Serving Kenly, Selma, Smithfield, Princeton & Pine Level since 1973

Johnston poverty rate slightly above state average

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SMITHFIELD — According to the latest U.S. Census Bureau data, 15.1% of Johnston County residents are living in poverty with a per-capita income of $24,872. That’s compared to the state figures of 14% living in poverty with a per-capita income of $28,123.

In 2018, the federal poverty income threshold was $25,465 for a family of four with two children and $17,308 for a single parent of one child.

Johnston County Department of Social Services Director Scott Sabatino said 42,608 people requested public assistance from the county’s DSS office during the 2018-19 fiscal year at a cost of $272,856,786.

“That doesn’t include those who applied for assistance online, by mail or by telephone,” Sabatino said.

The North Carolina Justice Center think tank cites Census Bureau figures showing 1.4 million North Carolinians lived in poverty last year.

“People and communities across the state still face barriers to getting ahead such as lack of access to good-paying jobs, unaffordable child care, little access to public transportation to get to work and inadequate education and job training resources,” the center said in a report released last week.

More than 31% of Johnston County Public Schools students participate in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s school nutrition program to receive free or reduced-price meals.

“They receive income applications from parents to process for qualification into the free and reduced-price meal program. Also, our menus are the same for all students regardless of their meals status,” said Johnson County Public Schools spokeswoman Delores Gill. “Back Pack Buddies is a program which goes on at individual school run by a club, organization or PTA. West Johnston has a specific food pantry.”

The proportion of students receiving free or reduced-price lunches is 44% at Micro Elementary, 51% at North Johnston Middle, 52% at Glendale-Kenly Elementary, 39% at North Johnston High, 46% at Pine Level Elementary, 42% at Princeton Elementary, 29% at Princeton Middle/High, 55% at Selma Elementary, 54% at Selma Middle, 52% at West Smithfield Elementary, 46% at Smithfield Middle, 44% at Smithfield-Selma High, 45% at South Smithfield Elementary and 60% at Wilson’s Mills Elementary.