Arkansas is a financially poor state, and always has been. Whether we’re talking about sustainable economies or cultural concepts, this fact forms the undercurrent of much of what we post here at the Boiled Down Juice. Since the 1960s Arkansas has ranked among the poorest states in the country (for example, see our recent posts on the VISTA organization that developed during this time).
The rate of poverty in Arkansas dipped from 19.1 percent in 1989 to 15.8 percent in 1999. But in 2010 and 2011 rose again, with the U.S. Census Bureau numbers showing that poverty rate reached 17 percent. An upcoming series from the Ozarks at Large program will explore poverty in the state—its causes, everyday realities, and possible solutions.
Radio programs, when paired with social media sites that allow for ongoing conversations, have the potential to bring people and ideas together, providing platforms for honest discussion and the creation of lasting community-based solutions. We haven’t heard this series yet, but we’re quite excited about its potential. Clearly a national problem, the eradication of poverty requires both national efforts and local solutions. This series has the potential to start an in depth dialog we so desperately need, an idea that could spread to other regions as well.
The series was born out of a “forum organized in January 2012 by the non-partisan initiative Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity,” writes series producer Iti Agnihotri. “Veteran journalists, who cover poverty for media outlets such as The New York Times and NPR, said that there is a lack of adequate and timely coverage of poverty-related issues on news media.” The series aims to dispel myths about poverty and lead to a larger regional dialog, initiating a “discussion regarding chronic poverty”and an “understanding of reasons behind the continued rise in the number of poor in the state and ways in which poverty affects everyone, including those who are not poor.”
The series will begin with an exploration of various definitions of poverty and inadequacies of documentation in the measurement systems, continuing with the stories of everyday people including a “profile of a single mother, a resident of Springdale, Ark.,” who lives close to the federal poverty line but receives no child support. “She avails Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits and unemployment assistance (during the summer) and is currently working on getting a degree to continue working as a Head Start program teacher during the school year,” explain producers. An on-air panel discussion will mark the end of the series,”Agnihotri explains. The panel will include former and current Arkansas lawmakers, a poverty researcher from the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, and a Little Rock-based lobbyist who advocates on behalf of Arkansas’ children and families.”
You can listen to the series here, including the option of live streaming beginning Monday at noon. If you live in northwest Arkansas you can listen to the program Monday-Friday on 91.3. The show airs everyday from noon-1:00. We’ll post more about the show as it progresses. We hope you’ll join us in the discussion.
Poverty is such a huge problem, and one for which we lack a sufficient vocabulary. Even beginning the discussions can be a challenge. We’d love to hear about the coverage of poverty where you are. What kinds of discussions are taking place in your community?