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New report details the reality of struggling O.C. families

Orange County Community Foundation report shows nearly half of the region's families lacking basic needs

by Nicole Lyons and Samar KhouryPublished: November 16, 2012 06:30 PM

Orange County is often viewed as the land of milk and honey. It’s an area known for its industry and a low unemployment rate. However, the Orange County Community Foundation (OCCF) reveals another growing part of the area – families struggling to meet three critical basic needs.

“We see from the outside: the picturesque setting, the great amenities, successful and thriving on the outside…but life is a daily struggle,” said Shelley Hoss, president of OCCF.

The organization's 2012 annual report, based on statistics from a variety of agencies, delivers startling facts about areas of greatest need in Orange County: a safety net, health and wellness and education.

Based on the data collected, it was found that nearly half of K-12 students live in families making $40,000 or less per year for a family of four. The study also found that a minimum wage employee would have to work 133 hours a week to afford a one-bedroom apartment.

Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait visualizes the statistics in his own backyard. “Anaheim is a microcosm of our community of contrast here in O.C. Extreme poverty juxtaposed with extreme wealth. Homelessness, poverty, and hunger are issues our city is facing and working hard to tackle.”

The other two areas present similarly staggering news. The report shows that one in three residents are uninsured or underinsured. And as far as education goes, only 55 percent of third graders read at a proficient level.

“Students who don’t have clothing, nutrition, or a sufficient place to live don’t make it. If they don’t make it we lose,” said O.C. Superintendent of Schools Al Mijares.

The report presents surprising statistics, but in addition to delivering the harsh reality of the other side of Orange County, the OCCF has a plan to bring progress to these three areas of need for O.C. families: ConnectOC. The Foundation, with the support of consulting firm McKinsey & Company, developed ConnectOC to reveal the myths and misconceptions about life in Orange County.

ConnectOC will be a new online resource to connect donors with nonprofits to build a healthier Orange County. The website will debut in the spring