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Poverty on the Decrease? Tell That to Ohio's Children

Photo: New Census data indicates children who receive adequate food at home, and at school, also perform better academically in school. Photo courtesy: The Children's Aid Society.
Photo: New Census data indicates children who receive adequate food at home, and at school, also perform better academically in school. Photo courtesy: The Children's Aid Society.
September 23, 2014

DAYTON, Ohio - The latest Census data indicates poverty is on the decrease nationwide for the first time since 2006. In Ohio, the poverty rate number now sits at 16 percent for 2013, slightly above the national average, but the proportion of children living in poverty in Ohio and the rest of the country is larger than that. According to Census data, one in five - and in some counties, one in four - Ohio children faces poverty.

Sandy Oxley, chief executive officer of Voices for Ohio's Children, says it's a problem that could be addressed with money made available to school districts to provide breakfast and lunches to all students.

"If school districts across the state would take advantage of that, we could certainly be providing breakfast and lunch for all of our students in entire school districts and really have that impact on the academic outcomes," says Oxley.

The Community Eligibility Provision provides meals to schools where 40 percent of students have a demonstrated need, but school systems must apply for the program. Oxley points out the federal government makes more substantial investments in reducing poverty among the elderly, including initiatives such as Social Security, Medicare and tax subsidies.

Oxley adds that high-quality pre-kindergarten can also level the playing field for low-income children.

"We know children who are in a poverty setting are about 600 hours behind their middle-class peers in terms of learning experiences by the time they reach sixth grade," she says.

Congress cut SNAP benefits last year - which directly impacts the access low-income children have to food. Oxley says changing Ohio's Earned Income Tax Credit to make it refundable to taxpayers, regardless of their tax liability, would make a big difference in a family's bottom line.

Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - OH