We may have all come on different ships.
But we’re in the same boat now.
– Martin Luther King, Jr.
Hunterdon – bucolic, small-towny, rich farmland dotted with McMansions. This is the kind of place Forbes Magazine has recognized and pointed people to for years. We make lists like 4th-richest county in America (richest in NJ), America’s Best Places to Raise a Family – 7th best in the country.
Now they’re calling Hunterdon the new face of food stamps. Hunterdon, where the median household income is $98,000 a year, just saw a spike in food stamp usage in 3 years of 514%. Flemington, my town, is the county seat, a small town with more empty storefronts than it used to have and its anchor, the historic Union Hotel, shuttered. People who live in Flemington generally make considerably less than those in the surrounding burbs of Raritan Twp and Readington. But this has always been a middle-class town.
CNN just came to town to interview people at the Flemington Food Pantry, which has also seen a surge in use, and in usefulness. It’s a wake-up call, for anybody still needing one, of what’s happening to the middle-class. For some people suddenly unable to make it, it’s bewildering, they’re not prepared, and they never thought they’d “be there”. To be sure, the numbers here started out low. And there are places in New Jersey where poverty is more deeply settled, where people have been struggling for years, for so long that some of the rest of us have forgotten to think much about that. This is what OWS has been about – and Occupy Trenton, and Newark. The census now tells us about half of us are low-income or living in poverty now, a statistic still sinking in, for me. But not for everybody.
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