Poverty complex; requires complex solutions
Posted January 15
In an interview for our documentary “Every Fourth Child…Still” Gary Grant, the executive director of Concerned Citizens of Tillery in Halifax County, said too many people think their role in helping solve the poverty problem is to simply bring a few cans of green beans to a local food drive around the holidays. Of course that’s good to do, but Grant pointed out that those cans of green beans won’t feed someone for the rest of the year, or pay for a roof over their head, or pay their utility bills or pay for transportation. His point is that poverty is a large and complex problem and will require complex solutions involving everyone from average folks donating canned green beans to our highest elected officials who direct public policy.
From a public policy perspective, it’s clear that investments in innovative programs like North Carolina’s Smart Start can help break the cycle of poverty. It’s not a government hand out that helps perpetuate the cycle of poverty. It’s an investment in children and families. It can provide quality day care and health care to lower income children, increasing their chances of success in school. If children succeed in school, they are far more likely to break that cycle of poverty for themselves and their own children.
For the rest of us, yes, let’s donate the canned food, but let’s do more. Perhaps we can take one fewer beach vacation and instead spend that time volunteering, perhaps mentoring or tutoring an at-risk child, not only to help them get on a path to success but to also show them what success looks like. If they can’t see that, they have no inspiration and no hope.
There’s something else we can all do too. We can support and elect leaders who understand that public office is about serving the public and the collective greater good, not just serving themselves and the few constituencies who supported their campaign. Poverty will only be solved when we have elected leaders who understand that investing in our poor and lifting them out of poverty can benefit all of us and our society as a whole.