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The Challenge

Why Martin County?

In April of 1964, shortly after President Lyndon Johnson declared war on poverty, he was photographed with Tom Fletcher's family on the porch of their home in Martin County. That image, which appeared in newspapers across the country, became an icon of the 1960s efforts to eradicate poverty. In his declaration, Johnson stated that his administration was "just not willing to accept the necessity of poverty." They would fight poverty, he stated, "in all its forms, in all its causes” and “drive it underground and win that war."

Today, rural Appalachia is still home to some of the most impoverished people in the United States and continues to face many of its historical challenges. To this day access to healthy food and economic opportunity in Martin County is scarce. Moreover, Martin County’s isolation makes it difficult to access federal and other assistance programs: currently there are little to no human or social services available in the area.

Appalachia and Poverty

  • 46.2 million people in the U.S. live below the poverty level (poverty level for a family of four defined at $22,314) - this is the highest level of people living in poverty in the U.S. since record keeping began more than a half-century ago

  • 22 % of children under the age of 18 live in poverty in the United States 

  • 31.6 % of households living in poverty are headed by single women with children

  • The state of Kentucky has the 4th highest poverty rate in the nation, at 16.3 percent of its population

  • 45 % of children live in poverty in Martin County, Kentucky

  • Over 70 % of students in the Martin County school district receive reduced price or free lunches

  • Martin County isn't the only county suffering - 20 additional counties in Kentucky have a critical poverty rate of 25 percent or above

  • Many of those people in the most dire straits live in the Appalachian Region

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