Spotlight on Challenging Poverty

For most kids, Vermont is a great place to grow up. National child well-being profiles consistently rank our state in the top 10 in the nation.

This success is not luck or magic – it is the result of forward-thinking policies and years of investment in programs and services that have helped kids and families thrive. It reflects Vermonters’ acceptance of a simple truth: as a community, it is our responsibility to give our kids a healthy, safe, and economically secure start in life. The fact that we have been so successful in doing so relative to the rest of the nation is a good indicator of a bright and prosperous future for our state.

Yet, despite these good rankings, not all Vermont’s children are doing well. Even before the current recession hit hardest, one third of Vermont children were living in families struggling to make ends meet. Today, more Vermont families are facing economic hardships that will result in increasing rates of child poverty, hunger, or homelessness.

In 2007, Voices for Vermont’s Children helped to establish, through legislation, the Vermont Child Poverty Council, whose goal is to cut Vermont’s child poverty rate in half by 2017. Today, Voices is pleased to release its 2010 KIDS COUNT Report, Challenging Poverty: Supporting Children and Families in Difficult Times , which provides a context for the Poverty Council’s recommendations to reach that goal.

The data in the report are primarily from 2008 – prior to the worst period of the current recession. These Vermont data show:

  • 17,000 children lived in poverty in 2008. Of those children, 8,000 were extremely poor, living with incomes of less than one-half of the poverty level.
  • Our 13.2% child poverty rate is higher than that of Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire.
  • Since 2000, the percentage of children eligible for the federal school meals program has increased by 38% – from 26% in 2000 to 36% in 2009.

Poverty creates huge disadvantages for children, now and in the future, making it difficult for them to prosper and thrive. But poverty and economic insecurity do not have to be a fact of life in Vermont. That’s why Voices for Vermont’s Children is committed to continuing our efforts to maintain support for and expansion of public policies that work for children and families, like those outlined in the Vermont Child Poverty Council’s recommendations.

To learn more about ways to challenge poverty and support our children and families, read the full report here.