A Look At Poverty In Rural And Urban N.H.

Jul 29, 2019

Credit NH Food Bank

What does poverty look like in New Hampshire? How does living in a rural part of the state versus a city impact access to services, including food programs, housing, transportation, and health care?

GUESTS:

  • Jessica Carson - Research Assistant Professor at UNH's Carsey School of Public Policy, in the Vulnerable Families Research Program. 
  • Greg Schneider - Planning and Grants Management Director at Southern New Hampshire Services, which helps low-income participants find access to employment, education, and assistance. 

Transcript

 This is a computer generated transcript, and may contain errors. 

Laura Knoy:
From New Hampshire Public Radio, I'm Laura Knoy and this is the exchange.

Laura Knoy: 

New Hampshire has the lowest poverty rate in the nation, with seven point seven percent of Granite Staters living below the federal poverty line. Still, that means almost 100000 people are officially considered in poverty. But who they are and where they live varies greatly and affects how they experience poverty living on the edge in the North Country. In some ways, it is very different from how poverty is felt in Nashua. Today, in exchange, what poverty looks like today in New Hampshire and why geography matters. Let's get your questions and comments. Our email exchange at an HP board once again, exchange at an HP board. Use Facebook or Twitter at HP exchange or give us a call 1 800 8 9 2 6 4 7 7.

Laura Knoy:
With me in studio, Jessica Carson, research assistant professor at U.N.H.'s Carsey School of Public Policy in the Vulnerable Families Research Program and Justice. Nice to meet you. Thank you for being here. Thank you for having me. And also with us, Greg Schneider, planning and grants management director at Southern New Hampshire Services, which helps low income people find access to employment, education and other assistance. And Greg, thank you for coming in as well. I appreciate. Thank you. Glad to be here. Well, both of you, maybe you first. Jess, how does being poor in a relatively affluent state like New Hampshire, where among the top 10 states in terms of median household income? How does that affect the way people experience poverty when you're living amongst relative comfort?

Jessica Carson:
I think that probably the most important way that that matters is in that we don't think about poverty as often in New Hampshire. It's not one of our top ten issues that we sort of talk about as a state in general. It's not something that, for example, a politician would bring up as a as a hot topic in this state. And so I think that can contribute to a sense of invisibility among the people who are poor here in the state.

Laura Knoy:
There are assumptions made that don't necessarily apply to you if you're one of those roughly 100000 people that I talked about. That's right. What do you think, Greg?

Greg Schneider:
I think Jess is certainly. Right. As a you hear a lot of talk about, you know, the working poor folks who are working still entitled to public benefits or services of some kind. So I think there is a sense of I guess a sense of comfort is the right word, but a an acceptance that, well, we're like you said, the fifth or sixth, depending on what year you're talking about, how you measure it, highest per capita income state in the country. So, you know, we're OK. So the people are. Yeah, there are you know, folks, we don't have the opportunity here or there, but there are minimum when we have services. So I think, you know, most people are pretty unaware of the pockets of poverty. There's this in the state and we don't have the numbers, certainly the high rate of a lot of other states, but those who are poor are. But, you know, there are a lot of deep poverty, as they say, below 50 percent of the poverty line.

Laura Knoy:
Well, in the poverty line is about twenty six thousand dollars a year annual income for a family of four. So not a lot of money. I'm glad you mentioned pockets of poverty, because a little bit later, definitely I look at the geography of this because that's really interesting. But Jess to you first, who's most likely to be poor in New Hampshire? There's a lot to unpack here.

Jessica Carson:
Yeah. So most likely to be poor in New Hampshire, as is true nationwide. Our children and they have the highest poverty rate of any age group. When we talk about different demographic cuts, we also see, as is true nationwide, that people of color tend to have higher poverty rates than people who live in very concentrated urban areas or in more rural spaces. So there are a lot of demographic differences among who is most likely to be poverty that are true nationwide, but also hold true here in New Hampshire.

Laura Knoy:
Yeah, I think I saw some of the rates for New Hampshire. Again, that overall poverty rate, seven point seven percent. And Greg's right. You know, each year is measured a little bit differently. But children, it is a couple percentage points higher. Jess why is that?

Jessica Carson:
That's right. I think it's for a variety of reasons. So poverty, as per the official definition, comes down to a lack of income. And so one way that poverty rates may creep higher among children is that the parents of children, young children in particular, may have a harder time working or working full time hours, working year round or accessing the kind of jobs that pay very well. So we may see that families are simply earning less when they have children or young children in the household.

Laura Knoy:
Greg, how would you answer that question? Who is most likely to be poor in New Hampshire? Paint a little demographic picture for us.

Greg Schneider:
Probably about of the people we serve, I think children and seniors a lot, 26 percent roughly of the individuals we serve as community action agencies are under 18 and somewhere around 30 percent are seniors, probably 65, 62 redefined seniors. But in that age group. And I think Jess is right. It's certainly, you know, children and a family increase costs in terms of more food, child care, a bigger apartment. So it is families are really vulnerable. And seniors, I think, are vulnerable because that's why I think you see a lot more seniors working, you know, bagging groceries. It's. Or is that, you know, working longer than because of the eleven, twelve, thirteen, whatever this Social Security level is, just doesn't cut it in terms of staying in a home if they want to stay in their home. And folks who are in a multigenerational setting within poverty where, you know, it seems like nobody can seem to break the cycle within the family. It's really tough once you get in that cycle, that multigenerational poverty level to to break it.

