September of 2009, the U.S. Census Bureau released its annual
report on poverty for 2008. This is the first set of data that
reflects the impact of the recession on American households. The
data revealed that the number of people living in poverty now totals
40 million, a 2.6 million increase from 2007, and the highest level
since 1997. Child poverty also increased from 18 percent to 19
percent, bringing the total number of children in poverty to over
Many of those children are African American girls like ten-year-old Valencia
Shackleford and her nine-year old sister Genora who were featured
recently in the Montgomery Advertiser. Valencia and Genora, whose family lived in a van in Alabama for a time after
their rented home was destroyed by Hurricane Ivan in 2004, are among
the American children who live in poverty. Valencia said the hardest part about not getting enough to eat was “not
being able to function as a normal person. There was no energy.”
Genora added, “You feel like a speck of dirt.”
According to the Census Bureau report, 34.5 percent of African-American and 28.6 percent
of Hispanic children live in poverty. For white children, the rate
is 15 percent. The findings
also showed that although the poverty rate was statistically unchanged
for African-Americans (24.7 percent) in 2008, it is still higher
than any other minority group. It increased for non-Hispanic whites
(8.6 percent in 2008, up from 8.2 percent in 2007), Asian-Americans
(11.8 percent in 2008, up from 10.2 percent in 2007) and Hispanics
(23.2 percent in 2008, up from 21.5 percent in 2007).
Prior to the recession, low-income families were already
struggling to make ends meet; the economic downturn has only made
their situation worse. Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread
for the World said: “We need to recognize that there are still
and will continue to be millions of struggling families and we have
to make sure that they get the help they need to get by.”
to the poverty picture is the rising unemployment rate. Recently
released government data shows that the unemployment rate has reached
9.7 percent, the highest since 1983 Participation in the Supplemental
Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) -- formerly known as food stamps
-- has increased by almost 3.5 million in the first six months of
this year, reaching a total of 35 million. One out of every nine
Americans now receive SNAP benefits.
increase in hunger and poverty in the United States remains largely
an unreported story. “It’s eerie to me how little attention this crisis
is receiving. The poor seem to be completely out of the picture,”recently wrote New York Times columnist Bob Herbert.
we try to recover from the recession, we need to ensure that the
poor are not only in the picture but are in the front and center
of these recovery efforts.
BlackCommentator.com Guest Commentator Racine Tucker-Hamilton works for Bread for the
Bread is a collective Christian voice urging our
nation’s decision makers to end hunger at home and abroad. Click
to contact Ms. Tucker-Hamilton.
Any BlackCommentator.com article may
be re-printed so long as it is re-printed in its entirety and full
credit given to the author and www.BlackCommentator.com. If the
re-print is on the Internet we additionally request a link back
to the original piece on our Website.
Your comments are always welcome.
eMail re-print notice
If you send us an eMail message
we may publish all or part of it, unless you tell us it
is not for publication. You may also request that we withhold
Thank you very much for your readership.
Your comments are always welcome.
8 , 2009
published every Thursday
Bill Fletcher, Jr.
Est. April 5, 2002
Printer Friendly Version
in resizeable plain
text format or pdf