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4:54 AM Sat, Dec. 15th

Kingman unemployment contributes to food insecurity

Wal-Mart offering a way to help fight local hunger

AHRON SHERMAN/Miner<br /><br /><!-- 1upcrlf2 -->Kingman Area Food Bank Executive Director Betty Kahlor along with one of her employees, Mary Winchester, stand with a freshly made food basket for a family of three.<br /><br /><!-- 1upcrlf2 -->

AHRON SHERMAN/Miner<br /><br /><!-- 1upcrlf2 -->Kingman Area Food Bank Executive Director Betty Kahlor along with one of her employees, Mary Winchester, stand with a freshly made food basket for a family of three.<br /><br /><!-- 1upcrlf2 -->

KINGMAN - There are 372 metropolitan statistical areas in America defined by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The Lake Havasu City-Kingman metropolitan statistical area, which - for all intensive purposes - is Mohave County, has a 10.4-percent unemployment rate for February.

That rate gives the area a lowest-unemployment-rate-in-America ranking of 315 out of 372 metropolitan statistical areas, according to the BLS. Of course, this data is just preliminary, meaning it could be revised as more data is received.

Nevertheless, the rate is not a good thing for Mohave County communities. Now, if you look at Kingman's unemployment rate in February alone, the picture is even grimmer.

According to the BLS, Kingman has a 12.3-percent unemployment rate for February. That's 2-percent higher than the Februaries of 2009, 2010 and 2011. In 2009, Kingman's February unemployment rate sat at 5.3 percent.

If the BLS had the resources to conduct alternate measures of unemployment for small communities such as Kingman, the rate in some instances would be higher, explained BLS Statistician David Kong.

For instance, using an alternate measure for Arizona reveals a startling piece of data. From the fourth quarter in 2010 to the third quarter in 2011, total unemployment - accounting for discouraged workers and all - in Arizona was 18.3 percent. To compare, Arizona's 2012 February seasonally adjusted unemployment rate is 8.7 percent. Seasonal adjustment accounts for historical job loss in a particular season.

But it's not all bad. Gov. Jan Brewer released information from the Arizona Dept. of Administration that said 18,900 non-farm jobs were added in March - the most of any March since 2006, and may have - although not reported by the BLS yet - lowered the state's unemployment rate a tenth of a percent.

Still, Kingman and the rest of Mohave County continue to face a poor economy.

Consider the fact that the 2010 Census showed a 6-percent increase in people living at or below the poverty rate within the boundaries of Kingman Unified, which includes Dolan Springs and Golden Valley. The U.S. Census Bureau uses what is known as the poverty threshold to calculate the data. For 2011, the poverty threshold for a family of four is $23,201.

High poverty and unemployment rates go hand-in-hand and affect communities in various ways. One of the consequences of high poverty and unemployment rates is hunger.

Wal-Mart and the Wal-Mart Foundation have identified the 200 communities across the country hardest hit by unemployment, and the Lake Havasu City-Kingman metropolitan statistical area made the list.

Because the communities made the list, the Kingman-Lake Havasu City metropolitan statistical area could win either a $1 million or $50,000 to help relieve hunger.

The organizations have pledged $2 million in donations through their new anti-hunger campaign, Fighting Hunger Together.

Through the campaign's Facebook component, Wal-Mart plans to donate $1 million to the community that receives the most Facebook votes by April 30. Currently, the Lake Havasu City-Kingman metropolitan statistical area community needs additional votes to be considered in the top 21 communities that will receive a grant. The 20 communities following the top vote getter will receive $50,000 grants.

After April 30, the Wal-Mart Foundation will review all of the local charities and decide with one - or ones - is best suited for the donation.

To vote, go to facebook.com/walmart and click on the Fighting Hunger tab. You can vote once every 24 hours, so be sure to check back daily.

One local organization would seem to be perfect for these grants should the Lake Havasu City-Kingman area win one of the spots. The Kingman Area Food Bank provides more than 1,000 food baskets to local families every month, explained Executive Director Betty Kahlor.

The Food Bank gets its food from purchases, donations and two Phoenix-based St. Mary's delivery trucks a month. Kahlor said she purchases certain staples every month, such as tuna, peanut butter and macaroni and cheese, because they're not always donated.

The baskets, which a family can receive once a month, consist of six staples - the three mentioned previously plus canned beans, dried beans and rice. They also have soups and canned meat. People picking up a basket get to choose breads, fruit and produce as well. Other than the staples, Kahlor said availability is determined by what's been donated.

The skyrocketing price of food has affected the Bank, she said. For example, in 2010 the Food Bank spent $28,000 on food, but in 2011 it spent $40,000.

"Food donations are up," Kahlor said. "Money donations are down."

As a result, Kahlor has been forced to dip into the Bank's reserves - which is held in Certificates of Deposit - in 2011 and the beginning of 2012. Winning Wal-Mart's competition would make it so the Food Bank could operate for at least a couple of years without going back into the reserves, Kahlor said.

Even if the Kingman Area Food Bank has to split the grant with another organization, Kahlor said she would still be ecstatic.

"I would love to share (the money) with them," she said with a laugh.

To receive a food basket from the Food Bank, you must go through an interview process. Just call Kahlor at (928) 757-4165 for more information.