Laura Knoy:
I was in a market basket in Manchester a couple weeks ago, and an 82 year old man bagged my groceries and I said, wow, are you here because you want to be or are you here because you have to be? And he laughed and said, you know, how do you think I pay for gas? So there you go. That was that was surprising to me to see somebody that elderly packing my my groceries.

Greg Schneider:
Yeah.

Greg Schneider:
It's it's there's a lot there's a lot of that out there. And I think we tend again, we tend not to see it as much or we kind of take it for granted that, well, they're making a little extra money kind of thing, though it's probably not extra.

Laura Knoy:
It's probably, you know, the rent money paying for gas for the gentleman said just for you. Greg and Jess, you can chime in, too, if you want. How has the opioid crisis affected poverty?

Greg Schneider:
It's made a big impact in certainly in one area. That's pretty obvious to us. Running Head Start classrooms with vulnerable children. There are a lot of grandparents raising the grandchildren because the parents are either in treatment, incarcerated, not around, not available in a lot of ways. So that's definitely one impact we see in terms of impacting families. Now you've got grand parents raising their grandchildren. An added burden on their household in terms of the money kind of thing. And it's also there a lot of what they call social determinants of health, which impact. Impact people's health and poverty and lack of education, lack of employment, lack of childcare, a lack of adequate housing being some of those elements which you don't necessarily connect to health, but they certainly relate very closely. One's going to impact the other.

Laura Knoy:
Sure. If you have inadequate housing, then you're not sleeping well. And if you're not sleeping well, you know, that invites other health problems.

Greg Schneider:
And nutrition, it means poor learning to school. Right. Etc..

Jessica Carson:
I think it's important to add to that, too, is just sort of at its most basic level when we're talking about people who are suffering from substance use, the misuse issues, it can be challenging to get up and get to work every day that these can be really real stumbling blocks for people in order to make their livings. And that that can be really enduring with people throughout the process of addiction and recovery, that that is not necessarily a straight path to to being well for people. And so the ability to hang on to a job and to be able to bring in that income for their family can be really challenging.

Laura Knoy:
Well, still, even with the depths of, again, what we shorthand call the opioid crisis, although many people say it's a larger addiction crisis. Still, New Hampshire has this low poverty rate. I wonder at what point, Greg? Substance abuse, opioids, other addictive substances starts to raise that poverty rate a little bit.

Greg Schneider:
I think it will unless the unless there's a dramatic turn in the rate of recovery or the number of new addicts, if you will, the new people. The number of new people who join the ranks of those suffering with substance abuse disorder, I think unless and until we see a turn in that it's probably going to is probably going to be gradual. But at some point the fewer people you know who are and the more people who are in treatment can't work. You know, you've got a spotty work history. That means once you finally get clean, it could be tougher to get a decent job. And if there's any, you know, criminal record felony, that makes it harder to get a job. So it just becomes a cycle and a spiral that really can get out of control. And then it's like somebody with a spotty rental history trying to get an apartment. You may have been clean and you've got a good job now, but. Wow, sorry. You know.

Laura Knoy:
Well, with a vacancy rate of one percent in some communities, you know, I wanna remind our listeners that they can join us. And then I want to dig into some of the research that both of you have been looking at, including especially just your research on food insecurity in New Hampshire. You can join us, too, though. We'd love your questions and comments. What do you think poverty looks like in New Hampshire today? What do you see around you in your community? What's your own experience with this issue? Our email exchange at an HP board. Once again, exchange at an HP morgue. You can use Facebook or Twitter at any HP exchange or give us a call 1 800 8 9 2 6 4 7 7 1 889 to an HP YA empathy. But let's go to our listeners. Michael is calling in from Plymouth. Hi, Michael. You're on the air. Go ahead.

Caller:
Hey, good morning. You know, one of these I know it's the du jour to talk about, you know, the opioids and all that. But let's talk about the senior citizens who are literally being property taxed right out of their home and forced to live in their kids backyard. I mean, you know what? What's the point of stealing more money from people who don't have X number of dollars a month? You know, to go somewhere else.

Laura Knoy:
Is that something you see around you, Michael, in Plymouth.

Caller:
Yes, actually, I know about five RV park that have no spaces for recreational vehicles because people above my age are living in them. That's it. The only thing over their head.

Laura Knoy:
Michael, thank you for calling and just this gets in to some of the geographic research that you've been doing. And Greg, you too that there are pockets around certain communities and I think Plymouth is one of them.

Jessica Carson:
I would say that's right. There are there's tremendous variation within this state in terms of our our poverty levels and our levels of need around the state. Overall, we have very low poverty as a state. As we've talked about. But within the state, there are pockets of poverty that are much, much higher, much more similar to other higher poverty states. And then there are pockets that are quite low. We were talking before we're on the air about Rockingham County in particular. That's a very low county, part of our very low poverty county. And our state tends to have very high median income, very high shares that people working there contrasted with some of the northern parts of the state in the western parts of the state. They tend to have much higher poverty rates, much lower median household incomes, and tend to be much more struggling to access high quality jobs in those regions of the state.

Laura Knoy:
It was interesting to hear from you, Michael, and it raises what you talked about earlier. Greg, with senior citizens, talk a little bit more specifically, if you could, please, about the housing crunch that seniors are under and that Michael is addressing.

Greg Schneider:
Yeah, it's with the vacancy rate, like you said, it's like it's zero in some towns. You're not measurable in a lot of towns. Landlords can just be choosy or in terms of who gets the apartment. There's just not enough available. You know, it's an old housing stock we've got. There's been, know, gentrification, all that kind of stuff. And in the cities and mixed use housing with, you know, it used to be residents. Now it's an architect's office or a doctor's office or whatever. So housing is changing, but it's just there's not a lot of affordable housing. You know, there's all kinds of issues around that. You could do five shows just on that with, you know, planning and zoning ordinances, all that kind of stuff. And an indigenous senior housing and workforce housing, family housing is just a need for both. We have probably a thousand units of elderly housing around the state that we manage and there are waiting lists and virtually all of them.

