According to a report, Licking County’s poverty rate is 10%. However, the rate is likely much higher due to certain factors.
LICKING COUNTY, Ohio — The 2023 ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) Report looks at people who earn above the Federal Poverty Level, but not enough to afford the basics where they live.
ALICE households and households in poverty are forced to make tough choices, such as deciding between quality childcare or paying rent — choices that have long-term consequences not only for their families but for everyone.
Data shows that Licking County, the soon-to-be home to Intel’s $20 billion semiconductor plant, has a poverty rate of 10%. When factoring in numbers used in the ALICE report, the poverty level is as high as 27%. Ohio’s poverty rate is 13%, which is equal to the national average.
The ALICE report looks at household income to household needs. In Ohio, 38% of households had income below the ALICE threshold in 2021. Of the 20 most common occupations in Ohio in 2021, 70% paid less than $20 per hour, according to the report.
Inside Licking Valley High School in Newark, you’ll find a food pantry stocked with food for hungry students.
“This started probably 10 years ago. A group of teachers decided we have kids in need and we need to think of ways to support them,” said Courtney Lichtenhauer, a school counselor at Licking Valley High School.
Organizers say many of the families are single-income earners, but it also serves those in two-income households. It’s not just beans and tuna fish that kids get here. Sometimes, it’s a lot more.
“For say a teenage boy to say ‘Hey, I’m hungry’ or ‘I need deodorant,’ that takes a lot,” says Danielle Hammond, a school secretary at the high school.
“So we’ve used pantry fund to run to WalMart to buy an air mattress and sheets and send them home with an inflatable bed so they have someplace to sleep that night,” said Shona Garver, who is also a school counselor at Licking Valley High School.
Everything else on the pantry shelves is donated: from food and shampoo to laundry detergent.
“We are currently serving 26 families a month. That doesn’t sound like a large number off the top but when you consider that in our building every day we have about 525 students, that’s probably about 50 students that are getting food to take home. So, we are feeding about 10% of our student body,” said Garver.
The school said 40% of its student body qualifies for free and reduced lunch but provides every student with a free meal so no one goes hungry.
“You see things in the news about inflation and people struggling to get jobs. We see the faces behind it,” Hammond said.
The pantry recently added a washer and dryer so kids can have clean clothes. There is a fridge and freezer to provide fresh fruit and meat.
“We’ve had families who are about to have their utilities shut off,” says Garver.
Ten years ago, the pantry started in a closet. Now, it has grown into something bigger.
“This has grown into something we could not have imagined 10 years ago,” Lichtenhauer said.
As more families struggle to make ends meet, those who work the pantry say they may need more room in the future, so kids who come to class don’t arrive with empty stomachs.
“At the end of the day, we are here for these kids,” Hammond said.
Anyone who would like to donate can contact the school district’s superintendent Dr. Scott Beery at [email protected].
Local News: Recent Coverage ⬇️