The reality of winter for food insecure families
As temperatures begin to dip below freezing in January and February, many of us resort to cuddling up by the fire and sipping hot chocolate. But for families living in poverty, colder days are accompanied by a fear of hunger.
Winter can be the most difficult season for food insecure families. As temperatures plummet and utilities bills skyrocket, these individuals are left with a difficult choice: Do they keep the heat on, or do they buy groceries? Nearly 67 percent of people served by Ozarks Food Harvest report having to choose between paying for utilities and purchasing food.
This state of “heat or hunger” can be extremely dangerous, especially for children, the elderly and people with pre-existing medical conditions. People with heart conditions and respiratory disorders are susceptible to worsening issues during the winter months. When times get tough, some people may even stop taking prescribed medications in order to pay the bills and feed their families.
Many people living in poverty in the Ozarks are employed, but low-wage jobs don’t cover every bill that comes in, especially during the winter. Individuals working seasonal jobs— like landscaping or farming—also suffer as employment ends and they wait for the spring to come.
Snow day cancellations can also cause issues for food insecure families. Many parents rely on schools to provide breakfast and lunch for their children. When a snow day comes around, children may be left without a meal.
Unexpected car repairs, an increase in medical bills from seasonal illnesses and holiday credit card bills also contribute to our neighbors going hungry during the winter months.
Fortunately, families can turn to local food pantries. Cassie, a mother of two teenagers, visits one of Ozarks Food Harvest’s pantries for assistance during the winter months.
“My husband works, but when you pay for utilities, rent, car payment and health insurance, we’re broke. It is not enough, and I wish it was,” she shared.
Families like Cassie’s exist across the Ozarks, and they’re counting on generous donors like you to help them through hard times.
“A lot of people depend on this. I don’t know what people would do without the pantry,” said Alice, who also visits one of our pantries to help provide for her family.
Donations to The Food Bank tend to slow down after the holidays wrap up, but they’re needed now more than ever. Your contributions will allow families to keep the heat on and purchase groceries. Because of you, a senior can afford necessary medications and stay warm; a child can enjoy the beauty of winter with a full stomach; a single mother doesn’t have to explain why the heat got turned off.
Thank you so much for your continued support of The Food Bank. You are helping us keep our neighbors warm and well-fed this winter.