Hunger in Greene County
In rural areas, such as Greene County, poverty has unique characteristics. As a result of generational and emerging poverty, the family structure suffers greatly. Disadvantaged areas often witness the disappearance of families with two parents, booming rates of teen-pregnancy, isolation from services and assistance, the widespread production and distribution of narcotics, illiteracy, poor schooling, the constant dependency on and complacency with Welfare, the growth of unemployment, and the continual rise in homelessness.
All of these factors contribute to the deterioration of the community, the family, and the individuals. Children specifically suffer from the effects of poverty. According to the U.S. Bureau of the Census, in 2010, the poverty rate for children in Greene County is 20.4% (or 1,588 individuals under the age of 18), with 2,090 children able to be identified as food insecure (25.9% of population under 18). Over a quarter of the young people throughout the county do not know where there next meal will come from or if they will have the opportunity to eat.
As children mature, access to healthy food has a strong bearing upon their cognitive development. A lack of proper nutrition causes a child to be twice as likely to suffer poor health and one third more likely to be hospitalized. In her article, Countering Poverty’s Hindrance of Neurodevelopment, Faith McLellan writes, “growing up in poverty leads to ‘systematic changes in brain development and cognition’ that render people less able to solve life’s problems” (236). Not only does food insecurity have a negative effect on the development of children, it actually perpetuates the problem of poverty by rendering soon to be adults incapable of critical analysis and problem solving skills, which would serve them well in finding a way to change their circumstances. As a result, the effects of poverty are perpetuated and generations experience the difficulty of raising hungry families.
Hunger is a serious issue in Greene County. Right now, according to the Hunger Profile for Greene County prepared by our partner, the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, 5,818 persons or 16.3% of the total population is in poverty. This staggering number includes the 22.1% of children 18 years old and under (1,750) and 10.1% (554) of all seniors age 65 and over.
Nearly 5,310 residents are identified as being Food Insecure and do not know where they will find their next meal. Of that number 2,090 are children, placing Greene County above the national percentage for kids who do not have access to a full and healthy diet. Access to healthy food is critical. Children in food insecure households are approximately twice as likely to suffer poor health and one third more likely to be hospitalized. Seniors who don’t have access to adequate nutrition develop more illnesses needing more medical attention and hospital stays. Families in poverty and hunger are unable to obtain the dignity and justice our community so desperately needs to flourish and face our future.