The choice between heat and food

Published:

Thursdays state and local news page in The State Journal offered a stark reminder three days before Christmas that hardly all Kentuckians are able to be a part of this joyous season.

The states unemployment rate jumped from 6.1 percent in October to 6.2 percent in November, a seemingly small increase but it represents hundreds of men and women who lost their jobs in a one-month period. And the latest unemployment rate contrasts with that of November 2004, when it stood at 4.7 percent.

And another story by the Associated Press reported that food banks in the state are seeing a substantial increase in people seeking emergency food to feed their families.

Gods Pantry in Lexington has experienced a double-digit increase in demand for emergency food supplies in the last year, in some areas as much as 30 percent.

Denton Randall of Dare to Care Food Bank in Louisville said, We keep hearing that the economy is improving. The business and investment economy may in fact be improving, but what I call the pants-pocket economy still has yet to improve for a lot of folks.

Indeed, it appears that people faced with paying to keep the heat on in their homes or food on the table are turning to emergency food banks in greater numbers. The elderly on fixed incomes, the working poor who staff many of the stores where we shop and fast-food restaurants where we eat, are being confronted with substantial home heating cost increases this winter, increases not foreseen only a few months ago.

The state can use more than $23 million in federal funds to help low-income individuals pay home heating bills, but that may not be enough. Kentucky legislators should consider tapping into expected increases in the state severance tax on coal to provide additional money for home heating this winter.

In the meantime, when local and regional emergency food banks ask for donations of food or money, we urge our readers to remember that no one should have to pick between heat and food for themselves and their families.

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