Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger

New U.S. Census Numbers: Poverty Keeps Rising

Today, the U.S. Census Bureau released poverty numbers that paint a dire portrait of a nation that has been hit hard by a bad economy. Folks are using every last resort to survive: scrambling for low-paying jobs, doubling up households, moving in with parents, and foregoing health insurance after losing their jobs.

The report states that in 2010, the poverty rate increased to 15.1 percent, up from 14.3 percent in 2009, with 46.2 million people living in poverty—nearly one out of every six Americans. That’s the highest rate since the Census began tracking poverty data in 1959.

Also noted in the study:

  • Since 2007, the number of men working full time, year-round with earnings decreased by 6.6 million, and the number of corresponding women declined by 2.8 million.
  • The poverty rate increased for children younger than 18 from 20.7 percent in 2009 to 22 percent in 2010.
  • The number of people in poverty ages 18 to 64 also increased from 24.7 million in 2009 to 26.3 million in 2010.
  • By spring 2011, the number of doubled-up households increased by 2 million to 21.8 million.
  • 5.9 million young adults age 25-34 lived with their parents. Before the recession, that number was 4.7 million.

I wanted to see how my town of Washington, DC, was faring, so I called up Mark Anderson, co-director of We Are Family, a grocery delivery service in Northwest DC. We Are Family focuses on serving the elderly, but Mark has been receiving calls lately from people outside of his target demographic. “You’re starting to see more folks who are younger who are being forced to take advantage of services they historically have not had to utilize,” Anderson says. “I got a call from someone who is going to university, and they needed groceries, and another person who was younger than 40 years old, who had been employed, but lost his job. The shame of asking for help was palpable in the person’s voice.”

Nonprofit direct-service organizations like We Are Family are doing their best, but they are also struggling financially, as foundations are no longer able to provide as much funding. The poverty rate, therefore, could be worse were it not for federally funded safety net programs such as WIC and SNAP (formerly food stamps).

Interestingly enough, the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction—or “Super Committee”—had its second meeting today. If you remember, this is the bipartisan group of 12 members of Congress who are charged with identifying $1.5 trillion in federal deficit reductions. Everything is on the table for the Super Committee to dissect and eliminate, including the very programs that help keep people out of poverty.

It’s time for us – you, me, and everyone we know—to make it clear to Congress that poverty-focused federal assistance cannot be cut when poverty rates have climbed for the third year in a row. These programs are not wasteful spending—they are keeping real, industrious Americans and their kids off the streets and on a pathway to self-sufficiency.

We can’t let them fall through the cracks at a time like this.

+Take Action: Ask Congress to form a circle of protection around funding for programs for poor and hungry people in the U.S. and abroad.


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