Fentress County, close to the Kentucky border. From The Atlantic.
As the Southern Education Foundation announced last January, a majority of the schoolchildren attending the nation’s public schools now come from low-income families. The implications, for rural, urban, and suburban children alike, are serious. Students who come to school hungry often find it difficult to focus on learning. Students without computers or Internet access may have trouble with their homework. Students who are homeless or need clothing or lack medical care can develop behavioral problems.
Compared to students in urban or suburban schools, students in rural areas and small towns are less likely to attend college. Part of this is because of financial concerns. In Fentress County, close to 40 percent of children live in poverty. According to the Obama administration, it’s one of 301 rural counties (compared to 52 non-rural ones) in the country that suffer from “persistent poverty,” meaning poverty rates have exceeded 20 percent in every census since 1980. In the 2011, 65 percent of children in the county qualified for free or reduced lunches, a key marker of childhood poverty. That is 18 percent higher than Tennessee’s average. The community has some of the highest rates of premature death, sick leave, and injury-related deaths in the state. Thirty-eight percent of the county’s adults are obese.