Thursday, September 5, 2013

Nearly one in seven Michigan households face hunger

More than a half-million Michigan households reported serious problems affording adequate nutritious food at some point last year, according to new data released Thursday (9.5) by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Those included some 200,000 Michigan households that experienced very low food security – meaning that one or more household members had to reduce their food intake at least some time during the year.

Overall, the number of Americans facing food insecurity in 2012 stayed the same this year with 17.6 million households, 14.5 percent, of the total population, nationwide.

In Michigan 13.4 percent of households was food insecure in 2010-2012, the same as 2007-2009. Food insecurity, however, has jumped dramatically from 9.2 percent of households in 2000-2002.

Data for Oakland and Macomb county residents was not broken out by the researchers.

“Too many Michigan families struggle to make ends meet with nearly one in every seven households experiencing food insecurity,’’ said Karen Holcomb-Merrill, policy director of the Michigan League for Public Policy.

“We’ve had more than a 45 percent jump in food insecurity over a decade. Despite a slow economic recovery, it’s clear that food assistance is so very vital to millions of families, seniors, people with disabilities and unemployed Americans.”

One of the most powerful weapons against hunger is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, also called the Food Assistance Program in Michigan. Some 1.8 million people in Michigan participate in SNAP and use its benefits to help put a basic diet on the table each day.

SNAP benefits are modest, providing less than $1.50 per person, per meal. Even so, they have a significant impact in reducing poverty. In 2011 alone, SNAP helped to lift 5.7 million Americans, including 2.1 children out of poverty, based on the federal government’s Supplemental Poverty Measure.

The new data are yet another indication that the economy still has not yet fully recovered from the deep recession and that millions of families continue to struggle with job loss, reduced wages, and poverty.

Jerry Wolffe is the Advocate-at-Large/Writer in Residence at the Macomb-Oakland Regional Center. He can be reached at 586-263-8950.

Grants turn wishes into reality for those with disabilities

Bretton Robb and his brother, Gregory, both of Pontiac, couldn’t believe it when they learned their shared dream of going to a WWE event and seeing wrestlers compete in Joe Louis Arena was to come true.

Bretton and his pre-teen brother, Gregory, “stared at the tickets in disbelief when they were shown to them,” said Teri Donaldson, the executive director of The Futures Foundation, which provides grants to people with disabilities who receive services from the Macomb-Oakland Regional Center which has office in Clinton Township and Auburn Hills.

“GG (Gregory) clapped and laughed and Bretton just stared at the tickets with a big smile,” Donaldson said. “Bretton promised to send me a video of the Sept. 15.”

Recipients of Futures Foundation grants – which are given out the first of May, August and November -- are chosen by a committee made up of MORC employees.

Bill Barron of Holly, never went fishing. He received money to go to Camp Skyline in Almont in Macomb County where he’d had the chance to catch the first fish of his life.

He attended camp from June 9 to June 13. Besides fishing, Barron did crafts, sang songs around the campfire and made lots of new friends.

“It was the best time of my life,” he said. Barron can’t wait to return to camp next year.

Amy DeKeyser of Waterford Township competed in the Michigan Victory Games at Michigan State University from May 16 to May 19 via a grant.  Among the 60 athletes from several states, DeKeyser won a first-place ribbon in Bocce ball, second place in precision discus throw and third in a relay race which tests a wheelchair user’s skill in running an obstacle course.

DeKeyser is a mentor to others with disabilities at MORC. She also volunteers three days a week at the senior community of Canterbury on the Lake in Waterford, working with patients in hospice and with Alzheimer’s.

Other grant recipients include Victoria Danyluk, 10, and her brother, Corey, 8, of Troy who learned to swim at Aqua-Tots in Rochester. The process was slow. They first put their faces in water, then were taught to float and succeeded in swimming in the pool.
Jerry Wolffe is the Writer in Residence & Advocate at Large at the Macomb-Oakland Regional Center. He can be reached at 586-263-8950. To Donate to The Futures Foundation, call 586-464-2610.


Senior Bill Barron of Holly holds crafts he made while attending Camp Skyline in Almont where he had the chance to fish for the first time in his life.