By TRENTON JOHNSON
Capital News Service
LANSING—Almost one in five Michigan residents relies on food assistance as another measure to survive in these times of economic struggle.
People are also using a variety of other measures to make ends meet, including cash assistance and unemployment benefits.
What led to the increase in food assistance cases?
Laura Porter-Keller, manager of the Feeding America West Michigan Food Bank in Comstock Park, said, “Families are having a difficult time. People are losing jobs and they have nothing to replace the job that they lost. They have nowhere else to turn.”
What is food assistance?
Christina Fecher, media relations and online communications specialist for the Department of Human Services, said the Food Assistance Program supplements the food purchasing power of low-income individuals and families.
Fecher said eligibility depends on a household’s financial situation. All people who live together and purchase and prepare food together are considered members of the same food assistance group.
There are other government and nonprofit programs that provide food assistance as well.
They include the Adult and Child Care Program for nonresidential child care and Michigan’s Coordinated Access to Food for the Elderly provides eligible people with money to buy food. Project FRESH provides fruits and vegetables from farmers’ markets to women, infants and children who are nutritionally at risk.
The Food Banks Council of Michigan includes 10 member food banks that gather food and money to stock their shelves to serve people in need.
Meals on Wheels is a nonprofit volunteer-based service that delivers meals to homebound senior citizens.
The use of food assistance in the state has increased over the past year.
Sharon Parks, president of the Michigan League for Human Services, said, “Caseloads increased by 30 percent since last year, bringing the total caseload to 885,070 for the second quarter, with 18.1 percent of the state’s population receiving food assistance.”
The league is a nonprofit nonpartisan organization dedicated to ensuring that low-income residents achieve economic security.
Parks said in Alpena County, the total food assistance rate rose from 17.7 percent of residents in the second quarter of 2009 to 20.7 percent in the same period in 2010. In Emmet County, it rose from 12.3 percent to 14.1 percent. In Grand Traverse County, it went from 11.9 percent to 14 percent.
In Cheboygan County, it rose from 16.4 to 19.5 percent and in Wexford County, it rose from 22.9 percent to 24.6 percent.
© 2010, Capital News Service, Michigan State University School of Journalism. Not to be reproduced without permission.