When we think of Orange County, we often think beautiful beaches, theme parks and high-end shopping malls. Poverty, hunger and homelessness are the not the first things that come to our minds. However, new data is showing that more than a quarter of Orange County’s youngest children are living in poverty, The Orange County Register reported. The report titled “The Geography of Child Poverty in California,” compiled by the San Francisco-based Public Policy Institute of California, gives a lot of information on variations within counties, much of it hasn’t been analyzed previously.
The Numbers are Shocking
Let’s look at Southern California regions. In Los Angeles County, 30 percent of young children lived below the poverty line. In Orange County 27 percent of young children live in poverty while that number was 23 percent in the Inland Empire. Poverty among young children is higher in Orange County compared to the Inland Empire and is almost comparable to the level of poverty in Los Angeles County.
In cities like Anaheim, home of Disneyland, 39 percent of children lived in poverty and 66 percent of young children rely on food stamps. Poverty levels are even higher in coastal areas in Los Angeles and Orange counties compared to the Inland Empire, particularly because of costly housing. Most families are spending their paychecks on housing leaving very little for food and other expenses. In Orange County, the average rent is about $1,800 a month. That is quite a revelation!
A Call to Action
The question that arises when we see a report like this is: What can we do for our part to help these families in need? The thing to understand here is we don’t need to hand out a lot of money or spend a lot of time to make a difference in our own communities. Here are just a few things all of us can do to help:
• Participate in a tutoring or mentoring program. Education is one of the best predictors of success in children. You can help struggling students to succeed in school by volunteering at Homework Help groups in your local Boys and Girls Club or programs offered by your local school districts.
• You could hold a clothes, books or food drive as part of your office or organization. We do those several times a year at Bisnar Chase partnering with local food banks and other nonprofits. Some items you might consider for donations are school supplies including backpacks, holiday gifts, new shoes and clothes, books and musical instruments.
• If you want to go one step further, you may consider sponsoring a child’s education through one of several nonprofits that accept such donations for scholarship programs.
The one thing we cannot afford to do is remain complacent. The time to act is now!