National Poverty in America Awareness Month

Everybody desires the same things: to work, learn, and belong. However, not everyone has the necessary resources to meet their basic needs. 

Every January, National Poverty in America Awareness Month highlights one of society’s most common and ongoing issues. The importance of this year’s awareness is increased by the devastation of the coronavirus pandemic and the ensuing economic turmoil felt by families and communities across the nation.

There’s no doubt that hunger and food insecurity are economic problems. It’s harder to survive on a smaller salary, especially if you are:

  • Suddenly unemployed. 
  • Working at a low-wage job.
  • Have a financial emergency with little to no savings. 
  • Rent rather than own your home. 

Racial injustice also plays a role.  Compared to white people, communities of color, particularly Black communities, face hunger, poverty, and unemployment at substantially higher rates. 

This inequality creates obstacles in several areas, such as housing, work, and education. 

Hunger and low income are also more prevalent among those suffering from a mental or physical disability and those with chronic illnesses.

Living with a disability or chronic illness may increase medical expenses, make it more difficult to work consistently, or simply make simple chores like food shopping more difficult. 

Official Poverty Measure By Census Bureau 

  • The official poverty rate in 2021 was 11.6 percent, with 37.9 million people in poverty. 
  • Official poverty rates decreased for people under the age of 18 and increased for people 65 years and older. 
  • Most of the demographic groups discussed in this report did not experience significant changes in their poverty rates between 2020 and 2021. 

Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM)

  • There was some good news in the report.  The SPM rate in 2021 was 7.8 percent, a decrease of 1.4 percentage points from 2020. This is the lowest SPM poverty rate since estimates were first published and the third consecutive decline.

Child Poverty by State, Region, and Metro Area: While the national child poverty rate was 16.9%, state child poverty rates varied widely, ranging from 8.1% to 27.7%.

Child poverty rates were at least 18.0% in seven out of ten South regions (12 states) states and the District of Columbia.

Only one state in the Midwest, one in the Northeast, and two in the West had child poverty rates of at least 18.0%.

Rates of child poverty by state:

Utah (8.1%) and New Hampshire (9.2%) were among the lowest. 

On the other hand, Mississippi (27.7%), Louisiana (26.9%), and the District of Columbia (23.9%) had some of the highest rates. 

In 2021, the 384 metro regions that make up the country’s MSAs or metropolitan statistical areas had child poverty rates that ranged from 2.1% to 39.2%.

26.3% of the 156 metro areas in the South, or 41 out of the 59 metro areas with the worst child poverty rates in the US, are located in the South.

The Northeast and the Midwest only made up 5.1% and 20.3%, respectively, of the metro regions with the highest child poverty rates. 

More than one in five kids live in households that struggle against hunger. This is a tragic reality for many young people in our country, especially since childhood hunger has far-reaching consequences. 

When children don’t get the nutritious food they need, they are more likely to experience health problems, developmental delays, and struggle with school.  Research shows that hungry children are more likely to grow into unhealthy adults, with an increased risk for chronic diseases such as obesity and heart disease. 

Unfortunately, child hunger is a problem that is often hidden from view. As a result, many people don’t realize that children in their own communities don’t have enough to eat. And because childhood hunger is not always visible, it can be hard to know how to help. 

Ready to help?

  • Reach out to local organizations working to combat hunger and see how you can get involved.

For just .50, you can provide a nourishing plant-based meal for one child. 

Not only are these meals healthy and delicious, but they help take the stress out of mealtimes for kids who might otherwise go hungry.  

Poverty is not just an American problem either, with more than 805 million people living in extreme poverty around the globe. 

The World Bank defines extreme poverty as living on less than $1.90 per day, which means these people cannot afford basic needs like food and shelter.

Poverty is a complex issue that can be hard to understand, but by working together, we can make a difference. 

Poverty Awareness Month is a time for all of us to reflect on the challenges faced by those living in poverty and to work together to find solutions.

The Food for Life Global organization believes that food is a basic human right and that everyone should have access to nutritious, plant-based meals. 

t based meals for those less fortunate that need our help.

Picture of Paul Turner

Paul Turner

Paul Turner co-founded Food for Life Global in 1995. He is a former monk, a veteran of the World Bank, entrepreneur, holistic life coach, vegan chef, and author of 6 books, including, FOOD YOGA, 7 maxims for soul happiness.

MR. Turner has traveled to 72 countries over the last 35 years helping to establish Food for Life projects, train volunteers, and document their success.

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