Laura Knoy:
Now, that's interesting because the flip side of that issue that I've heard, Greg, is that we have too much senior housing in this state and there's not enough housing that's more welcoming to young families.

Greg Schneider:
Well, I think that's it depends on the towns, you know, zoning laws in terms of what kind of developments they'll allow, you know, built in that kind of thing. But just in terms of taking the, you know, one versus the other out of the equation. To me, the fact that there are so many elderly housing elder people on our elderly housing waiting lists means that, you know, regardless of how much family housing there is, there is not enough for seniors.

Laura Knoy:
1 800 8 9 2 6 4 7 7 is our number. Michael, thank you for that call again today. In exchange, we want your comments, questions, personal experiences with what poverty looks like here in New Hampshire, even though our state has the lowest poverty rate in the nation. There are nearly a hundred thousand Granite Staters living at or below the poverty level, which is about twenty six thousand dollars for a family of four. I want to focus in on the geography of this for a couple of minutes, because it's very interesting. And Jess, you've done a lot of research on this, so I'll turn to you first. How is rural poverty different? Are there ways that it's easier or harder than urban poverty? Absolutely.

Jessica Carson:
So I think that both the drivers of rural and urban poverty can look a little bit different, as can the experiences of being poor in either rural or an urban space. So when we're talking about the drivers of poverty, again, if we're talking about work and income as a driver of your family following above or below that that poverty threshold in the official definition, the jobs in the rural spaces around our state can be harder to come by. Getting to those jobs can be more difficult. The quality of those jobs can be much different from the way that those jobs are allocated in the more urban places in the state. In particular, some of our more scenic counties that have real attraction for vacationers, day tourists, retirees, second homeowners. Those types of jobs in those region can be clustered in the service industry. The foods and accommodations type of work hotels, restaurants, shopping outlets, that sort of thing. And those kinds of jobs produce pretty low incomes for the residents who work in those industries in the region. And so that produces pockets of low wage work, of higher poverty rates around the state, for example, in parts of Carroll County, which is very scenic and a real attraction for second homeowners and retirees. And as Greg just mentioned, has a very low vacancy rate in that region because so much of the housing stock is set aside for seasonal or recreational use. In particular, folks there tend to be facing higher poverty levels versus in some of the more southern parts of the state. Say, for example, in Hillsborough County work, there much might be much more accessible, both because the jobs are more plentiful, because folks have more opportunity to commute out of the county, perhaps south into Massachusetts or Boston. And they also have access to public transportation that allows their kind of network of job searching to widen in a way that it can't in the more northern parts of the state.

Laura Knoy:
I have a bunch more questions for you on that, but let's go back to our listeners and talk to Wendy in Durham. Hi, Wendy. Go ahead. You're on the air. Thanks for calling in.

Caller:
Hi. Thanks for listening and thanks for the important topic. I just wanted to add that it's just jobs that are scarce, but actually also the services themselves. I picked up a hitchhiker our guys to see were clearly walking out on the road. He was clearly disabled. I can't break for now, but this was about a year and a half ago. I was giving him rides to the food bank and to appointments for all kinds of things. He was evicted from his trailer, which was paid for by social services, by his Social Security check last spring. And the I tried my best to navigate system for him and I couldn't because he had to be certain places in person at certain times. And if I couldn't get him there or somebody else couldn't get him there, I know it wasn't the only one given. Right. He he couldn't get the services he needed. I you know, I don't it was a physical and the mental problem because he was a senior citizen and starting to forget things. I think that's just a real shame that we're making people who are already stressed in so many ways come to physical appointments. You know, online, people didn't have a computer. There just aren't real issues with rural poverty that aren't replicated in urban areas.

Laura Knoy:
Wow. Really interesting, Wendy. And it's great that you tried to help that gentleman out. And this is exactly what I want to talk about after a short break. Some of the challenges in rural areas, but also urban areas. Greg, we'll talk about that. And also just the idea that Wendy brings up of there are services available. There are lots of great charitable groups that want to help. But connecting it all for someone who doesn't have transportation, who may be getting forgetful is a challenge. So, Wendy, thank you so much for joining us today. And we'll pick up those threads after a short break. You'll listen to the exchange on NHPR.

Laura Knoy:
This is the exchange. I'm Laura Knoy. Today, rural and urban poverty. What does poverty look like in New Hampshire and how does where someone lives make a difference? Let's get your questions and your experiences into our conversation. Send us an email exchange at an HP board. Facebook or Twitter is NHPR exchange and our phone number is 1 800 8 9 2 6 4 7 7. Greg Schneider is here, planning and grants management director at Southern New Hampshire Services. And Jessica Carson is here. Research assistant professor at UNHCR, Carsey School of Public Policy in the Vulnerable Families Research Program. And both of you. Greg to you first. Just before the break, our caller expressed or told us her story about how she tried to help this older man low income, but didn't have transportation. He was starting to get forgetful and he was just having a hard time putting the pieces together. And just what do you think about that call?

Greg Schneider:
Yeah. Oh, that's. I'm glad. I'm sorry. I can't remember her name, but that's not a typical of the situation we see in terms of people. It's almost seems like a perfect storm of events or circumstances kind of come together and people just find themselves up against it, not knowing which way. And she mentioned she tried to navigate the system for him and it can be hard. I mean, I'm in the system and it's not the system people are accessing shouldn't be one of the barriers to success.

