By Ruth Pino
Board Chair, The Heart Network
The holiday season is a time to celebrate with our friends and families, but it can also bring about fear and anxiety for those with limited incomes. Dropping temperatures often put folks in a situation where they need to choose between feeding their families or heating their homes.
Recent studies by the U.S. Department of Energy have shown that in any given year, over 25 million households are forced to choose between heat or food, with many having to make that choice on a monthly basis throughout winter. The international nonprofit Good360 notes that households face energy insecurity whenever heating costs surpass 10 percent of income — a problem that’s exacerbated by inflation and increased fuel costs.
Every holiday season, The Heart Network applauds its partners at the Joint Council for Economic Opportunity (JCEO), which operates Community Outreach Centers in the Franklin County communities of Malone, Saranac Lake and Tupper Lake. These centers include food pantries that offer produce from JCEO’s Food Services Program and food from local grocery stores and Feed America. Additionally, people can get help signing up for the Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP) and for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). In short, JCEO can help families avoid the difficult decision of choosing whether to eat or stay warm.
As a longstanding partner of JCEO in Franklin County, The Heart Network encourages individuals to learn more about services available in your community by visiting jceo.org. But we also stress that there are many organizations and businesses that are going above and beyond to make sure families can make it through the winter season. We encourage you to learn more about HEAP and SNAP by visiting otda.ny.gov/programs/heap or ny.gov/services/apply-snap.
With the holiday season upon us, let’s all do our part to give back to our communities and make sure no one has to make the choice between food and warmth.