By MARNIE McALLISTER
Record Assistant Editor
The United States bishops’ Labor Day message characterizes the nation’s unemployment rate — and resulting poverty — as “a serious economic and moral failure.”
The statement calls for an “economic renewal that places workers and their families at the center of economic life and creates enough decent jobs for everyone who can work.”
“We seek an economy that serves the person rather than the other way around,” the statement says.
The bishops’ message came to life on Tuesday, Sept. 4, outside Holy Name Church in South Louisville where about 180 people lined up to receive food from Dare to Care. The line included elderly women and men, able-bodied people earning less than a living wage and disabled people of all ages who struggle to feed themselves and their families.
Dare to Care — which distributed more meals than it ever has before in the last fiscal year — offers a mobile food pantry on the first and third Tuesday of each month at Holy Name. It is one of 16 such sites in Louisville.
One woman standing in the line said she’s 75-years-old and works two days a week to supplement her social security income. She said she would work more but can’t find another job. She declined to give her name, but added that Dare to Care’s mobile pantry, “is wonderful. It keeps you from running completely out. It really helps.”
Another woman and her husband, married for nearly 30 years, said they both lost longtime jobs within a few months of each other in 2009. The woman, who declined to give their names, works at a fast food restaurant now, but doesn’t earn enough to pay their bills.
“I lost my house, my car, everything. I lost the American dream,” her husband said. The couple also added that they have just been evicted from their apartment and noted their landlord receives food from Dare to Care, too.
Volunteers from the Church of the Epiphany organized the mobile pantry on Tuesday. They handed out large bags of M&Ms, heads of cabbage, sweet potatoes, carrots and microwave dinners — items donated to Dare to Care.
“We come down here every other week,” said Jim Luebbers, one of more than a dozen volunteers from Epiphany. “We feed about 200 people.”
The church has organized this Dare to Care pantry since it was established four years ago in response to increased need in the area.
Dare to Care offers 40 similar food giveaways each month around Louisville and Southern Indiana, said Stan Siegwald, Dare to Care spokesman.
Eleven of them are conducted at six Catholic churches or agencies. Among those sites are Holy Name, St. Bartholomew Church in Buechel, St. Augustine Church just west of downtown Louisville, Blessed Theresa of Calcutta Church in Fairdale, the St. Cecilia campus of Good Shepherd Church in Portland and the Catholic Enrichment Center in West Louisville.
Mobile pantries have grown rapidly in the last several years, said Siegwald. And Dare to Care established eight new mobile pantry sites similar to the one at Holy Name just in the last fiscal year, according to the agency’s newsletter.
In the past, mobile pantries were used in rural areas where there were fewer traditional food pantries, Siegwald noted. But in recent years, they’ve been used in urban areas to supplement traditional food pantries overwhelmed by a rise in need. They also offer Dare to Care a quick way to distribute fresh produce, he said.
The area around Holy Name, which includes Churchill Downs, “has seen a huge spike in economic distress over the last several years,” Siegwald said.
“The unemployment rate is high,” he said. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in August that national unemployment stood at 8.3 percent in July, and has remained near that rate for most of 2012.
“People who are re-employed are re-employed at a lower wage level than before,” Siegwald explained. “And I think we’re finding families who come to us in a tough spot, those tough spots are lasting longer. Five years ago, it took a family six to eight weeks to get back on their feet. It’s taking longer to get back into a healthy position financially.”