Building on more than two decades of service to tens of thousands of residents living in poverty throughout New York City, some forty percent of whom are children, The River Fund New York, launched the nation’s first ever “Child Poverty Awareness Day” in 2013, on the second Sunday in August. Since then, this has grown to become a major annual event for The River Fund—and for hundreds of children in need and their families.
More than at any other time in U.S. history, some 18 million children—almost a quarter of all minors—live in poverty in America. As a result, children are by far the largest demographic group facing the effects of poverty on a daily basis, and the least able to confront it. This is especially true in New York City, where one in every three kids lives in poverty.
As a Poverty Frontline Center, The River Fund has been dealing with the growth of food-insufficiency in New York City where poverty and its effects, including hunger and homelessness, have hit levels that rival those recorded here during the Great Depression. Further, as policymakers battle to balance budgets, government programs for children and families that were created to cushion severe hardship have been targeted for deep cuts.
Unfortunately, there is insufficient public awareness of this immense problem. Media attention tends to be more heavily focused on deficits and political gridlock over economic solutions. With federal, state and local officials desperate to impose fiscal discipline in the face of a national debt crisis, The River Fund believes corporations can play a much bigger role in securing the stability of children’s lives today—even as the country seeks to protect future generations from burgeoning debt tomorrow.
To attract attention and demonstrate that this can start in small and inexpensive ways, The River Fund launched the nation’s very first “Child Poverty Awareness Day”—partnering with several local businesses in the Greater Jamaica section of Queens, an area regarded as a “service desert” by the FeedNYC Policy Committee on New York City Hunger Resources. The summer school break is one of the toughest periods in the year for families living in poverty, as parents struggle to find ways of getting their children through three hot, dull and uninspiring months until school reopens. Hence, the “Child Poverty Awareness Day” was set for the second Sunday in August—two months into the school break with another whole month to go.
Instead of an event marked by speeches, marches and presentations to politicians, The River Fund and local businesses—led by NY CAROUSEL, operator of the only Amusement Park in Queens, and VALLO TRANSPORTATION a school-bus company—brought together five hundred children from extremely needy families and their parents for a day of fun and games, entertainment and food—plus backpacks and school-supply kits so every child can return to school properly equipped in September.
“This will hopefully grow to become an annual event all across the country when businesses take time to focus on the needs of children living in poverty in their communities, and figure out ways of doing something about it—even if it’s just entertaining them for the day,” said Swami Durga Das, Executive Director and CEO of The River Fund. “Since there’s no effective mechanism in place to solve the problem of child poverty, let’s all pay attention to it: Together we can make a real difference.”
Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, issued a "Declaration of Honor" to The River Fund New York, recognizing our pioneering of "Child Poverty Awareness Day"—and proclaiming the second Sunday in August as Child Poverty Awareness Day in Queens. (Larger Image)
Some of the 200+ children and their families who joined us for the nation's very first "Child Poverty Awareness Day"—launched by The River Fund in 2013—and held yearly on the second Sunday in August.
The Frog Hopper at Fantasy Forest was a real hit! Just one of many rides our kids enjoyed for free at Flushing Meadows Park, courtesy of NY Carousel.
Most of the children who benefited from this event had never been to an Amusement Park before. Two thirds through the long and boring summer school break, our event was an inexpensive way for local businesses to make a difference.
After the Amusement Park, everyone had lunch. The food was great...
... but the fun and games were even better: Especially the Water Gun Fight! Kids of all ages joined in—and we had enough water guns for them all!
Thanks to Vallo Transportation, shuttling the families around was simple and efficient: From our base to the Fantasy Forest Amusement Park, then to Forest Park, and finally back to our base—all in air-conditioned comfort.