Beaver County Still Battling Poverty Problem

Pickup day at a food pantry

By J.D. Prose
Beaver County Times

Sept 28, 2014 – Pastor Avril Vreen doesn’t need newly released data from the U.S. Census Bureau to tell her that poverty is a problem in Beaver County.

All she had to do was watch two young brothers split a free lunch at her Holy Spirit Fellowship Church in New Brighton this past summer. One of the boys agonized over precisely dividing a slice of bread, “which suggested to me that this child has done it before,” she said.

“Right there, I said, ‘This is more necessary than we thought,’” Vreen said of her church’s summer lunch program that served about 2,500 meals to children this year.

According to data recently released by the Census’ American Community Survey, nearly 20,700 Beaver County residents, or 12.4 percent, live below the poverty line, including 6,700 children. That total number represents about a 33 percent increase from 2007, when the county’s poverty rate was 9.1 percent.

In Allegheny County, nearly 13 percent of its 1.19 million residents, or more than 151,000 people, live below the poverty line while almost 14 percent of Lawrence County residents, about 12,200 people, do.
RELATED: How is the poverty level in Beaver County different from the state average? (Info graphic)

The national poverty rate is 14.5 percent, representing about 45 million Americans, according to TalkPoverty.org.

The government’s poverty line is based on annual income. For 2012, the poverty line for a family of four was $23,050 regardless of where the family lives in the United States.

Maj. Richard Lyle, the commander of the Salvation Army in Beaver Falls, said he’s seen the effects of poverty firsthand in the Army’s food pantries and soup kitchens. Five years ago in Beaver Falls the Salvation Army was servicing about 2,000 families a month, but that crept up before making “a significant jump” to about 2,600 18 months ago.

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