Sunday, August 19, 2012

Ocean County poverty rate on the rise

Food bank, grocer partner to feed poor
(Asbury Park Press)

TOMS RIVER — The poverty rate in Ocean County has nearly doubled over the past decade, according to the FoodBank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties.
Citing data from the 2010 U.S. Census, the number of Ocean County residents categorized as poor is estimated at 62,634, about 11 percent of the population. That figure is up from 34,792 residents or 6.7 percent of the population in 2000.
More so, the number of children living in Ocean County who are below the poverty line has more than doubled since 2000. There were 25,690 children considered poor in 2010, compared with 12,543 children 10 years earlier, according to the Census data.
On Tuesday, Peapod by Stop & Shop, an online supermarket that offers home delivery of groceries to more than 70 percent of New Jersey households, teamed with Mayor Thomas F. Kelaher to make a special donation of $500 in groceries to Your Grandmother’s Cupboard.
John Kane, president of the Toms River chapter of Your Grandmother’s Cupboard, a local food bank, said the cause goes beyond the current 9.6 percent unemployment rate in New Jersey, which is 1.4 percent higher than the national average of 8.2 percent. Ocean County’s unemployment rate is 10.5 percent, almost one percent higher than the state average and 2.3 percent higher than the national average, according to the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development.
Even county residents with jobs and senior citizens receiving Social Security and other benefits are seeking help from nonprofit charities because their incomes are simply not keeping pace with the cost of living, Kane said.
“Lyndon Johnson declared war on poverty in 1964 and that war has not been won. (Poverty is) getting more and more prevalent,” he said. “More and more people are coming into our organization, sitting down, crying, because it’s their first time they’ve ever had to experience that kind of thing.”
Peapod and Kelaher delivered food that equated to more than 200 meals on Tuesday morning.
Kelaher said organizations such as Your Grandmother’s Cupboard, which is a nonprofit Christian ministry, fills a gap in the social safety net when government is unable to meet the increased demands caring for its most vulnerable residents.
“The municipality cannot afford to do all these good things that these people do,” Kelaher said. “Unfortunately, the volume of work that Your Grandmother’s Cupboard does does not speak well for our society in the sense that so many people need that help. But it’s good that it’s available to help people and it demonstrates a real charitable bent on the part of the community.”
The mayor said when a major company such as Peapod by Stop & Shop comes in to make a donation it’s a reason to single them out for their corporate philanthropy and for which he, as mayor, is grateful.
Kane said the Food Bank of Monmouth and Ocean counties delivered 7.1 million pounds of food between July 1, 2011, and June 30, 2012, to more than 200 local area food pantries and expects that number to increase to 12 million pounds in the next five years.
“We have to turn this economy around and get people back to work. That’s why there’s more and more demand for our services,” Kane said.

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