Local economic challenges are leading to food insecurity

By Vilas News-Review, Posted on August 1, 2023

Letter to the Editor:

As president of Feed Our Rural Kids (FORK), I am lucky to have the opportunity to travel around the area speaking to various civic groups and community organizations.

As part of each presentation, I open it up to questions from the floor. One question that is consistently asked is, “Why are so many families unable to feed their own children?”

The answer to that question is complicated, and I can’t say my answers are always as articulate as I’d wish.

However, I just ran across these numbers this last weekend and I’d like to share them with you. Maybe here, I can give a better answer so that people who are older, and that is most of us, can get a clearer perspective of the economic challenges facing our adult children and grandchildren.

Here are some numbers around the cost of housing. No, these are not local numbers; they are national in scope. At the end, I’ll compare these national averages to our challenge here in the North Woods.

In 1995, the average cost of a home was $130,000 with interest at 7.86% and monthly payments of $753. It took 31% of average annual income to buy that house.

Today, that cost is $419,000 with interest at 7.24%. The average monthly payment for that mortgage is $2,283 or 36% of income.

It’s even tougher in Vilas County, with a June, 2023, average median home listing price in Vilas County being $489,500 and the countywide median household income being $59,844.

This makes the monthly payments 53.5% of median household income at the 7.24% mentioned above. That is with $97,900 as a down payment.

Yes, these are just numbers. But sometimes numbers are all we have to help people visualize the story around childhood food insecurity here in the North Woods.

Maybe they call them the “good old days” for a reason. But this is the new reality around the economic challenges facing families with children today.

You don’t even want to get started talking about the cost of child care, transportation, health care, and food itself. You get the point.

You can help the children caught in this economic crossfire by donating to FORK at feedourruralkids.org/donate, or by stopping in at any Eagle River financial institution this August and contributing to the CashFORKids fundraiser.

Perry Pokrandt
President, Feed Our Rural Kids, Inc.

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