"For the first time in months, I don't have to worry how I will feed my child tonight."
– Cindy, ODB Food Client
What is the face of need in the Fairfax County area? It may be very different from the picture you hold in your mind. Many of the clients that Our Daily Bread serves are literally living between the proverbial rock and a hard place. Often, they have too much money or assets to qualify for state and federal assistance programs, but they have too little money to make ends meet each month. Many are working hard to pay the bills but are suddenly devastated by a crisis such as unemployment or reduced work hours, illness or unexpected car or housing expenses.
More and more we are hearing from families who considered themselves to be doing well and have never before been in the position of asking for assistance. They may live in a nice house or have a nice car due to their past prosperity, but at present they are wondering where their next meal will come from.
Cindy lives in a nice home in central Fairfax County. She works hard in a management position that pays well. Her son goes to a high school very near you. And very often, they go without food. Recently, she came to Our Daily Bread to pick up some emergency food. She told us her son nearly passed out recently because he was so hungry. Cindy told us, "We are part of what has been an overlooked group of mothers that make seemingly decent salaries, but cannot quite keep our heads above water due to the high cost of living in Fairfax County, kids in school and lack of [child] support. I am very thankful that your organization recognizes that just because we are earning above minimum wage, we still have empty refrigerators and can't make our rents on time. Thank you very much for all you do every day on behalf of families like mine. You have absolutely made a difference in our lives – for the first time in months, I don't have to worry how I will feed my child tonight."
This issue was also highlighted in an excellent Washington Post article that featured a long-time ODB supporter who encountered this very situation when her family sponsored a child through ODB's Back to School program.
Debbie Lane and her kids were surprised when they went to deliver school supplies to the child because it appeared that the children they were sponsoring lived in a much nicer home than their own. After investigating the situation, ODB learned that the family was renting a basement apartment in the home and that the children's mother had recently died of cancer. Despite outward appearances, due to this crisis, the family's circumstances were greatly reduced and their future was uncertain.
We hope our supporters will keep an open mind about the true face of need in our community. In an area like ours – and with the economic situation our country is facing – it is far easier than one would think to have some of the trappings of a good life and still be unable to pay the rent or put food on the table. ODB works closely with social workers and community-based organizations to screen families enrolled in all of our programs for true need. However, their need is not always as apparent as we would expect.