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Poverty in Rural Wisconsin is a Huge Issue

May 10, 2012

LYONS, Neb. - Rural counties in the Midwest and Great Plains have higher incidence of poverty and greater rates of food insecurity, especially among children, according to a new report from the Center for Rural Affairs. Report author Jon Bailey, director of research and analysis for the CFRA, says the perception is that poverty is largely an urban problem.

"It's wrong, in this region - in the Midwest and Great Plains - because the data from the 2010 Census show that poverty levels are actually generally higher in rural areas than in urban or small-city areas of the region."

Food insecurity (lack of access at times to enough food for an active, healthy life) affects less than 13 percent of the population in general, but it affects nearly 24 percent of rural children, Bailey says, warning that this is a very disturbing fact for rural families.

"They're just throwing away a quarter of their childhood population and dooming them to issues later on in life. We're not going to encourage the best out of any of those children, simply because they don't have enough food to eat or enough resources in their family to provide for their basic needs."

In order to reverse the trend of poverty and food insecurity in rural areas, Bailey says, it's crucial to develop innovative ways to create rural economic opportunities and revitalize rural economies. However, the Farm Bill currently being debated in Congress does nothing to address the crucial issue of jobs for rural areas, he adds.

"Without that kind of support, most of these rural communities in this region are going to continue to face the poverty and economic trends that we're seeing in this report and others we've done."

Bailey says federal contributions to rural development have been plummeting for years, with far too much emphasis on the largest corporate farms and not enough on creating opportunities for smaller farms and rural areas in general.

The full report is available at

Tim Morrissey, Public News Service - WI