The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

Local News

October 14, 2012

Working people still seek help

DANVILLE — Judy Johnson has worked in, volunteered at and donated to food pantries in the past. That’s why she wasn’t embarrassed when she found herself actually having to use one.

“It didn’t bother me to use the food pantry because I knew the spirit in which the donations were given,” said Johnson, whose name has been changed to protect her privacy. Johnson, 49, added it didn’t bother her because she had faith that her situation would be temporary.

Chuck Brooks, director of the Danville Area Food Pantry, said he is seeing more first-timers coming into his food pantry.

“People always say, ‘Well, who are these people? Is it someone getting public assistance?’” Brooks said.

“It’s everybody,” Brooks said. He also said a lot of pantry-users are working.

The U.S. Census Bureau reported that in 2010, almost 1 in 10 American families included at least one person who was working, yet their family was still considered poor. That translates into more than 20 million people who live in “working poor” families.

Johnson is a testament to that. Even after she landed a part-time job, she still had to use the food pantries until her husband found work.

In fact, for a family of two adults, the wage it takes for one person to support his or her family in Vermilion County is estimated at $12.69 per hour, according to an online website, the Living Wage Calculator.

“A good percentage of the people (who use the food pantry) are working part-time, or full-time at less than a living wage,” Brooks said. “Minimum wage is not a living wage. You can’t feed a family of four making minimum wage.”

In Illinois, the minimum wage is $8.25 per hour. However, the wage it takes for one adult to support three children in Vermilion County is more than triple that. For that particular family of four, the living wage is estimated at $27.58 per hour, according to the Living Wage Calculator.

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