BY TOM BUSSELBERG
BOUNTIFUL – A growing number of kids are in poverty in Davis County, and social service organizations are taking note.
The overall number of clients coming to the Bountiful Community Food Pantry is down, but there are more new clients coming in continually, said Executive Director Lorna Koci.
“We are still working to fight the growing number of hungry children and to meet the needs of the new clients we’re getting at the pantry,” she said.
Its a similar story at the Family Connection Center, which operates a food bank for those living in Kaysville north, but is the county’s community action agency. That means it is charged with providing a variety of services to assist those in need.
“Unfortunately the No. 1 demographic is single mothers with children,” said spokesperson Daneen Adams. “With the food bank, it could be the person living next door who lost their job, or someone got sick in their family. There are a lot of different factors.”
As every consumer knows, it’s getting more costly just to buy the bare necessities.
For example, Adams said the living wage for a family of four in the county is $13.75 an hour for 40 hours a week. Researchers believe that amount is necessary to pay for housing, food, and other basic expenses.
“Ninety percent of the people we see have two jobs at minimum wage,” she said, adding that “82 percent are working.”
And people in many demographics are hurting.
“A huge proportion of our clients are college graduates and they’re still needing help,” Adams said. “Thirty-eight percent using the food bank are in that category.”
Those comments came days after the 2013 Utah Kids Count Profile was released.
It showed that 16 percent of Utah children live in poverty, up 5 percent from 2005. Furthermore, more than two-thirds of fourth graders are not proficient in reading, also up, and 8 percent of teens are not in school and not working, up from 6 percent.
There were some improvements: 60 percent of children were not attending preschool versus 62 percent in 2012; 11 percent of children were without health insurance compared to 13 percent the year before; and, child and teen deaths declined.
The Bountiful Food Pantry and Family Connection offer services to help people become independent.
The Pantry, for example, will offer a budgeting class this fall and teaches some parenting classes. The non-profit also sponsors a dental program that has treated 90 people since September, Koci said.
An employment and self-sufficiency program is among offerings at the Family Connection Center.
“We want to make sure we give our children a good start in life,” said County Commissioner Louenda Downs.
She lauded efforts of community, school and church groups seeking to “pull themselves up, to have the opportunity to become the best they can.”