Laura Knoy:
Why is that, Greg? Because, again, when you look at what's out there, there are great groups. There's a community action agencies that you work for. There's all sorts of wonderful charitable organizations. Why is it so hard to make it all fit together?

Greg Schneider:
DHHS offices that staff do a great job. It's just everybody's trying to to do a lot with a little in a lot of and a lot of cases. And there's just so many needs. It's we need to revamp it in the community action world. We're moving toward a whole family model where we streamline our internal processes. So somebody is not giving the same demographic information five times for five different services, make it easier on them, try to help them access outside services that we don't provide to other partners in the community because we get a lot of great partners that we work with, make it easier to hand somebody off, if you will, for needs that we can't fill. And to stay in touch with them. So we're moving toward that model. We're getting there. But we certainly don't want to be contributing to the problem with difficult, you know, service hours. And so we're looking at all that internally in terms of how people are. A lot of WIC - Women, Infants and Children nutrition program - sets our appointments by texting these days. So we're getting there. But this you know, it's there's a lot of moving pieces and a lot of federal regulations and funding stream requirements. And the software doesn't talk to that software. So we're working through all those issues. And, you know, with the partners, helping with the leadership of the agencies, we're gonna get there. But it's just. You're turning the Titanic, you know?

Laura Knoy:
Well, sure. And, you know, just basic nitty gritty stuff like appointments and filling out forms. You know, if you're if you're living in poverty, you probably don't have a great phone. If you have a phone at all or a computer at home, or maybe you don't have transportation to come to the office to fill out the form. And so it just kind of. I just wonder you think, Jess, it kind of compounds itself.

Jessica Carson:
I think when people are living in poverty, they're often living in a series of crises that people who are outside of that bubble may not really understand. And so if you're asking somebody to fill out this paperwork and it looks a lot like the paperwork they just filled out and they're not sure how they're even going to get it in anyways or they have to go and they have to fax it in maybe or they have to get to the post office. And just it's easy, I think, for things to. Things like that to slip off of somebodies radar when they're so worried about, you know, what to do, what to do about the elderly neighbor who canceled as the child care for the day, or they're not sure how they're going to put dinner on the table that night. I think it's a big ask for people. So the ways that Greg mentioned about sort of streamlining and trying to make those pieces easier and kind of cut down the red tape, I think those are really important and smart steps to be taking in order to fold more people into the social services that can help them.

Laura Knoy:
It's especially tricky with older people because, you know, so much has migrated online and it's certainly more efficient. And maybe there is a way online, certainly maybe you don't have to fill the same form 10 times. On the other hand, a lot of older people I know, Greg, don't have access to computers or the Internet, and they certainly don't have smartphones. So there's an assumption that you can just fill it out online, but maybe you can't.

Greg Schneider:
Yeah, absolutely. So we try to accommodate them with, you know, mailing an application to their home, giving them extra time to get it back in or maybe even visiting them in their home and delivering because. Well, Commodity Supplemental Foods program will deliver the food if it's a real hardship for somebody to get there and they don't have a neighbor that can go get it for them, that kind of thing. So we try to. And all the agencies I know that are ones that are sort of more rural than we are in the sense that they don't have any large population centers such as we have with Manchester or Nashua Derry, etc. in our two counties that, you know, we do everything we can to make sure that nobody. Goes without. Because, you know, the part of the process is more important than the outcome that, you know, that's not true. It's just so many things that have been done so in so many ways for so long. And again, all the requirements of confidentiality. And while no, you can't make you know, I have to have the documents myself. I can't get me, you know. So revising those systems is what we're in the process of and working with partners to make that happen. And it's there's an awareness at the federal and state level. We've got partners that are aware of the fact that, you know, we don't want to be in the way.

Laura Knoy:
So we're here to provide services.Well, and there are other groups that we haven't talked about to. And Mary, again, I am so glad you call because this is an issue again. There is a lot out there, but accessing it can be tough. What about just people who for whom English isn't their first language or they're immigrants or refugees and so forth. People with disabilities where just doing things the way that most people assume you can do it just isn't possible.

Jessica Carson:
I think it's an extra layer of communication or barriers in terms of accessing services. We also know that people who have the characteristics you just described are also facing increased risks of poverty and food insecurity. And so that makes it doubly challenging and that those are the people who are at the most risk, perhaps in some ways, but those are also people who might have the most difficulty in accessing the services that are available to them. So that can be really challenging.

Laura Knoy:
I'm glad you mentioned food because you did some research on that. I definitely want to talk to you both about that. But let me also remind our listeners that you can join us 1 800 8 9 2 6 4 7 7. We want your comments, questions, personal experiences with what poverty looks like in the Granite State. Again, 1 800 8 9 2 6 4 7 7. Email exchange at NHPR dot org. Use Facebook or Twitter. It's NHPR exchange. So let's talk about food because just you've done some research on that just recently with a survey based on what's called food insecurity. And I have to ask you this before we even talk about what you found. What's the difference between hunger and food insecurity? I'm sure you get that question all the time.

Jessica Carson:
Sure. So hunger is a physiological sensation. And a lot of us most of us, I would say, know what it means to be hungry. It's that rumbling feeling in your tummy. Food insecurity is the persistent risk of not having enough food to maintain an active and healthy lifestyle. And so hunger is the immediate sensation, whereas food insecurity is the more persistent condition.

Laura Knoy:
What did your research find just about areas in New Hampshire that are most likely to be food insecure?

