Growing Up Poor - Bay Area Kids Tell the Stories Behind the Numbers

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SAN FRANCISCO – The day after the U.S. Census released new data showing that one in four California children lived in poverty, a group of young reporters screened a series of videos examining what it’s like to grow up poor in the Bay Area.

A college dropout with no one to turn to candidly discusses what it means to live out of the storage container she rents.

A young mother looks through the eyes of her 17-month-old son to show what it’s like to live in a housing project in Bayview-Hunters Point.

A teen girl describes her life after her father and brother were deported.

The son of Chinese immigrants considers what it means to grow up in the Tenderloin.

A young Filipina woman talks about the disarray in her family after her partner goes to jail.

A Latina mom living in East Palo Alto describes her struggle to make sure her children eat healthy and don’t go to bed hungry.

Residents of Richmond narrate a slideshow of the liquor stores, trash and toxic sites in their city.

A young white homeless man in the Mission describes the benefits of living “off the park.”

These voices, featured in eight videos and slideshows produced by youth reporters at New America Media and its publications, Silicon Valley De-Bug and Richmond Pulse, document some of the real-life stories behind the epidemic of poverty in the state. They were screened Sept. 14 at the World Affairs Council before a packed room of reporters and health care advocates at a forum for ethnic media, sponsored by the Lucile Packard Foundation for Children’s Health.

“When people are invisible and don’t have a platform, their stories need to be told,” observed New America Media executive director Sandy Close, noting that “this is the way we get people to care.”

U.S. Census data indicates that more than 6 million people in California, 2 million of them children, lived in poverty last year.

Nearly one-third of the state’s African-American children live in poverty, compared to one-tenth of the state’s Caucasian children, according to Kidsdata, a comprehensive website that tracks hundreds of indicators on the health and wellbeing of children in California, said Andy Krackov, assistant vice president of program and partnerships with the foundation. The website, which currently has about 10 million data points, was launched nearly seven years ago to raise awareness of children’s issues.

The grim statistics reflect a state still suffering from the worst recession since the Great Depression: Nearly half of all kids in California qualify for free or reduced school lunches, according to Kidsdata, and the figure jumps to as much as two-thirds in Southern California counties San Bernardino and Los Angeles.

“Poverty can affect children in so many ways, impacting on their weight, academic performance and health,” said Krackov.

The young videographers – Sean Shavers, Valerie Klinker, Josue Rojas, Jean Melesaine, Justin Li, Ann Bassette, Nancy Ybarra, Karina Guadalupe and Donny Lumpkins – then took the podium and fielded questions from the audience. At least three of them acknowledged that they had drawn material for their videos from their own families.

“I put myself out there ’cause I am not ashamed of being poor,” said Klinker.

“The woman (who lives in a storage container) is my sister,” said Shavers, adding: “A lot of people don’t know what young people (out there) are going through.”


The mulimedia project "Growing Up Poor in the Bay Area" is presented by New America Media and the Lucile Packard Foundation for Children's Health.