Poverty Among Children on Rise in Vigo County

By Brett Edwards | bedwards@wtwo.com

Published 07/23 2014 10:30PM

Updated 07/25 2014 01:51PM

It's an issue that starts with the parents. Hard times or job loss may make it difficult to provide their family with basic needs.

"They're trying to deal with being unemployed or underemployed, and to provide home and food and utilities for their family becomes a struggle for them," said Cherie Gilbert, the Volunteer Coordinator at CASA (Court Apointed Special Advocates) in Vigo County.

Vigo County ranks high among state averages when it comes to food insecurity, and the number of people visiting local food banks is on the rise.

"They're reporting that they're serving more people so we certainly know that the total numbers are going up," said John Etling, Agency Director at Catholic Charities in Terre Haute. "And it's probably not a great surprise that the numbers certainly among children are increasing."

The study also shows that 54% of children in the county receive free or reduced price lunches, nearly five percent more than the state's average.

When students aren't in school, both the Catholic Charities and the Vigo County School Corporation send a backpack full of food home to students who need assistance.

"To get some vital nutrition for those days over the weekend when maybe a pantry might not be open or a feeding site," added Etling. "Certainly schools aren't open."

But keeping a child's stomach full isn't the only challenge that struggling families face.

"There's a huge problem with keeping the utilities on. It gets very cold in the winter without heat and very hot here in the summer," Gilbert said.

CASA does their part to make sure that those children who need help the most are no different than their peers.

"Right now we're collecting school supplies for them. So when they go back to school, they won't be the only child without new things," Gilbert explained.

The study wasn't all bad news.

It found that Vigo County's educational scores outperformed the state average.

The county's graduation rate is also higher than the Indiana average.

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