Article 25

Third Poorest in the Nation

In Uncategorized on 06/14/2012 at 1:02 pm


Georgine Getty discusses child poverty in Cincinnati. Photo by Aimie Willhoite.

Cincinnati kids growing up hungry

By Mark Payne


There are lists cities want to be on, and there are lists cities don’t want to be on.
In November 2011, Cincinnati found itself on a list it didn’t want to be on: Third in the country for child poverty.
Cincinnati ranks third in child poverty behind Cleveland and Detroit. Cincinnati’s overall poverty rate is 30.6 percent, according to the American Community Survey. Of that group, 48 percent are children. That’s 29,815 children. Cincinnati doubles Ohio’s child poverty rate, which sits at 23.3 percent, and triples the national rate, which sits at 21.6 percent.
Poverty is nothing new to Cincinnati, where our rates have been steadily increasing since 2000, when the poverty rate was 21.9 percent. In 2008, Cincinnati’s poverty rate hit 25.1 percent. Between 2000 and 2010, Cincinnati has seen a nearly 9 percent jump in its poverty rate.
Community leaders are perplexed as to how to solve the problem. On May 14, community leaders came together at Wise Temple in Amberley Village for a forum called “Cincinnati – Third in the nation in Child Poverty: a Report Card for Change.”
What does child poverty look like?
Child Poverty looks and means a lot of different things to different people. Attempts to alleviate can take numerous forums. The five members of the panel leading the discussion at Wise Temple differed in what they saw as child poverty.

“Child poverty has a wide variety of faces,” said Anthony Smith, assistant superintendent of the Cincinnati Public School District.
To Georgine Getty, executive director of the Interfaith Hospitality Network, children in poverty are invisible.
“They look just like every other child,” she said.
Yet one of the ways to possibly alleviate the stigma of poverty is to have children wear school uniforms, according to Smith. It gives children the idea they “don’t have to compete over clothing … we’re here for the same reason.”
To Kurt Reiber, president of the board of directors of the FreeStore FoodBank, the issue comes down to where a child will get his or her next meal. In the 20 counties that the FreeStore FoodBank serves, roughly 25 percent of children are “food insecure,” which means they have no idea where or when they will get their next meals.
As a consensus, members of the panel said not having food creates a host of dilemmas for children. They won’t be able to think in school, if they can even stay awake. That’s also assuming they made it to school in the first place, because oftentimes children living in poverty might not have parents present to make them go to school. The parents could be out working all night just to meet basic necessities and find it hard to awake their children for school.
Not having food also leads to behavior and development issues, according to Getty.

“You can’t be doing the job of a child when hungry,” she said.
If a poverty-stricken child does develop behavior or development problems, it’s often hard to tell the parents, because they’ve reached a point where they can no longer accept bad news, Getty said.  They’ve reached the breaking point by just trying to be able to put food on the table.
Students often rely on public schools to get food; and when summer break comes, they often have a hard time to find steady meals. For most kids, having a summer or spring break is what represents childhood. Throwing snowballs or building a snowman on a snow day also epitomizes childhood. Yet, for some children, these off days and breaks mean they won’t be eating that day.
The problem of nutritional quality also plays a role. On a limited budget, it’s hard to think about getting proper foods in your body. Kids and adults alike are so hungry that the fatty and salty foods are what they go for first.
Smith described a hungry child’s mentality this way: “If I’m eating something, that’s OK.”

Getty said kids will often show up at the Interfaith Hospitality Network with potato chips and Kool-Aid or other malnutritious snacks, because when you’re poor, eating is about quantity, not quality. She said the early years of a child’s life are crucial, because that’s when children build their lifelong relationships with food.
“Food is tied to our identity … it’s who we are,” she said.


  1. Nice article, it;s just a wee bit too clean though. How about explaining what it is like to be a child who doesn’t get to eat 3 meals a day, who doesn’t get good nutritious foods very often, if ever…. Not to mention what happens to a person body medically after years of starvation and poor nutrition. How about some details?

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