ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Nationwide, the number of children living in poverty is way up, and that trend has been found right here in Minnesota. According to KIDS COUNT "the number of children in high-poverty neighborhoods in Minnesota has almost doubled during the last decade, from 35,000 kids in 2006 to 68,000 kids in 2010. The number now makes up 5% of all children in the state.
"A 94% increase is just huge," Kara Arzamendia said. Arzamendia is a researcher with the Children's Defense Fund of MN; the organization helped distribute the data which was taken from a recent census. Arzamendia says the first few years of the study were economically prosperous and may skew the numbers we might find in 2012.
"So really those numbers could be underestimating how many children there actually are living in these neighborhoods," she noted.
We showed these numbers to the leaders of the Academia Cesar Chavez, an elementary charter school on St. Paul's eastside. "We struggle with the issue of high poverty rates," Executive Director Ramona A. de Rosales said.
With 97% of her 349 students on free or reduced lunches, Rosales and her staff hope to help students and their parents. "We care about not only the child but the family. In order for the child to succeed we have to," school community and family director Martha Dominguez remarked. The school not only provides food for the children, workers help parents find jobs and medical assistance. They run dozens of adult workshops. They also have a pantry, laundry facilities, and a room full of spare coats.
1 in 5, or 20% of the kids who live in Ramsey County live in poverty. The study also found 36% of kids in Minneapolis live in high-poverty neighborhoods.
Rosales hopes to find a funding source to keep her St. Paul school open during the summer, so she can continue to feed the kids and also continue to educate them and their parents. She knows these recent numbers are disturbing, but the smiling and driven children keep her from becoming discouraged. "We don't look at them and see all the things that they don't have going on in their lives, but we see the gifts that they bring," she concluded.
Poverty is not only an inner city problem. In fact, census data showed the two counties with the highest poverty rates are out state. Beltrami, in the far Northwest, has 28% of children living in high-poverty neighborhoods. Second on the list was Blue Earth County, with 21% of its kids in the same situation.
(Copyright 2012 by KARE. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)