A half-century ago, 40 bishops from around the world gathered in an ancient Roman church and signed a pledge to forsake worldly goods and live like the neediest among their flock.

They were in Rome for the Second Vatican Council in 1965, the deliberations that opened the Catholic Church to the modern world.

The bishops' all but forgotten pledge, known as the Pact of the Catacombs, has gained new resonance with Pope Francis' vision of a church for the poor.

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A children's advocacy group said in a new report that many people of color and young workers in Connecticut have been left behind in the economic recovery from the Great Recession that ended in 2009.

Awe ouens, zikhiphani daar?

That's South African slang for "Hey guys, what's up?"

We recently had a chance to find out what's up with the teens of South Africa.

Connecticut Commission on Children / cga.ct.gov

Connecticut was the first state in the nation to pass a law in 2014 that aims to help get kids ready for school by also focusing on their parents.

When you think of daily life in the developing world, what do you see?

Do you see the fierceness of a buffalo race in the jungles of Bali? Children climbing up a clay minaret in Burkina Faso? Families laid out like jewels across rooftops in India, searching for a respite in the summer heat?

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The legislature recently made it harder for parents to stay on Husky, Connecticut's version of Medicaid. The state said that around 1,200 people risk losing their insurance coverage at the end of the month if they take no action.

LaDawna Howard / Creative Commons

Fifty years ago, President Lyndon Johnson waged a war on poverty  to rebuild America as a “Great Society” where “no child will go unfed, and no youngster will go unschooled.” 

Medicaid was enacted in 1965 as part of sweeping legislation to provide food, education, healthcare and jobs to millions in poverty.  Once a benefit for poor single parents and their kids, Medicaid now covers mental illness, disabilities, the elderly and most recently, millions of the previously uninsured through Obamacare.

U.S. Department of Agriculture / Creative Commons

Advocates for the poor have argued that the state takes too long to process food stamp applications, and that people should have a right to sue. State attorneys have pushed back. But last week, a federal appellate court ruled that applicants can in fact file a class action against the state. 


Summer vacation has started for most school children, and that means free summer lunch programs are also beginning across the state.

Bob Muller / Creative Commons

David McCullough is an iconic two-time Pulitzer Prize winning historian whose work encompasses notable people from John Adams to his latest work on the Wright Brothers. We spend a few minutes with him this morning in anticipation of his appearance with author Stacy Schiff at The Connecticut Forum, this Saturday, May 9, at 8:00 pm at the Bushnell.

But first, we talk about a Connecticut program that helps families learn to develop resilience in the face of overwhelming adversity -- known as “toxic stress” -- that is often associated with poverty, and is particularly hard on kids.

T Charles Erickson / Long Wharf Theater

Governor Dannel Malloy last month announced he'll bring together  a panel of community leaders and experts for the first time today to take a look at ways to reduce the urban violence that takes the lives of young men, mostly minority and poor, in often random and senseless acts of violence. 

While those numbers are decreasing in some urban areas around the nation, including in Connecticut,  they remain higher than would be tolerated in more affluent communities.

A focus on the numbers ignores the lives behind the statistics, including the families that love victims. Nor do numbers get to the root of the problems behind the violence. 

Christopher Harrison / Creative Commons

Connecticut farmers will have an opportunity to become authorized to accept food stamps from customers at their farms and at farmers markets. 

NPR and ProPublica have been reporting about nonprofit hospitals that seize the wages of lower-income and working-class patients. Now, Sen. Chuck Grassley, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, says hospitals could be breaking the law by suing these patients and docking their pay. And he wants some answers.

Asthma affects children regardless of where they live and whether they are rich or poor. But scientists have long thought that living in poor urban neighborhoods adds an extra risk for this troublesome lung inflammation. A new study suggests that's not necessarily the case.

Asthma is often triggered by something in the environment, so in the 1960s, scientists started looking for places where asthma was especially bad.

Little children are big news this week, as the White House holds a summit on early childhood education on Wednesday. The president wants every 4-year-old to go to preschool, but the new Congress is unlikely to foot that bill.

Since last year, more than 30 states have expanded access to preschool. But there's still a lack of evidence about exactly what kinds of interventions are most effective in those crucial early years.

Connecticut Conference of Municipalities

An advocacy group for Connecticut's cities and towns is calling attention to what it describes as the disproportionate burdens on poor communities. 


Though all people and communities deserve equal opportunities to be healthy, there are many barriers to good health in communities across the U.S. Low-income communities, particularly those of color, face a disproportionate number of barriers.

