AUSTIN, Minn. (KTTC) -- According to the United Way of Mower County, Minnesota's poverty rate has doubled in the past five years. In Mower County alone, more than 600,000 meals are missed each year. With nearly 14 percent of the county living in poverty, many of those going without are the youngest members of society.
"We know that one out of ten Minnesotans is hungry and four of those ten are children," said Madi Schmidt, Executive Director of United Way of Mower County.
Each week, the Salvation Army in Austin services more than 500 families and year after year that number has continued to grow. Recently, the Salvation Army has started a backpack program. The program provides hundreds of meals each week to local elementary school students whose families can't afford to feed them on weekends.
"We're taking care of the children at schools of the working poor or whose parents work on the weekend and no one is home so they don't eat very well," said Lt. David Amick, administrator of the Salvation Army in Austin. "Come Monday, they're starving and they don't concentrate well."
Though the program helps many during the school year, some parents struggle during the summer months.
"In the summertime it's doubly hard," said Cathy Adams of Austin. "At least in school they get fed. They can go to the school program here and are fed. But you still have breakfast and supper. You still have to worry about how you're going to feed your kid. Having a place like this to come to is almost like having an extended family."
This "family" has extended their services through the summer months by preparing lunch five days a week for students who utilize their backpack program and others. But for mothers like Adams, she says solving the problem of hunger amongst kids, parents, and people across America, begins with our government.
"What they need to do is concentrate on what's happening in America right now with our children going hungry at night," Adams said. "Our needs as a society aren't being met, but if we can't take care of them, we can't take care of anybody."
Currently, Mower County ranks 68 out of 87 in terms of people living in poverty in the county.
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