CARLSBAD — In the picturesque coastal town of Carlsbad, it’s hard to believe that some families are stricken with poverty.But a recent Center on Policy Initiatives, or CPI, report on “Poverty, Earnings, and Income in San Diego” highlighted poverty levels in San Diego, including Carlsbad.
CPI is a nonprofit research company and action institute based in San Diego.
“Every year, the Census Bureau releases data collected through the American Community Survey,” said Corinne Wilson, CPI research and policy lead. “CPI analyzes and reports on the data from San Diego County that impacts working families.”
In this CPI report, 12.4 percent of Carlsbad residents were living in poverty in 2011. Wilson pointed out that this percentage was substantially higher than at the peak of the business cycle in 2007, when the poverty rate in Carlsbad was at 5.9 percent.
“While Carlsbad is generally doing better than the region as a whole, one in eight residents was living in poverty in 2011. For those 25 and older without a college degree, the poverty rate was much higher, with one in five living in poverty,” she said.
Wilson continued, “Keep in mind that this counts only people living below the federal poverty level, which varies by family size, an extremely low level compared to the cost of living.”
What CPI noticed was that while major industries did create more jobs in San Diego, the pay did not reflect the cost of living. Full-time, year-round employees in most of the region’s biggest industries, Wilson said, earned less or roughly the same as five years before.
“As the economy rebuilds for the future, we need real earnings to start to increase and employees need to be able to make ends meet through wages and benefits,” Wilson said.
The federal poverty level in 2011 was listed at $11,484 for a single person and $22,811 for a family consisting of two adults and two children.
And San Diego is considered a high-cost region.
“Imagine trying to live on that amount of money,” she said. “For example, approximately one in five or 8,000 Carlsbad households made less than $25,000 in 2011.”
Carlsbad resident Gina McBride gave herself a “call to action” when she discovered the percentage of those living in San Diego County who were food-insecure. McBride established “It’s in the Bags” food collection program.
McBride kicked off this program in September 2009 to coincide with National Hunger Action Month.
It’s in the Bags offers an opportunity for all businesses, organizations or faith centers to take part in. It’s ideal for a team-building group project, McBride said, because everyone participates by helping people in their own community.
“We want to provide a turn-key experience that can help them determine the nonprofit organization that provides food assistance in their community and develop the list of the most needed items for that organization they want to benefit,” she said. “Materials can also be included with the bags regarding hunger action education and advocacy as well as the joys of helping your neighbors in need.”
To date, St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Del Mar, Del Mar Rotary, and St. Anne’s Episcopal Church in Oceanside have taken part in It’s in the Bags Food Collection.
McBride describes the food collection program as a simple, yet powerful way to give along with their friends and co-workers.
For McBride, the CPI report meant that the face of hunger is not stereotypical.
“One in six means that person who is food-insecure could be your neighbor, a co-worker, a friendly senior at your church or the child who plays with your child in school,” she said. “By giving the most basic necessity, food, people can get in touch with the fact that people going hungry in our community is a terrible shame and unacceptable.”