NBC News
By Ron Allen Correspondent
NBC News
updated 8/26/2004 8:03:01 PM ET 2004-08-27T00:03:01

At a Lions Club in southern Ohio, the food line forms as soon as the doors open. Hot meals once a week, before shopping the food pantry. It's a community where nearly a third, like volunteer Hazel Life, live below the poverty line.

"They're working poor. They don't make enough to get by, they barely get by when they do get by, like I barely get by," says Life.

A single mother of three, Life works for minimum wage, $5.15 per hour, at a convenience store.

A U.S. Census report released Thursday says an additional 1.3 million people like her fell into poverty last year, with a big increase in the number of poor children. The poverty level is defined as income less than $18,810 for a family of four.

In Ohio and other midwestern states, heavy job losses — especially at factories that paid good wages and benefits — are a big part of the problem. And many workers say what new jobs they are finding leave them struggling to pay their bills.

That's true even for two-income families in larger cities. Lori Cesaire teaches part-time in Columbus and her husband works nights as a security guard. But they're still below the poverty line.

"You know the circle, once gas go up, then taxes go up, then transportation go up, then food go up, then this go up, but your pay don't go up," says Lori.

While the Census Bureau report found the poverty rate unchanged in Ohio, need is still increasing.

"We have seen over a 40 percent increase in food assistance just since the beginning of this year," says Lori Hamler-Podoloski of Ohio Second Harvest Food Banks.

She says meals are in demand by seniors and children who frequent the Lions Club most.

It's a slice of life in a rural corner of Ohio — where like an increasing number of Americans, the poor live with less.

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