank does? Even with the unemployment rate dropping, the food bank has shown a marked increase in visits to the food bank. Comparing first four months of 2012 and 2013, there is a 66% increase in the number of families who came to us for help.
Why? Although there has been recent job growth, nearly 100,000 individuals in the Tampa Bay area still remain out of work. Last year when we surveyed our families, 46% indicated that they were unemployed while another 31% were on fixed incomes—generally social security or disability. Doing the math, nearly 80% of those who come to us for help are not working.
In January 2012, Feeding America released facts about hunger in Florida. The press release reported that in Hillsborough County 17.2% of people, including 28% of children, had “food insecurity”. That means about 36,000 residents of the seven zip codes the food bank serves were members of families who were “hungry, or at risk of hunger,” or faced “a financial juggling act, where sometimes the food ball gets dropped.”
Many of the working poor who come to us are paid minimum wage. In 2012 the average Fair Market Rent for a 2-bedroom apartment and utilities in Hillsborough County was $965 and rents have increased since then. The head of a 4-member household working for minimum wage would take home about $289 per week or $1251 per month. Rent and utilities alone would require 74% of the family’s income. To pay only the recommended 30% of income for “affordable housing”, the family would need to have 2.4 full-time jobs or 1 job with nearly a 100 hr workweek! When the percent of income for housing increases, the amount available for food decreases.
But, what about food stamps? In 2012, the average Florida benefit per person per month in the SNAP program (formerly called, “food stamps”) was $139—down from both 2010 and 2011. That’s about $1.54 per meal or $4.63 a day for each person. Based on average food prices last month in Tampa, it would cost $7.92 per person for 2000 calories of nutritious food a day. SNAP benefits don’t last most participants the whole month. 90% of SNAP benefits are redeemed by the third week of the month. That’s often when families visit food pantries. In addition, 58% of food bank clients currently receiving SNAP benefits turn to food banks for assistance at least 6 months out of the year. In addition, SNAP benefits are scheduled to be reduced this coming November. A family of 4 will see their benefits reduced by $25 per month, the equivalent of losing 4 meals each week.
A decrease in the unemployment rate in the Tampa Bay region is certainly good news. But, until that good news has a direct impact on the families we serve, our mission remains imperative--"Called by Jesus Christ as God's people to serve God's people, the Kaye Prox Food Bank provides emergency food and other assistance to needy individuals, families, the elderly, and homeless persons in our community."
Even as the need for our services has increased, monetary donations have decreased by more than 15%.
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FOOD BANK RECEIVES GRANT
The food bank is excited to announce that we have received a grant from the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay. This Competitive Grant award for $4004 will support our Healthy Summer Project to provide the families we serve--and especially the children--with fresh, healthy foods during the summer months when school is not in session. With these funds, the food bank will be able to purchase additional fresh fruits, vegetables and eggs. Many thanks to the Foundation for its generous support—particularly in this time of increased need. [See Is There Really a Need?]