THE BLOG
09/23/2013 09:03 am ET Updated Nov 23, 2013

The Unmentionable Problem

We were women with microphones who were dying to get something off our chests. What did we want to talk about? Poverty. It wasn't so much a policy issue as a personal cause with all of us, which made for a lively panel.

"Exposure to poverty in utero is more dangerous than exposure to cocaine," said Jessica Bartholow of the Western Center on Law and Poverty to a full house at the UCLA School of Nursing. The National Diaper Bank Network cosponsored the event with the School of Nursing and LA Diaper Drive.

The research Jessica brought up is the kind of thing that should have us all up in arms. But most of us will never hear about it. The morning was full of exactly that kind of information -- facts that should give us all a sense of mission.

I was so glad to be able to talk with people informed about child poverty and dedicated to combatting it -- and to do so in an auditorium full of people who shared our commitment. It's a rare opportunity.

Poverty is not something we discuss much in this country. Political campaigns tend to focus on the middle class and its genuine struggles. But scant mention is made of Americans living in poverty -- whose numbers continue to increase despite the economic recovery. When we do talk about poverty, it tends to be global -- the assumption being that poverty isn't that big a deal in the United States. (46.5 million Americans living in poverty could tell us different, if we listened.)

Media coverage of poverty is sporadic. Only a handful of news outlets make poverty a beat, so that a reporter can pursue stories in depth and develop real expertise. I recently spoke with Alfred Lubrano at The Philadelphia Inquirer, where he specializes in poverty. The questions he asked and the story that resulted were far better than the usual fare.

Why don't more outlets make poverty a beat, especially considering that one in five American children is growing up in poverty? Don't those 20 percent of our children deserve even a little of the attention that goes to Miley Cyrus?

Of course, complaining about it changes nothing. Rather than wait for our leaders or the media, to start talking about poverty, I'd encourage individuals to get the ball rolling. Tweet with the hashtag #talkpoverty -- or my personal favorite #diaperneed. Share good articles on poverty in your social media channels. Huffington Post Impact is a good source. I'm also a huge fan of Gregg Kauffman of The Nation and of the Economic Hardship Reporting Project.

Wouldn't it be great if a story about the crushing cost of child care got shared more than one about some celebrity's wardrobe malfunction?

It can happen, but only if we all get busy.

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