Jessica Carson:
Sure. So we don't have a very good substrate measure of food insecurity. So we sort of had to devise a proxy measure. And what we looked at was the share of residents who are low income and paired that with the share of residents who live in population less dense area. So places that have fewer than 100 people per square mile and those two measures together can sort of serve as a proxy for folks who may be at risk for food insecurity. And that looks a lot like the maps of poverty within that our state in that that is clustered around the northern and western parts of the city and in certain pockets around our largest cities. So Manchester, Nashua, certainly Plymouth, Keene, Rochester, Somerworth, where those sorts of larger cities, larger population centers certainly have higher risks in terms of their lower incomes as well.

Laura Knoy:
Were you surprised by anything that you found in this research or did it pretty much line up with what you would expect given that this is your field of study, vulnerable families?

Jessica Carson:
There were some surprises. So this research was an update of an existing research brief that was done by Carsey colleagues about five years ago. The data were a little older than that. So we thought it was important to give an updated look. That was sort of post recession. That kind of allowed us to explore whether this landscape has changed over time. So along with those risks for food insecurity that we just discussed. I also mapped the availability of two things food sources around the state and food support sites around the city. So food sources are places where you can go and buy food from a retail store or from a farm, food support sites or places that either provide meals like an after school snack program affiliated with, say, a child care center or retail establishments that accept, for example, food stamp dollars, SNAP or wick. And to sort of give us a picture of where food is available and where food supports are available around the state. And I think that's where perhaps some of the most surprising information came in in this brief, not where the pockets of low income lie, because those of us who study the state sort of understand that already. But there really are swaths of the state that don't have very good access to a grocery store. Still is, you know, maybe not shocking, but disappointing still.

Laura Knoy:
Does access mean five miles, 10 miles, I mean, for everybody that might be a little bit different. Somebody might not mind driving 20 miles for food. So what does access mean?

Jessica Carson:
That's you raise. Excellent question. So we didn't try to define access in a strict sense. We just sort of plotted the location of these sites around the state and let folks explore those data for themselves, so for somebody with a car having grocery store five miles away is no big deal for somebody who doesn't have access to a vehicle of their own, doesn't have it. Maybe a neighbor who could give them a ride doesn't have public transportation. Five miles for a bag of groceries is a long walk, whether you live in a rural area and well,.

Laura Knoy:
Especially if you're an older person and you can't drive anymore, you're probably not gonna be able to walk five miles. Absolutely. And carry food back. And Greg, I want to ask you, too, about southern New Hampshire. But one more question for you. Jess. There was some pushback from farmers and food retailers in the North Country to your research. They said it wasn't a complete picture. How did you, how have you addressed that concern?

Jessica Carson:
It was actually, it was great. I love that kind of feedback from folks. I wanted the data to be the most accurate possible. And so I love hearing from folks who have additional information. And so what I was able to do is partner with some folks around the state, particularly in the north country, who kind of dumped out their manila folders for me and shared all their their data on farms that they know, their friends, their neighbors, their colleagues who have small farms for which the data weren't available in other ways. And so I was a researcher, you say, right? Great. That's great. I love extra data, more accuracy, more data.

Jessica Carson:
So I was able to sort of go back in and reintegrate the data that were provided to me from these alternate sources and and update the maps that are included in the research brief. So that was you know, it was a great experience and a great way to get some kind of insight from folks who really are on the ground and working really hard. I will say there's a lot of really interesting efforts happening in the North country in particular around figuring out how to get fresh, local healthful food to people, particularly through farm channels. And I think it's been some really important work to to draw attention to.

Laura Knoy:
That's interesting. So the research can be a starting point for improvements in the situation. So I definitely ask a little more about that. Gregg, but not to forget you. What is food insecurity look like from where you sit? Again, you're working in southern New Hampshire.

Greg Schneider:
You know, there are actually food deserts that they refer to in Manchester and Nashua in addition to more rural areas, really. They generally grocery store. They generally define that as and this is research I saw from the justice research expert here. But I did go use a tool on the DHHS Web site. I think Department of Health and Human Services for the state that. Defined a census tract or neighborhood or part of a population center that had a substantial number of low income residents without transportation further than one mile from a grocery store or a supermarket, not doesn't count convenience stores, but a supermarket where you can shop for a week or two weeks, whatever kind of thing with more variety of products and whatnot for rural. That was 10 miles for what their data pick, they say. Establish that you're talking about, you know, what's five? How far is too far? They said ten miles without transportation in a rural setting. So but they're out there. I think it's more hidden in a city because you see, well, they're you know, a lot of churches have food pantries. There are, you know, New Horizons. That's a huge, you know, food pantry. There are programs out there that that will help people in a city. And that's true. And they do a good job. Transportation is still an issue, even if it's not 15 miles or five miles, it's, you know, a mile and a half with, you know, a box of food that's hard to carry if you're a senior or whatever. So you still need transportation. And there are people, you know, who live close to a store where they can buy food. But, you know, sometimes, you know, corner stores, convenience stores are selling convenience. And it's the prices may be higher, that the sources of food of the right food, more limited.

Laura Knoy:
You're not getting fresh fruits and vegetables.

Greg Schneider:
Exactly. And then you get into the you know, well, it's food, but, you know, is it the most nutritious food you can buys it on the process, the whole nine yards you can have about, you know, diet and what's healthy kind of thing. But so it tends to be more hidden or the assumption is it's not there in a rural set. An urban setting is often. But, you know, it's there. It's just it looks different.

Laura Knoy:
Do those little corner grocery stores and not put them down because sometimes they're the only source of food in an area. Do they tend to take food stamps? Because the big ones do.

