Thank you to all who contributed to the "Canned" Film Festival, bringing donations to the Fort Lee Film Commission's Movies and Music under the Stars events for the past three weeks. We raised $241, which Good Shepherd will match, and collected about five bags of canned food. The congregation is still willing to match gifts up to $1000, if you send checks made out to the Center for Food Action to The Church of the Good Shepherd, 1576 Palisade Avenue, Fort Lee, NJ 07024 by September 24.
Good Shepherd has been collecting food for the Center for Food Action for over a year now, and as most of the social service agencies are saying needs are increasing and resources diminishing. The U.S. Census analysis of U.S. poverty report, released on September 12, found that the official poverty rate held at 15%. What does that mean? THe U.S. Department of Health and Human Services defines the 2012 federal poverty line as $23,050 for a family of four, while estimates of basic needs of a family of four cost closer to $44,000. 46.2 million people make less than $11,170 as a single adult, or proportionately higher numbers for each additional member of the household. 6.6% of U.S. residents make less than half of the official poverty threshold.
The Census Report also found that median realhousehold income fell 1.7%, and income inequality rose, driven by gains by the very rich and the decline of middle class, says Karen Weise at Bloomberg Businessweek. Discussion of the plight of the very poor is conspiuously absent from the rhetoric of either candidate for president, although threats to the already threadbare governmental "safety net" would be devastating.
Of course, children are disiproportionately affected: 21% of children in the nation are living below the poverty line. UNICEF found that of 35 developed countries, only Romania had a higher percentage of poor children than the US. MOst of the parents of these children work outside the home, but wages are too low, employment is unstable, and the high cost of living make it difficult to make ends meet. (Source: National Center for CHildren in Poverty). Bergen County had the dubious distinction in 2011 of having the most homeless families of any county in New Jersey (Source: Family Promise of Bergen County).
What can we do? Become outraged at the plight of our neighbors--every major religious tradition urges believers to care for the most vulnerable people in their midst. Support policies and candidates which make work pay for low income parents, provide high quality affordable early child care and educational experiences for their children. Work towards a county, a state, a nation where all have access to basic necessities. And until then, share what you have with those who are struggling--private citizens and not for profit organizations are the only way to bridge the gaps in government help to the extent that it is available at all.