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Meals Programs Shifting Focus to Keep Up With Suburban Poverty

A case study of suburban poverty and the programs needed to help residents through tough times.
December 10, 2015, 12pm PST | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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Jessie Van Berkel reports on the persisting need for free meal programs in the suburbs of the Twin Cities region—despite the improving economy.

To illustrate the scope of the challenge Van Berkel cites the following statistics: "The number of children receiving free and reduced lunch last year had increased 35 percent, on average, in large suburban school districts since the height of the recession during the 2008-2009 school year, Minnesota Department of Education data show. Public schools in St. Paul and Minneapolis saw respective increases of 1 percent and 5 percent postrecession."

That comparison to schools in the region's inner cities ties to a larger point about the suburbanization of poverty, which is emerging as a trend in regions all over the country, including the Twin Cities. One of the challenges inherent to suburban poverty is how it can remind "out of sight and out of mind." Van Berkel quotes Anika Rychner, director of self-sufficiency at 360 Communities, a nonprofit primarily serving Dakota County, to explain how this dynamic plays out in suburban communities: "You could live in the community and never have to look at and acknowledge the need….Poverty doesn't look the same in the suburbs, but it's definitely here."

The article includes special attention to the efforts of Loaves and Fishes—a non-profit that has opened six new suburban dining site in the metro area in the past two years. 

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Published on Wednesday, November 25, 2015 in StarTribune
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