St. Francis Hospital in Hartford co-hosts a town hall meeting on Tuesday titled, "Is Food Making Us Sick? A Conversation About Food and Our Health" with a panel of experts who will talk about food and health. WNPR's Diane Orson spoke with bariatric surgeon Dr. Nissin Nahmias, whose work centers on people struggling with obesity.

Tomorrow in Central Park, Jay-Z will rap, Sting will sing and India's prime minister, Narendra Modi, will talk about the need to end open defecation — that's what they call it when people don't have access to toilets, and it's a huge global problem.

Lance Neilson

The rate of child poverty in Connecticut held steady in 2013, from the year before. But that stabilization follows a huge rise in the last decade. One in seven children in the state lives in a poor family. 

Income inequality is getting greater in Connecticut as the recovery continues. That’s the message from a new report which says the state needs to use tax policy to help poorer families catch up. 

It's not always easy to connect the dots between the food we consume and the people who grow it, or the impact of growing and processing that food on the health of our planet.

But a campaign called Behind the Brands, led by Oxfam International, an advocacy organization dedicated to fighting poverty, is trying to make the inner workings of the 10 biggest food companies in the world more visible.

Rep. Paul Ryan, chairman of the House Budget Committee, used to have a habit of describing the American people in two categories. There were the "makers" — people paying taxes — and the "takers" — people getting government benefits.

Today, the Wisconsin Republican says he was wrong, and that the country needs to overhaul how it thinks about poverty. In his new book, The Way Forward: Renewing the American Idea, he offers ways to redirect federal spending to fighting poverty.

Neil Conway / Creative Commons

A recent poll from the the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health found that poverty leads to stress, affecting people’s ways of thinking and their overall health. In our region, researchers and doctors have found that living in poverty can actually hinder brain development.

This hour, we learn more about the psychology of poverty and find out what’s being done to combat some of the the stresses it brings on. We also talk to one researcher who has been looking at the impact of noise pollution on the brain development of children in low-income communities.

Education is historically considered to be the thing that levels the playing field, capable of lifting up the less advantaged and improving their chances for success.

"Play by the rules, work hard, apply yourself and do well in school, and that will open doors for you," is how Karl Alexander, a Johns Hopkins University sociologist, puts it.

But a study published in June suggests that the things that really make the difference — between prison and college, success and failure, sometimes even life and death — are money and family.

Like it or not, television has the power to shape our perceptions of the world. So what do sitcoms, dramas and reality TV say about poor people?

In life and on TV, "poor" is relative. Take breakfast: For Honey Boo Boo's family, it's microwaved sausage and pancake sandwiches; for children in The Wire's Baltimore ghetto, it's a juice box and a bag of chips before school; and on Good Times, set in the Chicago projects back in the 1970s, it was a healthier choice: oatmeal.

Ray Hardman / WNPR

The number of Connecticut children living in poverty has increased 50 percent since 1990, according to a new report.

After a half-century of the War on Poverty, an anti-poverty agency in Ohio has concluded that decades of assistance alone just hasn't changed lives. Instead, it says, the ongoing breakdown of the family is to blame.

"You're seeing the same people come year after year, and in some cases generation to generation. And so then you think, why is that happening?" says Jennifer Jennette, program manager of the Community Action Commission of Erie, Huron and Richland Counties in Ohio.

The Mayor of Springfield, Massachusetts has renewed a call for an end to new refugee resettlements in Springfield.  Massachusetts Congressman Richard Neal said the mayor has raised concerns that need to be addressed.

     Mayor Domenic Sarno first called for a moratorium on refugee resettlements in Springfield 10 months ago, but then backed off amid criticism from social service providers and advocates for immigrants. Sarno said his office recently learned that up to 70 refugees will be settled in Springfield in the coming year.

Chion Wolf

President Obama announced a five-year, $200 million initiative to help young black men succeed. It's called "My Brother's Keeper," and aims to work with non-profits and foundations to search for solutions to the  problems of young black men. Leaders cite school and job readiness, discipline, and parenting as a few of the problems they'll tackle, but it's  mostly the bone-crushing poverty and low expectations that hold them back. 

This well-intended initiative put forth to help young black men succeed will  help a few beat the odds at the expense of the masses. The success feels good but may not change much.

Chion Wolf

If you're like me, you'll have a lot of thoughts about food today but they won't be about how to get some. It will be about what you want for lunch and what you feel like having for dinner.

You might have an argument with yourself about whether you can afford to eat a snack or dessert, but to you the word "afford" has to do with your weight and your waistline.