Greg Schneider:
I think so. I think, you know, and I couldn't tell you how I've seen you know, we accept WIC on a lot of doors of, you know, stores here. And I can't speak certainly to every convenience store out there. But I think more and more they take EBIT, they take the the electronic cards for the food stamp benefits, what used to be called food stamps. So I think it's you know, it's spread certainly of what it used to be. Is it high enough? I don't. I don't know.

Laura Knoy:
Sure. Because you kind of understand, you know, signing up to take these with women, infants and children, or the food stamps and so forth. There is an administrative function. So if you're a little mom and pop grocery store, you know, it's harder for you to affiliate with that program than it is for, you know, Market Basket or Hannaford or whatever. What have you found about that? Jess, in terms of you that the small little stores in rural New Hampshire or the farmer's markets that might want to help out people who are low income. But it's again, there's an administrative burden for them complying with these programs.

Jessica Carson:
I think that's absolutely fair. It's not without paperwork, that's for sure. That said, I think that that's one way that folks can kind of be active in their own communities. And supporting food access is to bring these topics up with their local proprietors or with people working on these issues in their town and say, you know, hop on our corner store, try to put in paperwork to go ahead and accept food stamps here. You know, maybe we don't have a huge low income population here, but there are there are no towns in New Hampshire, surely, who have no low income people, who have no people who would benefit from having additional expanded access. So I think that that's certainly one way that folks can be proactive in supporting the expansion of food access in terms of the farmer's market.

Laura Knoy:
What did you find? I'm really interested in that.

Jessica Carson:
I mean, that's certainly something that an increasing number of farmers markets around the state have taken on in recent years. We've certainly seen an expansion of farmer markets, farmers markets in general. And then we have many markets who are participating in accepting food stamps and many others who are accepting and additional programs. For example, the double up food bucks program that allows folks to receive vouchers to expand the value of their dollar at the at the farmer's market, to provide additional access to fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, local foods to low income people.

Laura Knoy:
Are there times, Greg, when food insecurity is more acute, for example, kids are out of school. Low income kids tend to get school lunch and school breakfast. I just wonder what you think.

Greg Schneider:
It's. Yeah, it's definitely a seasonal thing in terms of the summer. You mentioned the summer food service program. We and I think a couple other agencies operate in Manchester. We do it in several locations. But in Manchester, it's probably maybe 500 meals a day starting pretty much after school gets out. Right up until almost Labor Day and in Nashua, probably between 350, 400 meals a day. Now, that's not all un-duplicated counts of children. We don't take names and count the unduplicated children kind of thing, but that many meals are going out. So it's definitely a hardship when there's not a school breakfast or the school lunch in the summer months for sure.

Laura Knoy:
Some of the schools in Concord anyway, I think operate summer meals, programs through volunteers and donations and so forth. So it seems like in urban areas, please correct me if I'm wrong, in urban areas, kids might have a little more access to some of those food programs.

Greg Schneider:
That's true. Yeah, there are. We're not the only ones that operate them. There are others that operate them around, you know, summer recreational programs. You know, towns may the larger towns may have, you know, food service available kind of thing. But I think in the you know, in the small towns of two or three thousand people, it's probably even tough to qualify for the federal food program to operate in a town like that because they just don't have the concentration of low income children.

Laura Knoy:
All right. We will talk a lot more after a short break. We'll talk more about housing. Also, health care. And we'll keep taking your calls, 1 800 8 9 2 6 4 7 7. Send us an email exchange at NHPR dot org. And we'll be right back.

Laura Knoy:
This is the exchange, I'm Laura Knoy. Tomorrow on our show, navigating generational differences in the Workplace. Join us for that conversation tomorrow morning live at 9. Today, we're looking at poverty in New Hampshire and how much geography matters. And let's get your input, your experiences, observations, questions about this issue are welcome. So send us an e-mail exchange at NHPR dot org or give us a call 1 800 8 9 2 6 4 7 7. And Jess Carson, Greg Schneider. Let's go right back to our listeners. And Joetta is calling in from Manchester. Hi, Joetta. You're on the air. Welcome.

Caller:
I thank you for taking my call. I'm calling because I am thinking about the question, what does poverty look like in New Hampshire? And literally, almost literally, I would say it looks a lot higher than twenty six thousand dollars for a family of four. I might. I know that. Well, I'll just give you a little background. I lived at poverty level for most of my life. I ended up a single mother. And the programs in New Hampshire, that estimate just puts out our end and cap in and DHHS, they're all really amazing. And I took advantage of all of them and have worked my way up to a master's that I now use to teach classes in college. I'm a professor now, but also I have returned to work in human services for estimate just to sort of pay it forward because that became a passion of mine. So in doing my job, I have done a lot of research about what poverty does look like and I feel like. Well, it's the U.N. AIDS put out a study, and I think it was 2011 for a single parent of two with two children to survive comfortably, comfortably, meaning they can pay their rent, their car, their insurance, all their regular bills and still be able to afford the luxury of pizza on Fridays. That person would need to make at least twenty two dollars an hour. And that was eight years ago. So I feel like the poverty level being twenty six thousand is too low. It could even be double that. And people still can't afford pizza on Fridays.

Laura Knoy:
You know, do it. I definitely want to ask our guests what they think about that, because twenty six thousand dollars is quite low for a family of four. So if you're making twenty seven thousand, you don't suddenly feel rich just because you're officially over the poverty level. But I'm curious, Joetta, if I could ask you a question. So we talked earlier about this, Greg talked about how there's a lot of good people working on this, the services available through various programs and DHHS, but it's hard for people to access them without, you know, a good smart phone or transportation or, you know, they just have more immediate concerns like someone is in crisis or they get tired of filling out the same form 100 times. I just wonder what your thoughts are around that, Joetta, how you say you were able to access the services and they were able to help you get out of a bad situation. So how were you able to do that?

