By Nadin Abbott
April 7, 2013 (San Diego)— ECM spoke with County Board of Education Board Member Greg Robinson today. He shared details on how extensive the face of poverty has become in the County and how this affects our children. He also spoke of sequestration cuts and why living wages matter.
“El Cajon has the highest rate of poverty in San Diego County,” Robinson observed, adding that poverty leads to serious problems of food insecurity as more people are going hungry.
Robinson spoke with ECM at a rally in support of workers on a hunger strike at the Mission Valley Hilton. The workers are seeking to unionize for better pay to support their families.
Earlier in the week ECM talked with Richard Barrera, of San Diego Unified District. Barrera said that two thirds of the District’s 130,000 students are on the enhanced school lunch program. This means that they get both breakfast and lunch at School. When Friday comes, that lunch is the last good food for the weekend.
According to the San Diego Food Bank, nearly 230,000 school children in San Diego County live in low-income households and receive free or reduced-priced meals at school.
More than 446,000 people live below the poverty level in San Diego County. That equates to a household income of less than $10,890 for an individual and $22,350 for a family of four. The Food Bank’s website states, “These individuals face “food insecurity” which means that little or no food is available at home and they do not always know where they will find their next meal.”
The County faces impacts of these conditions in children that it serves. These are the children at the highest level of risk, including children who were expelled from school, are homeless or have entered the Juvenile Criminal system.
“All these problems are getting worse,” Robinson confirmed. These issues span the county from “Oceanside to San Ysidro, and from Ocean Beach to Ocotillo Wells,” he said.
Robinson also emphasized that as counterintuitive as it might sound, “The fastest growth in poverty is in the suburban communities.”
ECM also used the opportunity to ask about how the County Department of Education will be affected by the Sequester. Robinson said that at this point, they have not been hit, yet. But they expect to lose Title One funding, for example.
Countywide, welfare and healthcare are also getting hit. ”These kids show up at school hungry and sick and cannot concentrate in school,” Robinson told ECM. “The most effective school program are not teaching programs but those that feed and take care of health problems.”
These issues of poverty affect all of us. As a society we at times need things like this strike to highlight them, but these issues matter to our collective social well being. These are not just statistics in a piece of paper. These are real lives and real people.