With 2009 Census results expected soon, Democrats fear how this data will reflect on Obama’s administration. The poverty rate of Americans is predicted to have increased from 13.2 to 15 percent, figures that are close to the 1960 levels which led to a national war on poverty, according to msnbc.com.
Surveyors also anticipate increases in child poverty, from 19 to over 20 percent, as well as disproportionate levels of injury to Blacks and Hispanics due to their higher rates of unemployment.
If estimates are true, then approximately 45 million people, more than one out of every seven Americans, were statisticly poor last year.
During his speech last Friday, President Obama said, “The most important anti-poverty issue is growing the economy and making sure there are enough jobs out there.” He also spoke of his desire to help the nation’s poor to achieve middle- class status.
To give students an idea of the desperation many families are in, consider the cost of tuition at Northwestern. NW’s website lists the average total of tuition, room and board for the 2010-2011 school year to be $30,420.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, a family of six would be below the poverty line if their yearly income was $29,530 or less. A family of six, making an average student’s tuition, would not even be considered poor according to government standards.
Some NW students, such as seniors Lanet Hane and Stacey Ahlm, are concerned with these statistics and are trying to help. Hane and Ahlm are the student leaders for Hunger and Homeless Ministries, a campus group dedicated to raising awareness about issues of poverty in the area.
The group’s mission is inspired from verses such as 1 John 3:18: “Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue, but with action and in truth.” Hane and Ahlm firmly believe that loving God and loving your neighbor are one and the same.
With Hunger and Homeless Ministry, Hane and Ahlm are organizing a free community meal at New Hope Church this upcoming Thursday, September 23. The goal of the event is to break down false stereotypes and build relationships between people who may come from different socioeconomic levels.
Hane and Ahlm are also helping community churches to organize a Crop Walk—a walk along the Puddle Jumper scheduled later this month to raise awareness about hunger. Their ministry is also planning to make and serve pancakes to raise money for Haiti during Morning on the Green Homecoming weekend.
Hunger and Homeless Ministry is always looking for more help and more volunteers. Hane and Ahlm would love to talk to anyone interested in these activities.
Another way students can help fight the growing poverty in America is by supporting the yearly Red Letter Festival held at the start of each school year. Started by five NW students including Rebecca and Mark Alsum and Brittany Caffey, the music and arts festival features various local bands, a bake sale and an art auction, all designed to raise awareness and money for the Bridge Transitional Housing, a temporary home for women and children living in unstable environments
The festival, which raised almost $3,000 for the Bridge this fall, is in need of new leaders. As the original student leaders and organizers have graduated, Caffey and the Alsums have been left with full responsibility of the festival. Alsum expressed a desire for new students to step up and take on some of the roles.
“The intent of the Red Letter Festival is for the community to take care of itself,” said Alsum.
Students interested in helping to fight the growing levels of poverty in America do not have to search far to find ways to help out. Hospers 2nd and 3rd floors will be hosting a bake sale and car wash this Saturday, Sept.18, from 9 a.m. to noon in the maintenance parking lot to raise money for the Bridge ministries.