Legislature to show poverty documentary, host discussion April 8 - Beckley, Bluefield & Lewisburg News, Weather, Sports

Legislature to show poverty documentary, host discussion April 8

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The West Virginia Legislature will hold a screening of a new documentary on poverty, "A Place at the Table," on Monday, April 8.

The event is organized and hosted by the Senate Select Committee on Children and Poverty.

Chaired by Majority Leader John Unger, D-Berkeley, the Senate Select Committee on Children and Poverty has held public hearings and community town hall meetings and has gathered information over the last six weeks related to the problem of child poverty in West Virginia.

Senate President Jeff Kessler, D-Marshall, said said issues facing the state, like the growth of Medicaid, prison overcrowding, the high occurrences of teen pregnancy and the high school dropout rate all have a common basis: childhood poverty.

"When children don't grow up healthy, with an opportunity or a good education because they were born poor, they don't have the opportunity to succeed and participate in our society or in our economy," Kessler said. "Trying to lift children out of the situation they find themselves in, obviously through no fault of their own, is not only the right thing to do from a moral and social standpoint; it's the right thing to do from a tax standpoint."

Both Kessler and House Speaker Rick Thompson, D-Wayne, agree that poverty is not an issue that has a quick fix. Speaker Thompson said it has taken years to get to this point and government and community leaders must make a long term commitment to reverse the problem.

"We have to change the culture and lifestyle," Thompson said. "We have to provide an alternative so people have a healthy lifestyle and children are living in healthy conditions and that is going to take time."

Following the showing of the film, there will be a panel discussion on hunger, moderated by Unger.

"It has become apparent to us, in the hearings held by the Select Committee thus far, that child poverty is a very significant problem in West Virginia," Unger said. "We will be watching this documentary and talking with those who made it as part of our information gathering."

The panel discussion will feature Lori Silverbush, the film's director, and Janet Poppendieck, an expert on school meal and food assistance programs and the author of several books on the subject.

Screening of "A Place at the Table" begins at 6 p.m. in the Culture Center auditorium at the State Capitol. The public is welcome and encouraged to attend. There is no charge for admission.