‘Working lunch’ to consider next steps to address poverty

April 23, 2010 by

When those taking part in the ongoing community forums sit down to a “working lunch” on Thursday, April 29, they hope to move beyond statistics and cold data as they look for ways to address poverty in Cloud County.

But the numbers do provide a place to start:

Consider that more than 54 percent of the children in Cloud County schools are eligible for free or reduced lunches. Statewide that number is less than 43 percent, and in neighboring Clay County it’s 35 percent.

Or consider that more than 1,600 Cloud County residents — 16.6 percent of the people here — live on less than $22,050 a year for a family of four. That “federal poverty guideline” works out to a gross paycheck every two weeks of right at $850 for Mom, Dad and two kids. Clay County’s rate is just 14.7 percent, which matches the statewide number.

Or consider that the asthma rate for children — often viewed as one indicator of poor living conditions — is three times as high in Cloud County as it is in Clay, and more than twice the rate for Kansas statewide.

The statistics — all from Kids Count 2009 — are difficult for many people to comprehend. But even more difficult is finding solutions that truly serve the people living in poverty.

And that will be the focus at Thursday’s working lunch. It is from 11:45 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the Nazareth Motherhouse, and everyone is invited to take part. You do not have to have attended earlier forums to join the process now. Those planning to come are asked to RSVP by noon Wednesday to Sister Jean Rosemarynoski at 243-2149 or sisterjean@csjkansas.org.

This lunch meeting will be the first community forum since Dr. Donna Beegle presented a daylong workshop titled “Poverty 101” at the end of March. Beegle, who grew up in multigenerational poverty and now works with groups across the United States in addressing the cycles of poverty, urged the workshop participants to look at Concordia and Cloud County to find local solutions.

To that end, forum participants will have a chance to review and discuss a survey that’s being proposed for Cloud County. The survey would require interviews with people living in poverty, to get a better sense of the challenges they face and what kind of assistance would help them most.

“We have anecdotes about individual people,” explained Sister Jean Rosemarynoski of the Sisters of St. Joseph, “but this would give us a better and broader picture of what kind of help would truly make a difference.”

Local social service agencies would be asked to help identify people to be included in the survey, and residents would be asked to volunteer to complete the interviews.

Also at Thursday’s meeting, other small groups will have a chance to discuss progress on their projects and then report to the larger group on what is happening or needs to happen next.

Those small group projects include:

  • The Concordia Year of Peace, which began in September 2009
  • A local mediation center
  • A walk-in medical clinic for low-income or the uninsured
  • Enhanced local public transportation

Those attending the lunch will also get an update on one project that is well under way: The Concordia Community Garden of Hope, which is expected to be available for planting April 30.

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