Having Been a Donor, Jay Never Thought He’d Need a Food Shelf
“I used to contribute [donations] to places like Second Harvest Heartland,” Jay said. He was sitting at a table in a neighborhood church basement, home to a food shelf in Northeast Minneapolis. Waiting for his box of fresh food to take to his home in Anoka, Jay had a bag of healthy shelf-stable foods in his cart he’d already picked up. “But I never thought I’d ever have to use their services.”
Jay worked helping make medical instruments for open heart surgery and other procedures. He also owned his own agency for a while, and he spent time in every major city in the country during his career.
But everything changed during the recession.
Close to the end of his career, Jay was counting on the last few years to continue building his retirement funds. When Jay lost his job during the recession, it was a big challenge to get back into the workforce. He was smart, dedicated and had proven himself for decades to be a successful worker, but the economy wasn’t kind to someone like Jay.
Just to make ends meet, Jay had no other choice but to dip into his 401k.
Jay’s thankful he was able to officially retire a few years ago, and now lives off his Social Security income he’d contributed to his whole working life.
Jay’s modest monthly income doesn’t last long. After rent alone, he has $500 to last the whole month, and that amount needs to stretch for car insurance, utilities, medical care and food.
“There isn’t much left for food,” Jay said. “And I’m only on Social Security, but I don’t qualify for many assistance programs because I’m just barely above the income bracket.”
He sends letters to his government representatives and tells them about his story. Jay believes the income brackets used to measure the need for help doesn’t reflect what people are actually experiencing when it comes to affording life’s essentials.
And he doesn’t feel like he’s the only one he’s advocating for. “My story is not unique,” Jay said.
When we talked with Jay, he had just gone to Urgent Care a few days prior. Jay was feeling severe flu symptoms and was concerned it may be something more serious. “It was $137 for an Urgent Care visit, only to find out I needed to let the illness run its course,” Jay said. He went home with no relief and a bill that made a sizeable cut into his tight budget. It’s times like that, Jay added, that really make it challenging.
“I try to stay as positive as possible, and deal with the hand I’ve been dealt,” Jay said. “Thank God this State and Second Harvest Heartland do what they do. If I didn’t have this food shelf, I’d be in trouble!”
When it comes down to making the choice between paying for meals and other priorities like utilities or rent, our neighbors have to make nearly impossible decisions with no easy answer. The good news is that hunger is a solvable problem. Give today, and end the impossible choices one in 10 people in Minnesota and western Wisconsin have to make every day.