Caller:
Well, that was a while ago, but at the time I did have a significant other that was able to help me with rides and things like that. But when he was in the military and when he was called overseas for two years, I was doing it by myself and I was going to school. And these programs were paying for my my ability to do that. But I was still counting up quarters to pay for gas. And when the quarters ran out, counting up dimes to pay for gas to get to all these appointments. And it was it it was really hard to go through all of that. So that is a huge problem for a lot of my clients. Today is true. I would say no one problem would be housing. And I specifically work with the population affected by the opioid crisis and. I say that I think that we've all agreed that transportation and housing are the number one barrier for people being able to meet their goals.

Laura Knoy:
Well, Joetta, it's really great to hear from you. Thank you for contributing to our conversation today. So housing and transportation, what do you think, Jess?

Jessica Carson:
I think she's absolutely right. Those are some of the biggest issues that we face as a state. I think housing in particular can be a real challenge? We've talked about the low availability of of houses and in the state, and that doesn't even address the issue of quality of some of the housing, the rentals that are available to people trying to to make ends meet.

Laura Knoy:
What do you think Greg?

Greg Schneider:
She brings up a lot of good points and congratulations on the, you know, not turning her life around, but continuing your struggle and making things work. Because we always say in dealing with the clients we serve, we're providing the services. They're doing the work. And we used to talk in human community actions been around since 1964. But it did talk about the war on poverty. We don't talk so much about poverty anymore as we do opportunity. It's providing services, but it's wanting to provide programs and services that deliver real outcomes. So people like Joetta can succeed by doing all the work themselves. I mean, we certainly assist them. But if it you know, if they don't want to do the work, then that's not going to it's not going to work no matter what services are available. So it's it's up to the staff to provide up to us to provide the opportunity and help them whatever help they need, guiding them through that process. And that's the real goal, is to provide outcomes and not be the barrier and help them remove whatever barriers are there, because they're there are, you know, a number of issues. We've talked about transportation, housing, child care. I mean, child care centers are closing because of a lack of qualified staff around the state. So things just seem to compound. But I think that opportunity and in reducing the barriers that are in the way that can be reduced or eliminated. And then the thing is the cliff effect that we can get into at some point if you'd like to. But that's you know, people eventually get to a point where they're on services or they have they're working. But, you know, we've heard of people really struggling whether to turn down a promotion because it means, you know, that the wages, the increase in wages aren't going to compensate for the lack of benefits. So a way to address.

Laura Knoy:
So that's the cliff effect, that if you make a little bit more money, you know, they say, hey, Greg, you've been at this job for a couple of years, doing great. We'd like to pay you 50 cents more an hour. And you say, no, I can't, because then I lose my food stamps or my heating childcare subsidy or whatever.

Greg Schneider:
Yeah. A couple of things. And in another way, with people without a job, strictly living on public assistance of whatever kind a job opportunity may not be, if it's in the service industry or, you know, a low paying industry where they can't afford to pay a lot to two entry level, you know, people say, well, you know, they stay on our welfare. Well, they're making decisions for their family's benefit that the the sudden and it's not so much that in addition to the fact that the benefits go away, they go away almost immediately. It's not as if you get weaned off. So, okay, reduce them over a period of six months where you can adjust. And, you know, it's not an impact where boom, suddenly in June, you've got this much money to work with. And in July, even though you've got a job or promotion now, you've only got this much. So and then, like I said, federal and state level policymakers, et cetera, are looking at that as as a real barrier. So there's work around that. Hopefully we'll see some some success pretty soon.

Laura Knoy:
Sure. Because philosophically, once people are on their feet and have a job and are working, you know, the idea is they shouldn't be getting they shouldn't need tax taxpayer funded programs. But you're saying it's not quite that simple when you start looking at the margins?

Greg Schneider:
Yeah, it's not that simple. And it's not that people prefer to stay on benefits. It's that, you know, OK, what's better for my family at this point right now, the way the system is structured? You know, this is better for my family.

Laura Knoy:
Go ahead. Jess.

Jessica Carson:
One thing that Joetta mentioned that I think is important to acknowledge is that the way that we measure poverty as a country I think has a long way to go. We've been using the same measure since the 60s that hasn't been updated. And there are lots of ways, lots of researchers around the country and in the state are doing really interesting work on how to better capture poverty, deprivation need. However, they're defining it in ways that are more nuanced, that account for people's expenses, that account for people's benefits, that account for the costs of living in certain regions. The Census Bureau has their supplemental poverty measure, which is one very good, well researched way of thinking about poverty. But under almost any of these alternate measures, the poverty line does not look like twenty six thousand dollars for a family of four. It's much higher than that.

Laura Knoy:
Joetta, thank you so much for calling in. And let's go to Concord, where Celeste is on the line. Hi, Celeste. Go ahead. You're on the air. Thanks for being with us.

Caller:
Thank you for having me. I was just want to input. I mean, I agree with what was just said. Not in my wildest dreams after working 40 plus years that I thought I'd lose my very good paying job in 2009. And it's only come. This is 2019 and it's taken me 10 years to. Get my life turned around where I can actually afford my place without counting those quarters.

Laura Knoy:
Well, so you lost your job in the recession. Yeah, go ahead.

Caller:
And, you know, I never thought I'd go have food stamps or Medicaid, but. Life is life, and I didn't have a choice, really. And because I had lost a good paying job, too, because my age being older and not being a 20 something that could, you know, bounce back easily. I couldn't go to a job that's only even going to pay ten dollars an hour. I own my own condominium. I didn't want to lose that.

