by Jennifer Lewke
ROCHESTER, N.Y. — 61% of families in Monroe County who make less than $100,000 a year say they are rationing food for their families in between paychecks — according to a report released on Wednesday by The Children’s Agenda.
The report also found that 66% of families in the same demographic are struggling to afford rent or mortgage payments, 56% are struggling to find and pay for insurance that covers mental health care, and 64% say they regularly have to miss their children’s activities because of work.
The survey of 600 Monroe County parents was conducted between November 8-20 and weighted targets were generated by using data from the U.S. Census Bureau.
“I have been living in poverty all my life. I watched my mom struggle to raise myself and my sisters,” explains Danielle Jones. “I knew that I wanted to do it differently when I decided to become a mom. I did not want to repeat that cycle.”
Jones worked hard to become a licensed mental health counselor and a doula. She’s a role model to her two children but it’s never easy.
“At a minimum, I work at least 55 to 60 hours a week and it takes a lot out of me,” she says.
Even with those hours, it can still be a struggle to make ends meet.
“Just when I thought that I made it, the needle was moved again,” Jones says. “Everything is more expensive with less resources to help. I don’t make enough to provide everything that I want to provide for my children, but I also make too much to get help with basic needs.”
It’s a struggle that many in our community are facing.
“We’ve spent more money in the last year on emergency food then ever before in our 45-year history,” says Julia Tedesco, the President and CEO of Foodlink. That’s on top of the help that local food banks have been offering all year.
“Two years ago, the first quarter of our year, our partners saw 71,000 visits. This year, the first quarter, same time period — over 155,000 visits,” Tedesco explains.
Part of the issue is the cost of housing. The median rent right now in Monroe County is $1,085 per month.
“The reality is, the median Rochester renter cannot afford either the median Rochester rent or the median Monroe county rent,” says Aqua Porter, the Executive Director of the Rochester Monroe Anti-Poverty Initiative.
So, they spend more than they can afford just to keep a roof over their heads. 60% of parents polled who make less than $100,000/year also say their children ask for things they simply cannot afford. Jones says she’s been in that situation many times.
“He’ll ask for things and he’ll say, ‘Well, can we get this or do we not have enough money?’ and to hear your child say that, it does kinda break your heart,” she says.
The Children’s Agenda says it plans to use the results of this poll to lobby lawmakers in Albany for legislative changes to help those in need. The agency wants to push for universal, free school meals in all districts across News York, create a NYS housing access voucher program, and fund programs to ensure quality, affordable childcare and enhance Medicaid coverage for children.
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The Children’s Agenda advocates for effective policies and drives evidenced-based solutions for the health, education and success of children. We are especially committed to children who are vulnerable because of poverty, racism, health inequities and trauma.