Progress, Problems 50 Years After War on Poverty Declared

Created: 01/08/2014 10:49 PM
By: Steph Crock

(ABC 6 News) -- 50 years ago was President Lyndon B. Johnson's State of the Union Address, where he declared a "War on Poverty." It was an effort to tackle the large amount of poverty and unemployment seen across the United States at the time. Though parties may disagree on how to get it done, we take a look at what's happened since and where we are now, locally.

It was a declaration that's now 50 years old, but those at the capitol say the war still rages on.

"The war on poverty was named that by the Johnson Administration in order to add some drama to the magnitude of the problem and the fact that we really did need to apply resources to get it done," said Patrick Gannon with Child Care Resource and Referral.

Though we've hit rough times like the recession, local groups say we've still come a long way since that moment in time. "There are so many things actually that come out of the official ‘declare of the war on poverty’ and the Office of Economic Opportunity, leading to programs like SNAP, the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, which in its inception, is known as food stamps, which is so valuable today," said Jennifer Woodford with the Channel One Food Bank.

The Channel One Food Bank and Child Care Resource and Referral work specifically with families in financial struggles. "Again, helping people to move out of poverty, that's the goal and we know how to do it. We're very successful at doing it, we just need to put more resources into it to help move people to be self-sufficient," said Gannon.

Even with their efforts, poverty levels continue to fluctuate in our region. "There were just statistics released at the end of December that actually contained data from 2012. That was new poverty statistics for Olmsted County, and the poverty rate rose nearly 2% just for Olmsted County alone," said Woodford.

Many say, the “War on Poverty” is far from over. "It is important to say that we've been working on this now for 50 years and it’s been an important fight together, but we're not done, and we need to keep working together towards that end goal," said Woodford.

Recent reports show multiple counties in our area are actually above the state poverty rate. Fillmore, Mower, and Winona Counties are among the highest.