Where Are the Poor? Or Who Are They?

I live in bucolic Lancaster County. I watch Amish buggies clopping by from my home office window. You can’t drive a mile without encountering a vegetable stand.

And many of my neighbors lack food.

The Lancaster paper published a series of articles this week on the suburban poor. The number of residents getting Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits (food stamps) has increased in the borough where our church is located by 177% over the past five years. In the very rural township where my home is located, it’s gone up 162%. More than 40% of the students in our school district are eligible for free or reduced lunches. (Yes, that’s half the 80% who are eligible in Lancaster City, but it’s still high.)

Poverty is real. And spreading. And coming to a town near you. (Actually, it’s already there.)

And the suburban poor have unique problems. “Because they were so comfortably middle class, they have no skills to live in poverty,” says Joan Espenshade, who started the Power Packs program to feed kids on the weekends. Strange to think about those living in generational poverty having more skills than those in situational poverty. But more people every day are learning how to cope. They have no choice.

Lisa Bartelt gave a powerful description of what it’s like to learn to use food stamps, which was published on the Live 58 blog. Read it and be touched.

Read more from the Lancaster newspaper series here and here.

The article acknowledged that civic and church groups are stepping up to meet the challenge and help the poor. People from our church regularly donate to the food bank and some volunteer at a monthly program at another local church offering breakfast, free groceries and free clothes. I’m sure there’s more we I could do.

Are you seeing more poverty in your area? What kind of creative ideas are being put in place to help those in need?

Community at New Direction Church (an E. C. church restart in Tallmadge, Ohio) plowed up part of their lawn to put in community gardens. Very cool idea.

I’d love to hear more. Share your ideas and projects with the rest of us!

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