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Poverty workers saw rise in need first

The U.S. Census Bureau made it official this year, though a lot of people have known for a long time that the numbers of the needy in Minnesota were rising.

The people who run emergency food pantries, house the homeless and educate our kids were telling us so.

Schools personnel told of children and their families living in cars and kids coming to school hungry. Emergency food providers told of jobless folks who once donated to emergency food shelves now packing up bags of groceries to bring home. Housing providers told of the need for more shelter space. Government officials pointed to vacant houses and soaring numbers of the poor in suburban cities.

But Census numbers quantified and legitimized other surveys and everyday observations: 2011 was a year in which more and more Minnesotans entered the ranks of the poor and near poor, putting stress on people and institutions throughout the state.

This fall U.S. researchers reported that 10.8 percent of Minnesotans fall at poverty level or less, up from 9.6 percent in 2007-08 before the recession. Statewide, that calculates at about 544,000 people. For an individual, poverty level is $11,344 or less a year.

Add in the so-called near poor, those making 200 percent of the poverty level, and 27.5 percent of Minnesotans are poor, almost a 4 percent increase since 2007, according to state demographer Tom Gillaspy.

Still, Minnesota has fewer poor than the national average through the worst downturn since the 1930s and a sluggish economic recovery.

Now, at year’s end, it’s worth gathering together and pondering some of other poverty numbers, both from the Census and other sources. Here they are:

• The poverty rate in Minnesota’s suburban cities has risen from 4 percent in 2001 to 5.8 percent in 2007 to 7.6 percent in 2010. That’s the “new face of poverty,” in the suburbs, says Benjamin Senauer, a professor of applied economics at the University of Minnesota.

More than 15 percent of young Minnesotans live at or below the poverty level, with almost 1 in 3 kids in Brooklyn Park at that level.

• Doubled, are the hunger numbers in Minnesota over the past five years.

• More than 580,000 Minnesotans reported last summer they worry about having enough food on the table. That’s about one in 10 Minnesotans, according to Hunger-Free Minnesota.

• The Homeless Students Count for school year 2009 to 2010 authorized by the Minnesota Department of Education shows that 45 percent of all school districts reported having enrolled one or more homeless students.

• More than half of Minneapolis’ American Indian, Asian and black children live in poverty, according to the One Minneapolis Community Indicators Report compiled by The Minneapolis Foundation and the Amherst H. Wilder Foundation.

• More Minnesota school children receive free lunch or get it for less under the National School Lunch Program than in years past. Almost 33,000 Minnesota kids signed on to the program in the past two years. “What that really is indicating is a deep need,” says Senauer.

• Low-income school children across the state now make up 37 percent of the total student population.

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Comments (12)

  1. Submitted by Gregory Lang on 12/29/2011 - 06:24 am.

    If the demand was expected to go up why import poverty and “social problem form the rest of the USA and the the rest of the world to Minnesota. Perhaps our “poverty industry” thought this would be a way to generate more work in the poverty industry.

    Minnesota already has the highest welfare spending as portion of budget of any state according to the Census.

    Read more:

  2. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 12/29/2011 - 09:20 am.

    Meanwhile, the Bakery, Confectionary, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International union, whose membership earns an average $40k/Yr (not counting overtime, bonuses or benefits), rejected an offer from the owners of American Crystal Sugar of an 8 percent pay increase the first year, including a $2,000 signing bonus; 9 percent pay increase over the remaining four years of the contract for a total of 17 percent over five years.

    Evidently the market for semi-skilled Bakery, Confectionary, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers is booming somewhere.

  3. Submitted by Channing Florence on 12/29/2011 - 10:14 am.

    Gregory, who are these people or organizations that are importing “poverty and social problem form the rest of the USA and the the rest of the world to Minnesota”, and what is the “poverty industry”? Handing out food, clothes and shelter to people who are down on their luck doesn’t seem like a brilliant get-rich-quick scheme.

    Given our current economic climate, it’s on the verge of ridiculous to claim that all or even most of the impoverished and struggling people in MN moved from other states or countries. It makes even less sense that you cited an article that has nothing to do with people moving to MN. The article says there are many things included as welfare that aren’t cash payouts, such as veterans homes.

  4. Submitted by Rebecca Hoover on 12/29/2011 - 12:03 pm.

    At the same time that poverty and hunger among Minnesota’s children increase, our political leaders get more and more overweight. Sad, sad, sad. We need better role models.

  5. Submitted by Richard Schulze on 12/29/2011 - 08:40 pm.

    The US sugar business is only as profitable as it is because it’s the beneficiary of tremendous governmental price supports. The federal sugar program costs consumers approximately $1.4 billion a year.

  6. Submitted by Richard Schulze on 12/30/2011 - 07:56 am.

    The concern that some folk’s have, regarding the wages and benefits of hard working American’s, would be much more productive by directing it at subsidized, corporate welfare.

  7. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 12/30/2011 - 08:37 am.

    I join you, Richard, in protesting unnecessary public subsidies to private businesses. However, I can’t help but point to the irony of a leftist decrying concern over others income and benefits.

  8. Submitted by dan buechler on 12/30/2011 - 03:23 pm.

    OK there is going to be wage compression. Should we do it more quickly and more widespread thru inflation or should we do it more slowly and hit young families harder?

  9. Submitted by dan buechler on 12/30/2011 - 03:47 pm.

    And before you say/write it will hurt “old retired savers” think about the constituency of young people. In the first place it is almost preposterous that anyone making less than a 120K should be personally investing much in the stock market. But we do have to account for longer lives and we as a nation failed to do so with the adoption of 401ks. Again I am not saying I have the answers but we have to consider alternatives. Read Elizabeth’s Warren’s ” The Two Income Trap”.

  10. Submitted by Richard Schulze on 01/01/2012 - 11:03 am.

    A mistake bankers and progressives both make is assuming the face value of an equity like a paycheck or a mortgage-backed security describes a real value rather than a relative one.

  11. Submitted by Bernice Vetsch on 01/01/2012 - 03:53 pm.

    Thomas (#2)

    The workers rejected the company’s first offer because its new health insurance plan would cost more than the wage increases they would receive.

    Their latest offer (also rejected) would let the workers keep their current insurance plan for one year, after which the expensive company plan would be mandatory. The $2,000 signing bonus was removed from this offer.

    (See “Crystal Sugar workers reject sweetened contract offer,” by Mike Hughlett, StarTribune, November 1, 2011)

  12. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 01/02/2012 - 11:59 am.

    “The workers rejected the company’s first offer because its new health insurance plan would cost more than the wage increases they would receive.”

    If they believe the company’s plan is too expensive, it would seem like an excellent time for the “union brothers” to use their collective influence to purchase a health care plan more favorable to their membership, themselves.

    Most privately employed workers are dealing with salary reductions *and* health care hikes. Increases in pay are rare; 17% increases are unheard of.

    This is why their strike is getting absolutely no traction with the public.

    If they don’t wise up, these poor people will end up worse than NWA mechanics did…aircraft mechanics are exceptionally skilled, I wonder if that’s true of sugar factory workers.

    As Cynthia points out; there’s a lot of people out there looking for a job.

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