You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to myAJC.com

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.

GREAT REASONS TO SUBSCRIBE TODAY!

  • IN-DEPTH REPORTING
  • INTERACTIVE STORYTELLING
  • NEW TOPICS & COVERAGE
  • ePAPER
X

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and bonus content- exclusively for subscribers. Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks

X

Welcome to myAJC.com

This subscriber-only site gives you exclusive access to breaking news, in-depth coverage, exclusive interactives and bonus content.

You can read free articles of your choice a month that are only available on myAJC.com.

Support families by investing in them


Throughout the recent presidential election process, we heard a consistent theme - the economic pain felt by millions of working-class Americans.

In red states and blue states, in cities, suburbs and rural America, too many of our working neighbors have been left behind.

Many working families today earn less income. They confront higher costs for housing, healthcare and other basic needs. They routinely run out of food or money by the end of the month. They see a future not of opportunity, but of survival.

Post-election, our country is now poised for a great debate about how we help the working class. How we frame this debate will say a lot about the actions we ultimately take.

Do we view working families as an expense, or as a critical investment? And will we invest in them for the long haul?

I think about these questions every time I visit one of the more than 600 food pantries we support at the Atlanta Community Food Bank.

Every year, our network serves more than 750,000 people. The majority of them are already working. Most of them live in the suburbs. Nearly one-third earn too much income to qualify for food stamps or other assistance programs, yet their income doesn’t cover basic needs.

These working families often face temporary, but recurring, setbacks and shortfalls. Without our help, they’re forced to make tradeoffs, choosing to skip food or health care or housing so they can meet their other basic needs. Those tradeoffs can lead to increased rates of diabetes and heart disease. Their kids don’t perform as well in school. They’re forced to focus on short-term survival at the expense of long-term planning for a better future.

I think about the difference we as a community make in the lives of these families by connecting them to millions of meals each year. But I also think about how much more investment they need to change the trajectory of their lives.

I think about the single moms that we serve who are working two part-time jobs. They need help meeting basic needs for their family, like food and health care. They don’t need training for an entry-level job – they often have two of those. They need help finding a higher paying, full-time job. They need solutions that give them time back – like better transportation, more affordable housing – time they can spend with their kids, working on their future.

There are strong policy ideas that invest in and strengthen the working class – expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit, improving health care access, and targeted training programs for high-demand skills. And there are many more ideas that we haven’t yet imagined.

Like many Americans, I believe we can’t simply spend our way to a stronger working class. But we can’t cost-cut our way there either. Instead, we need to see support for working families as an investment – investing our resources and our talents in growing our people.

In this case, I think we can learn a lot from the private sector. Just about every winning company and organization views their people – and building a great team - as a critical investment.

Organizations that view people as an expense often fail. These organizations chase short-term cost savings at the expense of long-term growth. By not investing in people, they lose talent – and then they lose business.

Intuitively, we all get this. Supporting the success of working families is an investment in our collective future. A stronger working class means more people have more money to spend, driving economic growth.

When I visit with folks at our food pantries, I witness firsthand the costs of our declining working class. But, I also witness how we can all play a role in growing our investment in working families.

Our food bank network is powered by thousands of caring neighbors, most of them volunteers, who show up and step up to help people in need.

They are Trump supporters and Clinton supporters. Conservatives and liberals. Christians, Jews, and Muslims. They don’t agree on everything. But they are united by a commitment to investing in their neighbors. And they are in it for the long-haul.

As we begin our debate around how to strengthen our working class, we should focus on how we invest in people.

My hope is that doing so will connect us all more deeply, helping us overcome our divisions and to remember that we’re all on the same team.

Kyle Waide is president and CEO, Atlanta Community Food Bank.


Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Opinion

Opinion: Seven years of fantasy crashes to the ground
Opinion: Seven years of fantasy crashes to the ground

(AP) For seven years, Washington Republicans have promised us over and over again that they had a plan to replace Obamacare.
Opinion: Three bills in Legislature endanger Georgia’s colleges and universities
Opinion: Three bills in Legislature endanger Georgia’s colleges and universities

UPDATE: The Senate Judiciary Committee voted unanimously late Thursday to table HB 51, the campus rape bill referenced in this essay. In this column, state Rep. David Dreyer, D-Atlanta, says three bills moving through the Legislature toward passage threaten our higher education system, quality and reputation and don’t help or serve...
Readers Write: March 24

Wingfield right about CBO estimate Go for it, Kyle. You have given us some actual facts and sane conclusions about the new healthcare plan for America “24 million are going to ‘lose’ insurance? Not so fast,” Opinion, March 16. Liberals have done nothing but cover said program with sackcloth and ashes. You would think that people...
Opinion: Westmoreland talks about Trump’s budget and his own future

As a member of Congress, Lynn Westmoreland was never known for being shy. It appears leaving Washington has not changed that.
Opinion: Winners in ‘health reform’ probably don’t include you
Opinion: Winners in ‘health reform’ probably don’t include you

(AP) House Republicans are having a tough time passing a health-care “reform” bill that guts Medicaid by cutting $880 billion, that pushes an estimated 24 million Americans off their health insurance plan with no replacement, that hits poor, elderly and rural Americans hardest and that hands most of an $880 billion tax cut into the hands...
More Stories