To develop an understanding of what it means to be poor in the United States – and to begin to make meaningful connections between the official poverty numbers and the real-life situations they represent.
Most people in the United States of America have what they need to live in comfort. Most people have enough food to eat, enough clothes to wear, and enough shelter to be safe. However, in the United States today, there are 38.1 million people living in poverty.
People are said to be “living in poverty” when they do not have enough of what it takes to fulfill basic human needs. A person can be poor when he or she lacks the essentials of daily life, such as a sufficient amount of food to keep them from being hungry. A person can be poor if he or she works hard at a job but doesn’t make enough money to buy the things needed to be healthy and secure, such as proper clothing to keep them warm in cold weather or health care to help them when they are sick.
Who is poor in the United States? This is how those living in poverty would answer. We are White. We are African-American. We are Hispanic and Native-American and Asian, too. We are young and we are old. We live in cities, suburbs and in the country. We go to work and go to school and go to church. We are concerned about raising our children well. We help others who are in worse shape than we are. We sometimes depend on the kindness of others. We are nearly one out of every five children in America. We are one out of every ten families in America. We aren’t all the same.
- “One in Six”
- “Who Lives in the State of American Poverty?”
- Student Action Project
- Additional Activities
Ask your group to share the day’s activity with their families at home around the dinner table. Have them talk about who is poor in America today, the conditions that impact the lives of the poor, and the ways their own families can help those in poverty find a way out. Then have your members discuss their families’ solutions in the group setting. Compare and contrast the differing views – and use the conflicting perceptions as an opening to a wider discussion of how America views the problem of poverty.
Explain to the group that, right now, there are people in their community living in poverty, for whom hunger is a daily occurrence and whom they can help by organizing a food drive at their school. Have your group create posters or flyers that they can distribute, telling about the problem of poverty in their community and asking others to donate food items to aid the hungry in their community. Contact a poverty-relief organization in your community to distribute the goods, then celebrate and publicize your group’s good effort through the local media. Such drives that include families and involve community organizations help reinforce the notion that different groups can work together for the good of the whole.
For more information about getting involved in your community, visit our Act page, or find a CCHD-funded group near you.
To learn more about fight against global poverty, visit Catholics Confront Global Poverty, a joint initiative of the United State Conference of Catholic Bishops and Catholic Relief Services.