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Clinton offers plan to cut child poverty in half in a dozen years

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Posted: February 28, 2008 3:40 p.m.
Updated: March 14, 2008 5:00 a.m.
    HANGING ROCK, Ohio — Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton offered a plan to improve childhood nutrition and set a goal to reduce by half the 12 million youngsters living in poverty over the next dozen years.
    The package of proposals includes a ‘‘comprehensive’’ early education initiative that starts with nurse’s visits for pregnant women, lets children begin the Head Start program earlier and calls for universal pre-kindergarten programs.
    The New York senator also says she would deal with childhood hunger by putting in place a food safety net, and give children ‘‘greater access to healthy, fresh food.’’
    She spelled out her proposals in a speech Thursday at the child care development center on Ohio University’s southern campus, and toured a Head Start program serving economically challenged southern Ohio. It was part of her effort to focus the Democratic campaign on bedrock economic issues.
    ‘‘You should have a president again who actually gets up thinking about you every day,’’ Clinton told about 200 people at the event. ‘‘I have spent a lifetime working to help children, which is my first passion. If our children get off to a good start so much of the other stuff is taken care of.’’
    Clinton aides said the new programs would carry an annual pricetag of $5 billion to $6 billion. A significant portion of her plan comes by expanding existing programs. She would cover the cost by toughening tax enforcement to collect money currently owed but not paid.
    Clinton said she would direct her agriculture secretary to develop a plan to end childhood hunger. The nutrition effort would come largely through signing up more people for the food stamp program and expanding its benefits. She argued her program is comprehensive, dealing with both parents and children.
    ‘‘We have to focus on children and families, it has to go hand in hand,’’ said Clinton. She heard stories from women struggling to raise children and get by financially.
    ‘‘I have to say I don’t know how single moms do it,’’ said Clinton.
    Clinton argues that roughly 12.9 million children live in poverty, with about 5 million living in extreme poverty. That means their families have incomes of less than half the federal poverty level.
    School breakfast programs would be universal in low-income neighborhoods under her proposal. She also would double the size of a summer nutrition program aimed at feeding low-income children when they aren’t in school.
    Clinton also says she would launch an effort to get junk food out of schools. She would require schools that get federal funding through the school lunch or breakfast programs to offer only food that meets or surpasses USDA standards.
    Heading to her child poverty event, Clinton stopped at a mobile home in Pomeroy for a roundtable discussion of the problems facing families in a county where the poverty rate is near 20 percent, almost double the national average. Much of her focus was on health care, but she was quick to draw a distinction with rival Barack Obama.
    Roger Holman, a state worker, said he was worried that forcing people to buy health insurance would be hard on those struggling to get by. Clinton jumped on that saying Obama is distorting her proposal.
    ‘‘That’s misleading,’’ she said. ‘‘That’s not at all what’s going to happen.’’
    Clinton told the nine people gathered that her plan is superior because it would cover everyone, while Obama would leave 15 million out.
    ‘‘That won’t work,’’ said Clinton. ‘‘Everybody’s got to be in the system.’’

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