Laura Knoy:
And it's taken 10 years, so it took you a while to emerge from the recession, Celeste, if I could put it that way. How helpful were food stamps? You live in Concord. So did you have a hard time using those food stamps or in a city like Concord? Was it pretty easy?

Caller:
It was very easy. I used to go to the I did go to the farmer's market once in a while and it was half the cost of what they were selling their products for, which was tremendous. I mean, I certainly wouldn't be there. On my own without anything, you know, so it certainly helped tremendously and I'm actually looking at another job right now. That is only part time, but I have another part time job, but the new part time job if I get it. The cost of health insurance will be a quarter of what I'm currently paying a month. So, you know, you've got it. And I'm by myself as far as my own finances. Sure. So it's not like I can look to somebody else and say and over the years also I must add for is that family and friends have helped me tremendously. I would've lost my condominium many, many years ago had I not have had assistance from friends and family.

Laura Knoy:
Celeste, it's really good to hear from you. And I'm glad you mentioned health care because, Greg, we do hear that Medicaid expansion has helped tremendously for lower income people under Medicaid expansion. Anyone under. Correct me if I'm wrong, 138 percent of the poverty line can get Medicaid coverage. How much of a difference has that made in terms of people's ability to pull themselves out of poverty?

Greg Schneider:
Oh, I think it makes a it makes a big difference. It's not income, but it's expenses you don't have to pay. So money that would go to health care out of your own pocket, out of their own pocket. Now, can you. OK. That can go toward rent or toward gas for the car or toward, you know, food or toward, you know, child care or other kinds of things. So I think it only stands to reason if you really remove the burden in the sense in this case burden of paying for health care, you provide more opportunity for people with income that they do have to use it in a more productive way, not the health care's not productive, but they've got other needs that, you know, you don't want the old you know, what do I pay, you know, heat or rent controlling. And there are a lot of health related decisions. But if Medicaid is provides health care, then that's a one doesn't cover everything. But that's one burden that's at least lightened.

Laura Knoy:
And how widely accepted is Medicaid expansion among providers in your area? Again, the more southern, suburban and urban areas of the state, because I've heard that if you have Medicaid expansion, you get the card, you're covered. But sometimes it's hard to find a doctor's office that will take your Medicaid expansion.

Greg Schneider:
Jess may know more about this than I do. We're not in that, you know, in the health care business, so to speak. So I'm not I wouldn't begin to speak as an expert on who accepts Medicaid and who doesn't. But I haven't heard a lot of complaints of, you know, workers at our agency saying, oh, I'm hearing all over the place that people, you know, what good is Medicaid I can't use anyway. So I don't know how widespread a problem it might be.

Laura Knoy:
How about you? Jess. So it seems to be accepted at medical providers offices.

Jessica Carson:
I have heard of some folks running into challenges on the provider side. There are issues around reimbursement rates. But I also don't know the particulars.

Laura Knoy:
Let's go back to our listeners and Bob's calling from Moultonborough. Hi, Bob. You're on the air. Go ahead.

Caller:
Hi. How are you? I'm calling. I feel, hearing what you're saying, this is probably not as important, but there is a tradition of private support. And I help with a program called Got Lunch Program in America. There are several in the Lakes region. Basically, we package and distribute food to kids that are part of the InterLakes school program -it's very important. I've also been involved with reading programs and the role that nutrition plays in learning is so important. During the summer months, a lot of these kids still get don't get a regular meal. The is this Meredith Hampshire, which is would appear to be a very wealthy venue.

Laura Knoy:
Right. Lots of second homes oh, Bob, actually, I have to drop you off because we're nearing the end. But I did want to ask you, I read about this program actually in the Laconia Daily Sun. Do you folks not only package up the lunches, you deliver them so families don't have to come to a central place or do they need to come and get them?

No, they are delivered. And the other small point and quickly is that it's a very user friendly approach. It doesn't carry with it a lot of disclosure. We don't go through a lot of clearing. So people can access the program privately and without a lot of difficulty. A lot of paperwork. And it's it's worked out very well that way. I happen to believe that the number of people that really need help are badly underreported in New Hampshire.

Laura Knoy:
Bob, I'm really glad you called. And we touched on this earlier, but we should touch on it again. Jess, to you first. Lots of private groups who kind of kick in and help out like Bob's group in the summer months.

Jessica Carson:
I think that Bob's absolutely right. There are a lot of those organizations around the state of New Hampshire who provide this private support, who do it quietly, who do this really good work in their communities. That partially may be a function of the fact that we are a low poverty state. So it's statewide resources don't need to be allocated towards poverty alleviation the way that they might in other states. So private groups step up to fill these kinds of gaps. On the one hand, that's wonderful. And in a region like Bob, it's located in a multiple borough. There are lots of resources, there are lots of retirees that can staff these sorts of volunteer efforts. But on the other side there got in place a lot of strain on organizations who are expected to really fill these gaps when they don't have the bandwidth and they don't have the incomes that some of the other wealthier pockets of the state. So it's a conundrum.

Laura Knoy:
All right. And lots for you to study. Yes, absolutely. Well, it's been really good to talk to both of you. We could've talked a lot more. Jess thank you for coming in. That's Jessica Carson, research assistant professor at U.N.H. Carsey School of Public Policy in the Vulnerable Families Research Program. Greg Schneider it was great to meet you. Thank you for being here. Greg Schneider, planning and Grants Management Director at Southern New Hampshire Services, which helps low income people find access to employment, education and other assistance. The exchange is a production of NHPR.