One in five children in East County live in poverty

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Poverty is and for the foreseeable future will always be a problem and in most cases there is nothing we can do about families that live within the poverty level. But what is unacceptable is the impact that it has on the children that live in poverty, not knowing where their next meal is coming from or not having the clothes to wear or the ability to keep up with the financial demands of going to school. The five-year report placed El Cajon at the highest rate with one in three children, but I believe that these numbers are skewed by a lack of facts.

Poverty is and for the foreseeable future will always be a problem and in most cases there is nothing we can do about families that live within the poverty level. But what is unacceptable is the impact that it has on the children that live in poverty, not knowing where their next meal is coming from or not having the clothes to wear or the ability to keep up with the financial demands of going to school. The five-year report placed El Cajon at the highest rate with one in three children, but I believe that these numbers are skewed by a lack of facts. El Cajon is one of the most affordable places for low income families to live and much of the El Cajon community that live on the higher end of life are not within the city limits. If these neighborhoods were taken into consideration, I believe that the numbers would be about even around East County.

There are many organizations within East County that do what they can to reach out to these children and they should be applauded. But with these numbers, more needs to be done. Our teachers in East County probably have the best sense of poverty in their neighborhoods as they see on a day-to-day basis what children are lacking and those that are not. The signs are easily visible by looking at how the children dress, the lack of supplies that they utilize in school projects and also the lack of amenities that the children possess, such as cell phones, tablets, computers, backpacks and the things that many families and their children use on a daily basis.

Much of this is superfluous, but it is a good indication of where children without stand. What is completely unacceptable is when the children in our community do not have enough food to maintain a proper diet. This not only affects their health, but their ability to learn and it is a large amount of stress for a child to bear. Especially when there is nothing that they can do about their family’s income.

We need to find a way to feed our children in need. In talking with some people in the community, I heard a wonderful idea that I thought worth mentioning. And that is setting up food pantries at our local fire stations and police departments. Now this would take the support of the community, especially our large community groups to help keep these pantries filled. But with all of our Chambers, Elks, Lions, VFWs, American Legions and the list continues, I believe that a continuous food drive would not be a difficult thing to master. Most of these types on entities have a place to call home and could be a continuous drop off site for food and clothes.

Why fire stations and law enforcement agencies? Well there are a couple of reasons for that idea. Number one, they are continuously in operation. Second, it would give children and their families the opportunity to personally meet our first responders and in the long run establish a founding relationship that encourages the community to interact with them and vice versus. With set hours where any child, or family can come in without question and request food would build a relationship of respect and trust on both sides of this fence. And when the pantry needs refilling, a simple phone call to the organizations that choose to participate could quickly fill the pantry back up if it is continuously promoting a feed our children campaign. That is the most important part of this is keeping the youth in our community healthy. If we can add clothing to this, it is an added bonus.

I believe this simple model could work without a lot of red tape to stand in its way. And as busy as our first responders are, I believe that if they commit, and our community commits in supply and demand, that there are many out there that would gladly volunteer to run “pantry days” at these local facilities.

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