In July, Indianapolis Power & Light Company's (IPL) Energy Efficiency Team teamed up with Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana to distribute high-efficiency, light-emitting diode (LED) light bulbs to families who utilized Gleaners' Community Cupboard. In just one day, IPL and Gleaners passed out 1,035 LED light bulbs to 345 families along with much-needed food supplies, and spread the word about IPL’s Income Qualified Weatherization Program (and helped with on-the-spot applications).
Light bulbs don’t satisfy hunger pangs – but IPL’s efforts make a valuable difference. Taking a step back and looking at the financial plight of many of the Hoosiers that Gleaners serves, it’s obvious that we have to address bigger picture issues of household budgets and income insecurity. People who turn to Gleaners for help routinely face tough choices between food, rent or mortgage payments, or reliable transportation. Too often, there’s just not enough money to meet basic needs.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics regularly tracks household spending trends by income group – and finds, not surprisingly, that low-income families have to spend a much larger share of their earnings just to meet their basic needs. For example, poor households (the lowest 30% income group) spend more than twice as much of their annual budget on food as the middle class – 28% versus 12%. They spend almost two-and-a-half times more on housing.
In fact, when you add up food, housing, and transportation, the average family living in poverty is actually in the red – spending more than they take in. Those findings are confirmed by a 2016 study released by the Pew Charitable Trust that tracks how household expenses have grown faster than wages since the recession – cutting any ‘slack’ in family budgets, and leaving even many middle-class Americans just a paycheck away from hunger.
That’s why Gleaners embraces partnerships with IPL and other organizations with a common concern about the well-being of Central Indiana families: A few extra dollars saved on utility bills every month could quite literally mean a much-needed meal for a hungry child, just as the ability to turn to a food pantry in a time of need could help keep a comfortable roof overhead.