Child advocates hope Utahns get the message about childhood poverty.
On Friday, Gov. Mike Leavitt declared September Child Poverty Awareness Month, launching a month of activities intended to focus on the plight of poor children.More than 75,000 Utah children - roughly one in eight - exists in poverty, according to census figures. Approximately 31,000 Utah children have experienced multiple episodes of inadequate food, according to the Community Childhood Hunger Identification Project.
"Those are startling statistics," said Leavitt, signing a proclamation during a brief ceremony at the state Capitol.
State school board members, educators, clergy and representatives of education and human services agencies and nonprofit organizations released a calendar of events intended to draw attention to childhood poverty issues and identify possible solutions.
Throughout September, Utah legislators will be encouraged to "Walk-a-Mile" to learn about the difficulties low-income families face obtaining housing.
Other planned activities include a poverty Sabbath Sept. 15-17, a housing summit Sept. 16, and the annual Care to Share Conference to be held Sept. 25, in Cedar City, Sept. 26, in Price, Sept. 27, in Salt Lake City and Sept. 29, in Provo.
Poverty simulations will be conducted in each city in conjunction with the Care to Share con-ferences.
The experience is intended to "give educators and decisionmakers an opportunity to learn what life is like for one out of eight Utah children. It's designed to build awareness about the barriers that children in poverty face," said Marilyn Treshow, a specialist for at-risk students in the Utah State Office of Education.
The three-hour exercise uses role playing. Participants are assigned roles such as single parents or teenagers. They are then given a list of goals to accomplish during the exercise, which is usually conducted in large conference room.
Tables representing agencies, services and resources encircle the participants, who are given an envelope describing their particular circumstances such as their income, bills and assets.
For instance, a "single mother" of two may need to take her children to a child care center, go to work, visit a human service agency to obtain food vouchers, shop at a grocery store and use public transportation to accomplish her errands. In the simulation, 15 minutes represents a month.
The exercise is limited to groups up to 75 people. To register, send a fax to Mary Ellen Houghton, 272-3479.
For a complete listing of events, call the Utah State Office of Education at 538-7525.