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Poverty in Oakland County

By Lisa Brody
News Editor
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Between 2009 and 2013, the number of clients Lighthouse served from various communities in both south and western Oakland County grew by 200 or more each year, with new clients coming from Farmington, Farmington Hills, Novi, Clawson, Ferndale, Berkley, Hazel Park, Royal Oak, Southfield, Madison Heights, Franklin, Wixom and Walled Lake among the fastest growing populations of clients in need. As a matter of fact, despite Pontiac's continued center for low income and poverty, the growth of poverty in other areas of Oakland County dramatically outpaced the rate of the growth of poverty in Pontiac between 2005 and 2012.

In Birmingham and Bloomfield Hills, churches are quietly opening their doors to offer food and other services to residents in need. Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church on N. Adams,

Ladies of Charity on Opdyke, and St. Elizabeth Briarbank Home on Woodward, all in Bloomfield Hills, provide services in coordination with Gleaners.

"Food banks are giving away more and more food every year," said Gilda Jacobs. "There is still a huge need for basics."

Even with the September 2016 census bureau report of the increase in household income and the decline in poverty levels, a greater signifier of economic wellbeing is the measure of economic need that comes from comparing family income and the real cost of living. An accurate indicator is the number of school children needing free or reduced school lunches in a community.

The National School Lunch Program is a federally assisted meal program operating in public and non-profit private schools and residential child care institutions. It provides nutritionally balanced, low-cost or free lunches to children each school day. The program was established under the National School Lunch Act, signed by President Harry Truman in 1946.

To apply and qualify for free or reduced lunches, parents multiply the federal income poverty guidelines by family size by 1.3 and 1.85, respectively, based on monthly income.

"School lunches have increased in Michigan. In our state, over half the kinds are on free or reduced lunches," said Jacobs of the Michigan League for Public Policy. "That is proof we have more work to be done."

For the 2015-2016 school year, Birmingham Public Schools, which covers areas of Birmingham, Bloomfield Township, Bloomfield Hills, Franklin, Southfield, West Bloomfield, and Troy, out of a total enrollment of 8,093 students, there were 490 students, or 5.32 percent, receiving free lunches, and 83, or .9 percent, who received reduced school lunches.

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