As you read this, there are hungry children nearby.
While it’s not often discussed, nearly a quarter of all American children live in poverty. Many children in the North Country are in a similar situation.
Poverty is defined by the federal government based on income and household size. A family of four earning $22,113 or less a year meets the poverty threshold. The income level rises to $26,023 for a family of five and so on.
According to the census, 16.4 million children now live in poverty in the United States. That’s 22 percent of all American children, the highest percentage since 1959.
According to the New York State Community Action Association’s 2012 poverty report, 20.3 percent of Essex County children live in poverty. In Washington County 19.5 percent of children live in poverty, in Warren County 16 percent and Clinton County 16.1 percent.
Poverty — at least in the North Country — seems to be a silent problem. But those who see it know it’s children who suffer the most.
Earlier this year John McDonald, Ticonderoga school superintendent, pleaded with Dede Scozzafava, deputy secretary of state for local government, to take greater action to alleviate rural poverty.
“There’s a lot of attention focused on poverty in our state, but it’s focused on urban poverty,” McDonald said. “I submit that rural poverty is worse. We need to focus on rural poverty as much as urban poverty.
“Poverty is a problem everywhere, there’s no denying it,” McDonald said. “But a poor person in New York City can go to a shelter (for heat) or a soup kitchen (for food). Even poor kids can go to museums and libraries if they choose to. Our kids are isolated. They don’t have those opportunities.”
Nearly a quarter of Ticonderoga students — 23 percent — live in poverty. That makes Ti the 623rd poorest district in the state. There are 684 districts. Crown Point is close. It has a poverty rate of 22.4 percent and ranks 618th.
Of course, poverty leads to hunger. Childhood hunger is especially a problem during the summer months. Many children who get free or reduced breakfast and lunch while attending school are now without those meals. That’s 10 meals a week they’re missing.
Fortunately, the United State Department of Agriculture’s summer food service program is available in the region for children who can get to distribution sites. Meals are provided to all children 18 years and younger.
Essex County has “open sites” at CV-Tech in Mineville, Moriah Central School in Port Henry and at Ticonderoga Elementary School. “Open sites” serve all children.
Essex County also has “closed sites” at the Bloomingdale Fire House, Petrova Elementary School in Saranac Lake, Noblewood in Willsboro and Crown Point Central School. “Closed sites” serve income-eligible children. Children who are part of households that receive food stamps or Temporary Assistance to Needy Families are automatically eligible to receive free meals. For more information, call Essex County Community Resources at 873-3632.
Clinton County also offers the USDA summer food service program at the Evergreen Town House Community Center and the Ted K. Center in Plattsburgh. For more information, contact the Clinton County Social Services Department at 565-3370.
In Warren County children get lunch at East Field 11:30 to 12:30 each day through a program operated by the Action Committee for Economic Opportunity, the county and BOCES.
These summer food programs are vital to the health and well being of our children. Our thanks to those who administer and operate them.