Changing jobs landscape brings middle class to food pantry

Published 4:10 pm Thursday, June 25, 2015

Thermal Belt Outreach Ministry
By Carol Newton

Can you imagine working hard your entire adult life to create a secure, middle class lifestyle and to find yourself – within a relatively short period of time – requiring the services of a food pantry?

This is exactly what happened to Sue* who enjoyed a comfortable, seemingly secure, middle-class lifestyle. Sue had a good job, one that paid well and even offered overtime pay on occasion.  She was able to afford the basic necessities of life and even enjoy some small luxuries on occasion. Then, several months ago, her employer reduced her hours in a last-ditch effort to help the business survive.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

For the first few months after her hours were cut back, Sue managed to get by living on her reduced salary supplemented by her ‘rainy day’ savings. Her bills were paid on time and by eliminating unnecessary expenses from her budget she was able to adapt to the ‘new normal.’

After several months, however, Sue’s savings dwindled and she began to put less and less money towards purchasing food for herself, using that money instead to pay for bills and other necessary expenses. By the time that a concerned co-worker noticed she was losing weight, Sue had virtually no food in her home and was unable to afford groceries.

Luckily for Sue, her friend recommended that she contact Outreach and inquire about assistance.  Although at first hesitant to ask for help, Sue came to Outreach and met with one of our caring volunteers. When she found out that Outreach could provide her with a week’s worth of food and other necessities, she began to cry. Upon learning that she would be eligible to receive food from the pantry each month until her situation turned around, she was, in her words, “overwhelmed with gratitude.”

While Sue’s story might seem unique, it shares many similarities to those we hear every day at Outreach. Many of our clients never expected to ask for help or to be among the millions of people who work part time because their hours were cut back or they are unable to find full-time work. I am extraordinarily grateful for this community’s support that enables Outreach to help the many residents in Polk County who are facing financial crisis.

Outreach is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization founded in 1991. The organization’s mission is to provide compassionate assistance to Polk County residents who are unable to provide for their basic life needs.  For more information on Outreach programs, to volunteer, or to contribute please contact Carol Newton, Executive Director, at (828) 894-2988 or by email at

*Name has been changed to protect our client’s identity.