Poll shows Monroe County parents are struggling to afford food and housing
Parents across Monroe County are struggling to afford food, housing, mental health care, and enrichment opportunities for their children, according to poll results released Wednesday by The Children’s Agenda.
The advocacy group interviewed 600 Monroe County parents for the poll. Foodlink President and CEO Julia Tedesco said during a news conference Wednesday that the results were “troubling, but they’re certainly not shocking.”
Foodlink has seen a 120% increase in visits to food pantries within its network over the past three years.
“We know hunger is not simply about a lack of food,” Tedesco said. “It's about poverty and a lack of cash. That's why we are seeing the sharp increase at Foodlink. We've spent more money in the last year on emergency food than ever before in our 45-year history.”
Among the poll’s findings:
- 78% of families with annual incomes below $50,000 and 41% of families with annual incomes between $50,000 and $100,000 ration food so they don’t run out before their next paycheck. Half of lower-income parents reported skipping meals so their children can eat, a figure that falls to 29% among middle-income parents.
- 76% of households with incomes below $50,000 reported that finding housing with manageable rents or mortgages was a challenge.
- Half of Monroe County children under 13 qualify for child care assistance, but 41% of parents said they know it’s available. Only 15% of parents think their family would be eligible.
Danielle Jones is a case manager for Excellus, a licensed mental health counselor, and a mother of two. She said she works a minimum of 55 to 60 hours a week to make ends meet and she’s had to ration food and make difficult decisions about paying for her children’s basic needs or paying for activities and experiences she knows would benefit them.
But, she noted, there is little financial assistance available to her because she earns too much from her jobs.
“I dream of the day where I don't have to work two jobs to provide for my children,” Jones said, “the day where I can be more present with them, give them my full attention, not the tired, overworked version of me. Where they can try whatever activities they want to try, where their development can be fostered, where they can be exposed to more enriching activities. Children deserve to be raised by a happy, present peaceful parent.”
Larry Marx, CEO of the Children’s Agenda, said state lawmakers could take several actions to help support struggling families, such as expanding child tax credits, enacting a housing voucher program to help families cover rent, and taking steps to make child care more affordable.
“We think it's really important that policymakers be aware of what parents have to say, and the barriers that they're facing in their life, and the solutions that they need in the way of funding and policy changes,” Marx said.