Thursday, January 30, 2014

Hidden among one of the nation's richest counties is a growing population of poor rural families

Chester County, Pa., is a haven for the rich and the Amish but is seeing a new, alarming trend—a rise in rural poverty and families going hungry in Honey Brook Township, Alfred Lubrano reports for the Philadelphia Inquirer. The growing problem led to the opening this week of something not normally seen in these parts, a food pantry.

"Route 322 runs 494 miles from Cleveland to Atlantic City, crossing the Appalachian Mountains in Western Pennsylvania," Lubrano writes. "Although Route 322 traverses Chester County, one of the richest counties in the United States, it remains a hunger highway, thick with the traffic of Honey Brook residents seeking food."  The county poverty rate has risen from 4.5 percent in 2000 to 7.4 percent in 2012, but in Honey Brook the poverty rate is 11 percent, and a third of public school children are considered low-income, with 40 percent of families earning less than $50,000 annually. Only 7,000 people live in Honey Brooke, but 1,700 of them live within one square mile.

Dawn Schell, a former teacher who runs an outreach center to help the poor of Honey Brook, told Lubrano, "People are stuck. Lack of food is a huge thing. More and more families here are needing help. But they're sort of giving up hope. We want this pantry to restore it."

Peggy Magnuson, whose husband is a seasonal landscaper, is a former house cleaner and a stay-at-home mother of five children under 17. Their family lives in a trailer that costs $1,000 a month. She told Lubrano, "The children eat like you can't believe, and sometimes I have to say, 'Look, we need to cut down. There's just not enough.'" (Read more)

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