Summer hits hard for kids depending on school meals

Kristina works long hours serving low-income moms at WIC (Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children), which provides state grants, healthcare referrals and nutrition education for new moms.

As a mom who used WIC for her own children, Kristina was familiar with the program, and that made her a great fit for her job. However, all is not well for Kristina and her four kids, who range in age from kindergarten to seventh grade. 

Despite working so much, she still finds herself at Second Harvest getting extra food to make sure her family has enough to eat throughout the month. She notices things are especially tight during the summer months. Thousands of kids depend on school meals to eat during the year.

Kristina and her family appreciate services like the Second Harvest Mobile Food Bank that visits her children’s school. Things still get tight during the summer, when her kids can’t eat lunch at school. “Everyone is hurting for services then. I really depend on those programs to help provide for them. The summer is harder for us.”

Things are harder, in part, because mothers and single mothers are often working so-called ‘pink-collar’ jobs – professions dominated by women – that tend to pay lower wages and have lower mobility. The impact is even bigger when women in lower-paying jobs have families to care for.

In a recent study by Oxfam on low-wage jobs, (characterized by low job mobility, wages under $15 per hour, and little to no required training) researchers found women held 80 percent of these jobs.

Kristina loves her job; she works one on one with low-income moms and helps them navigate the state’s often complicated benefits system. She’s even travelled to Olympia to do advocacy work for early childhood education. But her work alone isn’t enough to keep the family afloat.

“Getting out of poverty is really hard because there’s this point that you hit where the more money you make you lose benefits,” she said.  Money lost through benefits isn’t usually made up through low or mid-wage jobs, especially with a large family to feed. We often think of people using food banks or ‘low income’ as the desperately poor, but that’s often not the case. Increasing costs of living make even mid-wage jobs into low-income jobs.

According to a 2017 report on income from Housing and Urban Development, the median income in Spokane County is $65,700. By their numbers, a low-income family of four would have a household income of $52,550. A low-income single person would earn an income of $36,800, or an hourly wage of $17.69 would be considered low-income in Spokane County.