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Letter: United Way Poverty Simulation will change your perspective

To the editor:

For many of us life has been good, with no worries about what we are going to eat for our next meal, if we can fix our car if it breaks down or if we have enough money to pay our bills. However, for some, this is an everyday worry. Twelve percent of Minnesotans live in poverty. In Goodhue County, the poverty rate is 10.9 percent.

As coordinator of Live Well Goodhue County, the local initiative of the Minnesota Statewide Health Improvement Partnership or SHIP, I have been charged with addressing health disparities and inequities that exist within our populations. The largest segment of our population that is experiencing these problems are those living in poverty and those right above it. Not being able to afford a reliable car, to purchase food that is healthy/nutritious, or not living in a safe home or apartment can affect your health.

To better understand what it's like to live in poverty, I decided to participate in the United Way Poverty Simulation. The simulation is a three-hour experience that demonstrates what it's like to live in poverty for one month.

I portrayed a teenager in a single-parent family, so many times I was responsible for my brother and sister while our mom looked for work, applied for assistance, paid our bills and provided for us. Seeing what it's like to have to wait in line, complete forms that are hard to understand, not having enough money to buy food, and being hungry so I wasn't able to focus during school, was very eye opening.

The next time the simulation was offered, I volunteered and was assigned to be the owner of a pawn shop. This too was very eye opening, since I had the power to decide who I wanted to work with and how much I was willing to give in exchange of their goods. Seeing the frustration, sometimes desperation, in their eyes when I low-balled them or told them I didn't need or want what they had made me realize just how hard it can be when you don't have much money.

These two experiences have been very helpful to me as I continue to work to improve the health of our residents, and I encourage everyone to participate in a poverty simulation. The next one will be 1:30-4:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 11, at the Red Wing Public Library. It's free and open to everyone age 15 and older. For more information or to sign up, contact Laura Prink at the United Way at 651-388-6309 or at laura.priok@uw-gwp.org

David Anderson

Red Wing

David Anderson coordinates Live Well Goodhue County, a Goodhue County Health & Human Services

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