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For as many individuals who were in poverty, Feeding America pointed out that in 2014, another 48.1 million lived in food insecure households, which included 15.3 million children. "Food insecurity exists in every county in the U.S.," with the lowest at 4 percent in North Dakota, and the highest at 33 percent in Mississippi. Michigan ranked 46th, with Mississippi and Nevada tied at 49.
Michigan League for Public Policy's Jacobs asserted that part of the problem is "It has not been a huge priority of the legislature to improve the lives of the people. We have harsher, more punitive measures, so it is important for people to talk to the legislature about things like food assistance. It is important to have a safety net so people can get on their feet. We have to have decent salaries so people don't have to rely on public assistance. It's important that we don't put up more barriers, so people can be more productive citizens – and taxpayers," she emphasized.
"We think all kids count – no matter where they live, their racial or ethnic background, or their family income – but do the elected officials charged with supporting their wellbeing share that priority?" asked Alicia Guevara Warren, project director of Kids Count in Michigan. "If legislators are truly concerned with child wellbeing, they have to address income and racial disparities, and invest in proven two-generation strategies that help kids by helping their parents."
Kids Count recommends policymakers support parents and their children by investing in communities to create safe neighborhoods, clean air and water, quality schools, and adequate police and fire services; strengthen policies that support work, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit, earned paid sick leave, and other workforce opportunities; creating access to affordable child care; helping to prevent child abuse and neglect, and improving mental help and substance abuse for parents; and adequately funding public schools, particularly in high-need areas.
The need for improved and better targeted education is a particular issue to Data Driven Detroit's Metzger. "In Pontiac, Auburn Hills, and pockets of other communities, people don't have the education and the skills to weather the job losses," he said. "In Oakland County, the good news is that job loss has turned around, but you need certain skills, and those without those skills are stuck in low-income, low-skill jobs, working part-time, or working retail, with no benefits, no paid time off. There's a large population that is stuck. You see the numbers going up also in Southfield and Madison Heights, where there is a large refugee population."...continued on page 8