Hunger is Not a Game - Capital Area Food Bank
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Hunger is Not a Game

By Brian Banks September 5, 2012

Have you had the opportunity to read, or see the movie The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins? The story is about a teenage girl who lives in the poorest district of Panem and takes place in what used to be The United States of America.
Years ago, the districts waged war on the Capitol and were defeated. As part of the terms of surrender, the twelve districts agreed to send one boy and one girl to appear in an annual event that would be televised throughout all the districts.
The event is known as The Hunger Games, a strategic fight to the death that can have only one winner. If the odds are in your favor and you win you will forever be showered in fame, wealth and food. This story is fictitious, however, every day there are people throughout the United States who are in a strategic fight to put healthy and nutritious food on the table to feed their families. These people are reluctantly starring in the real life hunger games; unfortunately, their lives are reality and really not a game.
The reality is that one in six Americans suffers from hunger. Did you see six people today? If so, statistics tell us that one person that crossed your path is suffering from hunger. In the Washington metro area there are 680,612 people that are at risk of hunger and lack adequate access to food, 200,000 of whom are children. In the United States, 95.9 million American are at risk of, or suffering from hunger by living at or below 185 percent of the federal poverty level (see chart below). This includes 30.3 million children under the age of 18, and 12.1 million senior citizens.

Size of Family 100% of Poverty Level 110% of Poverty Level 130% of Poverty Level 185% of Poverty Level
1 $10,890 $11,979 $14,157 $20,147
2 $14,710 $16,181 $19,123 $27,214
3 $18,530 $20,383 $24,089 $34,281
4 $22,350 $24,585 $29,055 $41,348
5 $26,170 $28,787 $34,021 $48,415
6 $29,990 $32,989 $38,987 $55,482
7 $33,810 $37,191 $43,953 $62,549
8 $37,630 $41,393 $48,919 $69,616
Each additional family member $3,820 $4,202 $4,966 $7,067

Imagine living a life where you work five days a week and are paid $8.25 per hour, the minimum wage in Washington, D.C. In Maryland and Virginia the minimum wage is $7.25. Earning $8.25 per hour would translate into an annual income of $17,160. This same person would have to pay monthly utility bills that average:
Gas $70.00 + Electric $55.00 + Water $40.00 + Cable $50.00 + Phone $70.00 + Rent/Mortgage $1,800 = $2,085/month ($25,020/year).
The person in Washington, DC making a minimum wage would easily need an extra $7,860 just to pay bills. Did you notice this person has not paid for health care, transportation, clothes, or any other normal expense? And, yes, that minimum wage earner has not purchased food. For those reading this who cannot relate to a person making a minimum wage, I will gladly share this fact with you: A person making $60,000 per year before taxes lives on an estimated $34,980 after bills are paid annually. This also does not include the purchase of health care, transportation/gas, clothes, food and any other necessities. This also does not include child care expenses which could easily be $250 a week per child. Have you noticed in both of these real life scenarios that the money earned disappears rapidly?
In order to be self-sufficient in the Washington metro area, a person must net on average $61,277 per year. It is my belief that $61,277 is low and that many people with families bringing in this total amount per year are struggling to survive. I can only wonder if our United States Congress has an understanding of the effort it takes hard working Americans to live productive lives without the worry or how they will pay the bills, put gas in the car, pay for child care, afford health care, and put healthy and nutritious food on the table.
Do you have a personal story to tell about your very own personal Hunger Games? If so please respond to this blog, and take time to call your elected officials at 1-800-614-2803 and tell them about your everyday reality.