Poverty simulation set for Sept. 23

The Merrill Area Healthy Lifestyles Network (MAHLN) in collaboration with Lincoln County University of Wisconsin-Extension and the Lincoln County Health Department are hosting a poverty simulation exercise Sept. 23 at Les and Jim’s Lincoln Lanes.??¢??????¯

The goal of the event is to show area leaders and members of the public what area residents who are living in poverty face. Jackie Carattini of Marathon County UW-Extension and Bonnie Rudie of Lincoln County UW-Extension will be the facilitators which will run from 8 a.m. until 11:30 a.m.??¢??????¯

Art Lersch of the Lincoln County UW-Extension said with Lincoln County’s current unemployment rate at 10.5 percent in June, which ranks us fifth out of 72 counties, the needs of those living below the poverty line have increased dramatically since the economic downturn began.

“Add in chronically high unemployment since the beginning of the Great Recession in December 2007, and more local families are being forced into poverty or near poverty situations,” Lersch said.??¢??????¯

He said one indication of this is that there was a 12.5 percent increase from the 2008-09 to 2009-10 school years in the number of families who applied for and received free and reduced lunch status for children attending Merrill Area Public Schools.??¢??????¯ Nearly half of students now possess that status.??¢??????¯ Statewide, the jump in such enrollments was about 5 percent.??¢??????¯ Lersch said most school districts in the area experienced much less severe increases then Merrill.??¢??????¯

Lersch said the simulation is an opportunity for community leaders and other stakeholders, to sense what it is like to be in poverty in Lincoln County.??¢??????¯

“Although the simulation can never truly be like the real thing, it will help teach you how to better relate to those who are struggling with day to day questions like: Will I be able to feed my family today? How will I get enough money to pay the bills? And will I ever find a job that can adequately support my family? By understanding more, the better we can serve/help people in poverty,” he said.

??¢??????¯While the event is intended for those who work with or come into contact with people affected by the economic downturn, Lersch said the event is open to the public. He said that he hopes everyone who takes part comes away with a greater understanding of the problems the poor in Lincoln County face on a daily basis.

To take part in the simulation or if you would like more information, call the Extension office at 715-539-1072 no later than Sept. 20.??¢??????¯??¢??????¯

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