What to do about poverty? Johnson County residents will offer recommendations this fall

Rod Sullivan

Johnson County supervisor
Rod Sullivan Johnson County supervisor

IOWA CITY — Johnson County elected officials are meeting this fall with people from nonprofits and others to think about poverty.

“This is really kind of taking a step back and saying, ‘Do we know how? Do we really know who’s in poverty? Do we really know what assistance they need? And are we doing the right things?’ ” Johnson County Supervisor Rod Sullivan said Friday during a public forum, the first in a series of meetings and workshops on the topic.

The three-hour forum included presentations from the Iowa Policy Project, the Iowa Women’s Foundation, the Child and Family Policy Center and others.

The latest ALICE report — asset-limited, income-constrained employed — shows 37 percent of Iowans are living in poverty or struggling to meet their basic needs, said Patti Fields from United Way of Johnson and Washington Counties.

Johnson County is at 38 percent, and the number is growing, she said.

“There are so many families and individuals who are trying and struggling to meet their daily needs, to meet what their family needs, and they’re just not making it,” she said.

In an effort to address the problem, attendees will develop recommendations during three workshops in November on the topics of child-care and intergenerational poverty; affordable housing; and income, employment and education.

After those workshops, representatives of each working group will complete a report for the Board of Supervisors.

Sullivan said the county is modeling the poverty project on the 2016 Hunger Task Force.


The task force released a report on the number of county residents who are food insecure and also made recommendations, such as creating a mobile food pantry for rural areas and food “deserts” and encouraging food pantries or backpack programs in secondary schools.

“They’re not huge projects,” Sullivan said. “You know, we couldn’t solve hunger.

“But we did a few things that I think were really beneficial to the community,” he said. “And so we’re hoping the same kind of thing will come out of this, that we target some things where we can really work together and make a difference.”

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