In September of 2015, world leaders agreed to sign on to a list of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which build on the Millennium Development Goals that expired in 2015. The first of those SDGs is to end poverty.
Most people rarely think of poverty as a major issue for a nation viewed globally as the richest on Earth. But in reality, 15.1 percent of Americans – nearly 47 million people – live in poverty. That’s the highest number since 1993, according to the University of Michigan’s National Poverty Center.
So, what does poverty look like?
A married, childless couple making $14,604 a year, or $1,217 monthly, is defined by the U.S. Census Bureau as poor. For a family of four, the poverty threshold is $22,113 a year.
Blacks and Hispanics have significantly higher rates of poverty than whites. In 2010, 27.4 percent of blacks and 26.6 percent of Hispanics were poor, compared to 9.9 percent of whites and 12.1 percent of Asians, notes the National Poverty Center. And single women, especially if they are black or Hispanic, have the highest poverty rate of them all.
Poverty manifests itself in many ways, but one of the most pronounced is people, especially children, going hungry. The U.S. hunger relief organization Feeding America says that 3,227,600 people in Florida are food insecure, meaning that they sometimes do not have enough food to eat for a healthy life and that they have limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate food.
South Florida is one of the most expensive metro areas in the country. According to the Economic Policy Institute, in Miami-Dade it takes more than three times the federal poverty rate for a couple with two children to live a modest lifestyle – not even middle class.
The study found that a two-parent, two- child household in the Miami/Miami Beach/Kendall area needs to make $68,503 a year to cover basic needs. In Ft. Lauderdale, that number for two parents with two kids is only slightly higher at $68,698 a year.
According to the Miami-Dade County Department of Regulatory & Economic Resources the median household income in Miami-Dade was estimated at $41,913 in 2013. That is a shortfall of more than $25,000 from what the Economic Policy Institute says is needed! Thirty-two percent of households in Miami-Dade, almost one-third, earned less than $25,000 in 2013, said the Miami Dade report.
Why are we as a nation, and as a state, in a place where people are not sure they will eat on any given day? The United Nations Environment Programme, Regional Office of North America, reported last year that 30 to 40 percent of the food supply in the United States is wasted, “equaling more than 20 pounds of food per person per month.” If only we had enough sense and motivation to figure out how to get that food in the refrigerator of those who are going to bed hungry every night!
The idea of poverty in Florida is probably beyond shocking for outsiders who see our hometown as the land of the rich and famous where private jets and limos are the norm, where the swank don $1,400 bathing suits to lay on white sand beaches and who party at exclusive clubs that command a $50 per person cover charge – more, by the way, than those on minimum wage make in a one day.
While Miami is swank and glossy and beautiful and special, it is also home to a growing number of households struggling everyday to make ends meet.
The June 2015 Miami-Dade report – In- come & Poverty in Miami-Dade: 2013 – had data that I found shocking.
• The median household income for white, non-Hispanic households was $64,976 in 2013. The black non-Hispanic household median was 51 percent of that amount, $32,044, and the Hispanic household median was 61 percent, at $39,674.
• The highest-earning 20 percent of households in the county accounted for 55 percent of all income earned in Miami-Dade and earned, on average, 1,903 percent more than the average household in the lowest-earning 20 percent.
• 60 percent of households earned less than a living income in 2013, which is an income high enough so that the household is financially stable.
One of the most surprising things is that a third of those living in poverty in Miami-Dade are married couples. Another third are single parent, female-headed households and the other nearly one-third are non-family households.
It makes me shake my head. It also makes me want to get up and do something about it. That is why on May 28 – World Hunger Day – I made a donation to The Hunger Project and shared the message all over social media.
We can’t continue to lie to ourselves that poverty is something that you only find in Third World countries or in rural areas of developing countries.
Poverty is next door and it impacts some of our colleagues and classmates. We need to stop telling our kids that they must eat their vegetables because there is some starving child in Africa who would give their right arm for that food, when in fact, there is some starving child right next door who would give that same arm.