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Poverty story series to run this week

In the coming week the Daily Journal will be presenting a series of articles titled “Working to Debt: The Face of Poverty in Missouri’s Parkland.” Over the course of five days and 15 stories, a portrait of poverty in our area will be shared with the intent of shedding light on where we are doing things right and where we could do better.

In order to more effectively discuss the factors that make up the large umbrella of poverty, the stories have been arranged around five elements as identified by the organization “Missourians to End Poverty” and depicted in its 2018 Missouri Poverty Report.

These factors include, in order of presentation in this series:

Economic and Family Security (Monday) – This factor, which may seem as the most obvious to some, consists of an individual or family’s ability to provide for itself, based upon employment, wages, household income, debt, taxes and property.

Food and Nutrition (Tuesday) – While generally connected to income, a lack of access to adequate nutrition is one of the key hardships faced by Missouri families living in poverty. This factor can be lessened by the presence of supplemental state programs or local food pantries, which are not always equipped to serve all individuals in an area facing income insecurity.

Housing and Energy (Wednesday) – For many who find themselves in or near poverty, the first concern is maintaining consistent housing. This problem is complicated by an area’s average rent, the availability of affordable housing and how those factors interact with employment and income levels.

Health (Thursday) – Whether it be financial strain caused by out-of-pocket medical expenses or the psychological stress associated with poverty, the health of individuals and families without financial security is a serious factor that can manifest in several ways.

Education (Friday) – Ranging from high school graduation rates to earning potential for post-secondary degrees, this factor consists of trends showing relationships between educational attainment and financial security.

According to 2016 census information compiled in the 2018 Missouri Poverty Report, Missouri falls in the middle of the road when it comes to overall poverty statistics. Some 12.7 percent of people living in the United States live below the poverty level, while 14 percent of Missourians live below the same level – down from 16.2 percent in 2012. For Missouri children, however, that number is closer to 19.2 percent.

In actual numbers, 826,358 total Missourians – including 260,867 children – live below the federal poverty level.

This week’s series will feature interviews with local and state officials, representatives of resource agencies and others in positions directly involved with treating the symptoms and causes of poverty in the area.

In addition, we will be telling the stories of individuals and families who have found themselves in poverty situations. Some have climbed out to reach a stable place while others are living in the struggle every day.

“Working to Debt: The Face of Poverty in the Parkland” could not have been produced without the cooperation and assistance of multiple public and private entities — most notably the consultation of East Missouri Action Agency since the series’ inception.

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