Phil Knight is the executive director of the Food Bank Council of Michigan
Have you ever considered the unintended consequences of a school closure during these record low temperatures in Michigan? Have you considered the ramifications on the students who don’t have the financial stability for a nutritious meal?
Over the past few weeks, when temperatures were freezing and schools across the state were closed, there were children in Michigan who went without meals.
Michigan’s poverty rate of 15.8 percent is far higher than the national average, meaning one in every five kids in communities across our state lives in poverty. I find it staggering and unacceptable that 437,100 children experience food insecurity. To put this in a scenario for you, that’s enough children to fill Spartan Stadium nearly six times.
Levels of self-sufficiency are currently determined using the half-century-old Federal Poverty Guidelines. It accounts for food in a household and does not consider other life expenses. The Federal Poverty Guidelines are old, inaccurate and in need of replacement.
That is why the Food Bank Council of Michigan commissioned a Self-Sufficiency Standard (SSS) that ensures the best data and analyses are available to enable Michigan families and individuals to make progress toward real economic security. The standard calculates how much income a family must earn in order to meet basic needs, including housing, child care, food, health care, transportation, miscellaneous expenses and taxes.
Of course, this amount varies based on the family makeup and where they live. A single parent with two kids living in Kent County has one customized standard while a two-parent family with one child in Genesee County has another.
We must find solutions to end food insecurity in Michigan. Let’s collaborate with stakeholders and Michigan’s unified food bank network to prove that hunger is not better, not stronger, and not smarter than us.
Let’s create policies that are consistent and supportive of work opportunities and reward people for their industry rather than trap them in poverty. Currently, our hungry neighbors are weighed down by lofty expectations, unsupported requirements and the toxic stress of never earning enough.
The Self-Sufficiency Standard helps us to work with local and statewide officials, educating them on basic needs that the residents of Michigan require to support their families. We must close the gap between current wages and the Self-Sufficiency Standard by reducing costs and raising wages.
We must all work together to close that gap. In the meantime, please donate or volunteer at a local food bank in your area.