Maryland Lawmakers Form Study Group to Examine Poverty - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Maryland Lawmakers Form Study Group to Examine Poverty

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CAMBRIDGE, Md. - Maryland is the second wealthiest state in America, according to the Center for American Progress, but state lawmakers say that's not enough. Despite many flourishing neighborhoods throughout the state, lawmakers say too many are still struggling to get by.

That includes students at Mace's Lane Middle School in Dorchester County. With only minutes left until noon, students filed one after another before entering a very busy cafeteria.
And while they munched on food, the ladies of the Meals 'Til Monday organization were busy packing more of it.

According to 8th Grade Assistant Principal, Teresa Berry, more than 90 percent of the student body is on free or reduced meals. That keeps Meals 'Til Monday volunteers busy, packing and distributing bags full of food for students to later take home and eat. Director Leslie Bishop says, over the last two years, bags are now going home more than ever. The organization serves over 350 students in the county, but that's only a third of the number, Bishop says, still in need.

"The numbers never go down. They only unfortunately always go up," Bishop said. "The need is great in Dorchester based on the statistics. My hope is that we're helping them by offsetting some of the costs that they might have to absorb for feeding their children on the weekends."

The need is also widespread in other areas along the Eastern Shore like in Somerset County as well as across the Bay like in Baltimore City.

Berry says she's watched the situation get worse in schools for nearly three decades.

""It's been going on for 24 years. You can see now that it's getting worse over time," Berry said. "There are more kids that are hungry when they come to school."

Maryland lawmakers like Democratic Delegate Steve Lafferty of Baltimore County say they're looking into ways of helping families especially those who live just above the federal poverty line and are ineligible for welfare benefits.

"We recognize there's a lot of diverse needs," Lafferty said. "We haven't taken a big picture look yet. We're asking, 'What brought people to where they are? What are the challenges?'"

Lafferty says a new study group composed of 11 other lawmakers and endorsed by House Speaker Mike Busch will examine all avenues, from housing to food insecurity, to push and keep families in Maryland's middle class.

But change won't come easy or fast.

Lafferty says the group has been meeting every other week, listening to and examining causes and potential solutions before drafting recommendations for new legislation or the state budget by the Fall.

It's help that couldn't come soon enough for Mace's Lane students who rely on the food containers from Meals 'Til Monday.

Lafferty says although the study group is still early on, they have identified some areas that could improve the lives of Maryland families. He says one of those includes income, which Lafferty says is falling short of increased living costs in Maryland.

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