Jacob’s Well food drive feeds Lincoln

Video and story by Lacey Mason, NewsNetNebraska

Lincoln families need assistance, and the numbers make that clear.

More than 12 percent of Lincoln residents, about 29,000 individuals, live below the poverty level. Nearly a fourth of that number represents children under age 18.

And bigger families struggle the most. More than half of the families in Lincoln with five or more children live in poverty, according to the most recent census data.

Because of the growing numbers, another non-profit recently joined others in providing food to the needy.

In early 2010, Mark Thornton, founder of Jacob’s Well, began distributing food every other Saturday at First Presbyterian Church, located on 840 S. 17th Streets. According to the 2010 Lincoln/Lancaster County Food and Hunger Report, the highest density of populations needing and receiving assistance lived in the Near South and downtown areas, making the Jacob’s Well distribution easily accessible to them. The number of people assisted is growing, with numbers having reached as many as 300 families on a given Saturday.

Jacob’s Well joins the many other Lincoln-based organizations that provide help for the working poor, poor and homeless, including:

  • People’s City Mission, which  assisted 17,665 people in 2009 through its distribution center by providing household goods, clothing and furniture, at no charge. In addition, it gave away nearly one million pounds of food.
  • Matt Talbot’s Kitchen and Outreach, which served an average of 293 meals per day, 365 days of the year, in 2009.
  • Meals on Wheels, which served more than 111,000 meals from July 1, 2008, to June 30, 2009.
  • The Center for People in Need, which publishes handbooks for caseworkers and the community, providing monthly calendars for free or low-cost food drives, resources for children in need and information on how to obtain medical care.

In addition, some residents may qualify for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly the Food Stamp Program. Depending on size, a family or individual’s income cannot exceed 130 percent of the federal poverty guidelines.

Many families continue to struggle, said Jill Connor of the Community Action Partnership of Lancaster and Saunders Counties.

“There is a big difference between minimum wage and a living wage,” said Jill Connor. “According to Federal Poverty Guidelines, the income for a family of four is $22,050 a year. This is for a family of four. Not to mention that this does not take into account rent or house payment, utilities, education, transportation, expenses, etc.”

With the average rent in Lincoln being $600 a month, according to Connor, this would leave an impoverished family of four with less than $15,000 to cover all other expenses for the course of the year.

The majority of Lincoln residents aren’t aware of how many people in the community are living in poverty.

“This is definitely an awareness issue, and I would also add that poverty in our community is not as visible as it is in larger communities – so there is somewhat of an out-of-sight-out-of-mind component to that,” Connor said.

Although the statistics may seem dire, Connor remains optimistic.

“We are lucky in Lincoln,” she said. “There are many places in Lincoln to obtain food.”

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