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Poverty

SNAP E&T Boosts Job Skills, Transforms Lives

On a recent trip to California,  I took part in a wonderful event in San Francisco’s Mission District - also known as “The Mission” - one of the most racially and economically diverse areas in the nation.  After parking the car, Jesus Mendoza Jr., Regional Administrator of the Food and Nutrition Service’s Western Region, escorted me to a room buzzing with activity and excitement. Now given my role as Administrator for the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), you might expect that we were visiting a food bank or a meal program for low-income children.

But this visit wasn’t about food.

It was about jobs!

What Explains the Recent Rise in Rural Child Poverty?

During the 1950s and 1960s, the adage “a rising tide lifts all boats” broadly applied to the U.S. economy. As average income grew, the share of the population living in poverty fell rapidly. In the 1970s and 1980s, however, this relationship changed: average income continued to rise, but poverty increased. This means that incomes actually fell for many families in the lower portion of the income distribution. In other words, income inequality increased, and this translated into higher poverty despite a growing economy.

Recent work by USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS) shows that this dynamic persists, and helps explain trends in poverty among children in rural areas. According to official estimates, the share of rural children living in poverty grew between 2003 and 2007 even as the national economy expanded. Between 2007 and 2010, this share continued to increase, as might be expected given the profound economic recession of 2007-09. But the rural child poverty rate continued to rise through 2012, peaking at 26.7 percent, its highest level since at least 1968 -- despite the resumption of economic growth at the national level. The rate finally began to decline between 2012 and 2014, but the 2014 level was well above that of 2003.

Income Inequality: A Growing Threat to Eliminating Rural Child Poverty

Rural child poverty fell by 3 percentage points from 2012 to 2014. Over the past seven years, USDA and the Obama Administration have taken action to address the root causes and reduce the devastating effects of rural child poverty.  As a record streak of private sector job creation has cut nationwide unemployment in half, to 5 percent, average incomes for rural and urban families alike climbed nearly 6 percent in the last two years of data, returning to 2003 levels.  While we have made important progress in increasing incomes and reducing the rural child poverty rate, it remains unacceptable that 1.5 million children in rural America – 23.7 percent of all rural youth – live in poverty.

Service, Partnership Key to Summer Meals Success

The following guest blog highlights the partnership between USDA and the Corporation for National and Community Service, which leverages the service-oriented energy of AmeriCorps summer associates to expand and enhance USDA summer meal sites for children in low-income communities.  USDA summer meals fill the hunger gap for the over 21-million children across the country who rely on school meals during the school year.  This blog details the summer associates’ experiences, as narrated by an AmeriCorps VISTA program specialist who was integral to the partnership.

By Mark Wilson, Program Specialist, Corporation for National and Community Service

“Sports, games, nutrition, friends and fun!” is how Andrea Wilkinson described her summer service in Reno, Nev. From June to August, 579 AmeriCorps VISTA summer associates like Andrea served in 42 states and the District of Columbia, making the summer meals program more fun and beneficial for families.

Partners Make Access to Meals for Children Possible Year Round in Kentucky

Kids in bright summer play clothes come running with smiles and laughter as the white cargo van rolls to a stop near a playground and the rear doors swing open. No, it’s not the ice cream truck. It is something better – the lunch ladies from Kentucky Communities Economic Opportunity Council (KCEOC) Community Action Center delivering bagged lunches filled with fruit, sandwiches, juice and milk.

Volunteers and staff at KCEOC work hard to feed as many Eastern Kentucky kids as possible during the summer in three USDA StrikeForce counties: Knox, Whitley and Laurel.

Tackling Rural Child Poverty In Southwest Georgia

In late July, I was thrilled to visit with leaders from across southwest Georgia, including my hometown of Camilla, to discuss how USDA can support their work on the ground tackling issues relating to rural child poverty.

In Georgia, the poverty rate is 19 percent, and for children, it’s a staggering 27 percent. In Dougherty County, nearly one in three residents live in poverty.

This is why people like Secretary of Agriculture Vilsack, Secretary of Interior Jewell, and I are hitting the road—to hear first-hand what’s working in rural America and how we, the federal government, can help.

Building a Better Future Together: Homeownership Month 2015

Rural America faces a unique set of challenges when it comes to combating poverty in our towns and communities. Too often, rural people and places are hard to reach or otherwise underserved -- but USDA makes sure they are not forgotten. I believe that USDA and its partners have the tools and the means to expand opportunity and better serve those living in poverty.  This month, Homeownership Month, we are celebrating a program that has helped rural families locate and climb ladders of opportunity into the middle class: The Mutual Self-Help Housing Program.

Fifty years ago USDA initiated The Mutual Self-Help Housing Program to provide very low- and low-income families the opportunity to achieve the American dream of homeownership, and in 50 years, USDA has partnered with more than 100 non-profit Self-Help Housing Organizations to help 50,000 rural American families accomplish homeownership.

Creating Opportunity for All in Rural Communities

Last month, the Obama Administration and the White House Rural Council, with Secretary Vilsack as the chair, launched Rural Impact, a coordinated effort across federal agencies to strengthen rural economies by supporting children and their families.

Today, Secretary Vilsack is in Memphis, Tennessee to attend the 10th Annual Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development Conference. Speaking with delegations from over 20 countries, he is discussing a new report, summarized below. This report examines what we know about kids living in rural poverty in the U.S. and how we can best assist them to reach their full potential.

If we invest in our rural communities, especially children and families experiencing poverty in these areas, we will be building a stronger country for our future.

Cross-posted from the White House blog:

Sound Nutrition: What Every Child Needs

Pediatricians understand all too well the toll that obesity and malnutrition are taking on the health and well-being of our nation’s children. Pediatricians, not politicians, know what’s best for the health of our children, which is why the healthier school meals are based on the advice of pediatricians and nutrition experts. With doctors, parents, teachers and schools all working together, we can make sure our kids get the healthy start in life they deserve. --Secretary Vilsack

By: Sandra G. Hassink, MD, FAAP, President, American Academy of Pediatrics, @AAPPres

Over the years in my weight management clinic, it became clear to me that addressing each child’s medical needs, such as the need for lifestyle counseling treatment for obesity-related liver disease, type 2 diabetes, or sleep apnea, was a crucial part of my job as a pediatrician. So was caring for the whole child. That meant working to meet three of their most basic needs outside the walls of my pediatric practice: sound nutrition and healthy physical activity; stable, nurturing relationships in families, early child care settings and schools; and safe environments and communities where children live, learn and play.

Investing in Rural Kids Is an Investment in Our Future

Cross-posted from the White House Rural Council blog:

"Will we accept an economy where only a few of us do spectacularly well? Or will we build an economy where everyone who works hard has a chance to get ahead? ... This country does best when everyone gets their fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules."

-- President Obama, January 31, 2015

The American Dream is a dream of opportunity for a better future. Who better represents this opportunity than our country’s children? As parents and as leaders, we owe it to our kids to provide them access to education, housing and health care, and most importantly, an opportunity to succeed so they can help our nation compete in a 21st century economy.