Dollar & Sense:  Public Benefits for Economic Gains

Hunger’s true cost is astonishing. On an individual level, hunger hurts. But hunger in America has a cost far beyond the human suffering. The Center for American Progress estimated that in 2010, hunger cost our country $167.5 billion, or $542 per person — due to the combination of lost economic productivity per year, more expensive public education because of the rising costs of poor education outcomes, avoidable health care costs, and the cost of charity to keep families fed. For this reason, Vermont food assistance programs, both public and private, are a good economic investment.  These programs support and sustain our democracy’s most valuable asset — our people.

Mary and Andy: A Vermont Story
The following story of a Vermont family shows how a sudden loss of income can lead to poverty and hunger, and it shows how assistance helps sustain both the family and the economy. Although this portrait is fictional, the figures given here are drawn from very real statistics of a typical middle-class Vermont family.* 

Mary and Andy live just outside Burlington in a two-bedroom condo they bought in 2006. They have two children, Margaret, 4, and Josh, 7. Margaret goes to daycare during the week. Josh is in the second grade. In 2008, they were living a pretty typical middle-class life.

Andy worked in construction and made $788 a week. Mary worked in a department store in Burlington and made $394 a week. They also picked up some odd jobs on the weekends and at night, which brought in another $400 a month. Their total monthly income was around $5,128. The family’s living expenses for the month totaled $5,124. Even when they budgeted carefully, Mary and Andy barely made it from month to month.

Mary and Andy’s Total Annual Gross Income
$62,000 (approx.)

CONSTRUCTION WORK
Weekly wage:       $788

Monthly wage:     $3,152

RETAIL WORK
Weekly wage:        $394

Monthly wage:        $1,576

OVERTIME WORK
Weekly wage:        $100 

Monthly wage:        $400

TOTAL
Weekly:                   $1,282