MANATEE -- More than one in five students ages 5 to 17 enrolled in the Manatee school district lived in poverty in 2010, according to new U.S. Census data.
Of the 47,965 students enrolled in the district, 10,473, or 21.8 percent, were part of families living in poverty compared with 14.1 percent in 2007, before the start of the recession, and 13.7 percent in 2000.
Local Manatee County agencies have seen the spike in child poverty.
I just see a lot of real chronic poverty, the families that year after year are struggling, said Deborah Bailey, a social worker for the Manatee School District who runs Project Heart, the districts homeless education program.
Bailey added that school-related costs, such as uniforms and school supplies, put an extra financial burden on families. Youre talking a serious chunk of change, she said.
Because many families are trying to stay afloat financially, fewer children can be involved in extracurricular activities.
Are these kids missing out on some of the full experience that they can have in school? Bailey said. Its not equal opportunity, if you dont have the money.
Gigi Kelly, chief operating officer at Manatee Childrens Services, said she isnt surprised by the numbers.
I could certainly believe that increase, she said.
Several of Manatee Childrens Services programs have seen a spike in demand because of the economic struggles families are facing, Kelly said.
The demand in service has really exceeded our ability in some ways to provide, Kelly said.
Demand has increased for the parenting program focusing on parents whose children were removed by the state from their care, she said, mainly because families are making choices of leaving kids unattended because they have to go out and find work.
Manatee Childrens Services has also seen more homeless youths in its street outreach program, which provides them with resources, including sleeping bags and food.
At the Boys & Girls Club of Manatee County, president Carl Weeks said poverty among families is getting to be more difficult. Last year, 75 percent of the clubs members received free or reduced priced lunches at school.
The poverty statistics, he said, is a typical theme in our community with our children and our parents.
The statistics, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education, are used as one of the criteria to allocate federal funds to local educational agencies.
State and local programs use these statistics for distributing funds and managing school programs.
In the Sarasota school district, child poverty increased from 11.4 percent in 2007 to 18.8 percent in 2010. Statewide, the rate spiked from 15.5 percent in 2007 to 21.9 percent in 2010.
In all, 653 counties nationwide saw a significant increase in poverty for children ages 5 to 17 in families, and eight counties saw a significant decrease over the period.
-- McClatchy Newspapers contributed to this story.