Simulation teaches community about poverty

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MENOMONIE, Wis. (WEAU) - Living in poverty is something that is a reality that thousands of families in our area live with every day, but many of us might not realize just how many people in our community have to go without basic needs.

According to the latest census, Wisconsin had an average poverty rate of 12%, in counties like Eau Claire and Dunn that rate is higher than the average. Both counties report a poverty rate of fifteen percent.

That's why a program at UW-Stout put a spotlight on the issue with a poverty simulation.
The simulation might have looked like play money and colored sheets of paper, but the parts that students and community members acted out on Sunday afternoon can be a reality for families struggling to make ends meet.
“I feel like my definition of being poor is completely different now that I’ve done this,” UW-Stout freshman Katie Quinn said. “The fact that I have food and I can have three meals a day and I have somewhere to sleep shows that I’m not at that level.”

As a freshman at UW- Stout, Quinn says she knows how to budget her money, but today's poverty simulation made her re-evaluate her situation.

“I had no idea. So just being educated and aware I feel so much better,” Quinn said.

“A lot of the students here might come from backgrounds where they might be unaware how difficult it is and unaware how prevalent poverty is,” James Arenz, a volunteer at the Stepping Stones Food Pantry in Menomonie said.

Arenz says these days he spends his free time volunteering at the Stepping Stones Food Pantry, but he says not that long ago he found himself in a tight spot and found help through a pantry.

“There is a lot of stigma that people have about it but it’s definitely a resource there to use,” he added.

Arenz says in addition to pantries there are a wide array of resources in Dunn County for people living in poverty or with food insecurity.