The Children’s Agenda, a Rochester-based advocacy group, recently announced that findings from its fourth poll of Rochester and Monroe County parents revealed widespread financial stress in the areas of food security and housing.
Foodlink President & CEO Julia Tedesco joined Children’s Agenda CEO Larry Marx and other anti-poverty advocates for the announcement on Dec. 13 in downtown Rochester. The “Family Voices” poll, conducted in November, interviewed 600 Monroe County parents. Among the findings, for households with an annual income less than $100,000, 61 perent of those surveyed said they rationed food from paycheck to paycheck.
Download the report: 2023 ‘Family Voices’ parent poll
Tedesco said the numbers that Foodlink has seen from its Monroe County food pantry partners substantiate the poll. In analyzing food pantry data from a three-month span (July-September) for the past three years, Tedesco said Foodlink has seen a 120 percent increase in visits in Monroe County. The 2023 data showed 155,349 visits, compared to 111,947 in 2022, and 71,131 in 2021 during the same time period.
“Food insecurity is poverty,” Tedesco said. “Our unacceptable food-insecurity rate is not merely a lack of food, but rather caused by the prevalence of poverty and a lack of proven policy choices that could lift thousands of households out of poverty and onto a pathway to prosperity. The results of the Children’s Agenda’s Parent Poll are another reminder that we need to ensure children and families across the region have greater access to healthy food, so they can fully participate and thrive in our communities.”
Although it was no surprise that low-income families earning less than $50,000 were struggling to put food on the table, survey results for families earning between $50,000-$100,000 showed financial hardships, as well. More than half couldn’t afford weekly fruits and vegetables, and 29 percent of parents admitted to skipping meals so their child could eat.
“Poverty is due to a lack of cash, not character,” Marx said. “We know what works to lift children out of poverty and to help working families catch a break. All that has been missing is the political will to enact common sense solutions like expanding child tax credits and housing vouchers, offering universal free meals, making child care affordable, and ensuring every child has the physical and behavioral health care they need.”
The Children’s Agenda and its partners are advocating for changes in state-level policy in five areas:
- Strengthen the impact of existing tax credits by enacting the Working Families Tax Credit because ensuring wages stay in parents’ pockets is the most effective and cost-efficient way to lift children out of poverty.
- Create a New York State Housing Access Voucher Program to shorten housing waits because kids need safe, stable housing.
- Fund universal, free school meals in all districts across New York because children can’t learn when they are hungry.
- Ensure quality, affordable child care is abundantly available by increasing availability of care during evenings, nights and weekends because not all parents work 9 to 5 and creating a permanent child care fund because early child hood educators deserve equitable wages.
- Enhance Medicaid coverage for children by providing continuous coverage for ages 0 – 6 years, increasing reimbursement rates for youth mental health services, and expanding coverage of school-based health services.
The poll was conducted by Global Strategy Group on behalf of The Children’s Agenda from November 8 – 20, 2023. The margin of error at the 95% confidence level is +/- 4.9% and larger for subgroup comparisons. Parents were contacted by phone call or text and respondents had the option of taking the survey in either English or Spanish.