Across the United States, more than 46 million people live at or below the poverty line. Meeting basic needs is often a struggle. Parents must decide whether to pay for groceries or electricity. Medical bills or housing. Diapers or school supplies. Every spending decision a family makes means going without something else.
And going without that something else can have long-term effects. When families can’t afford healthy groceries, they are forced to live on high-carb, processed foods, which contribute to health problems. And when someone in the family gets sick, the medical bills can be staggeringly high. For the 42 million Americans without insurance coverage, this can mean accruing years of debt.
Compared to children whose parents have an income twice that of the poverty line, poor children complete two fewer years of school, earn less than half as much money throughout their working life and are nearly three times as likely to have poor health.
There is no easy solution to ending poverty in America. Underlying causes such as unemployment and low-paying jobs, and a lack of affordable housing and health care all need to be addressed. Organizations such as food banks help with everyday needs and provide a valuable safety net for individuals or families faced with job loss or unforeseen medical expenses. But these services only provide short-term relief. Empowering families and individuals to lift themselves out of poverty requires tailored solutions for different neighborhoods and cities.