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Social connection brings hope, increases success in addressing rural poverty

URBANA, Ill. – According to 2019 U.S. Census data, about 11.5% of Illinois’ population lives below the federal poverty guideline, with rural communities facing the brunt of poverty. 2018 Heartland Alliance research shows that children, women, and people of color experience severe poverty.

COVID-19 has aggravated this situation as small businesses struggle to survive and many people are still without jobs, resulting in growing food insecurity. In March 2021, Illinois Department of Human Services data pointed to 2,065,055 Illinoisans eligible for SNAP food assistance benefits, a 17.8% increase from March 2020. In that same timeframe, the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that Illinois' unemployment rate rose from 3.7% to 7.1%, hitting a high of 16.5% in April 2020.

On May 25 at noon, explore place-based approaches to poverty reduction in rural communities in a free virtual webinar from University of Illinois Extension. Advance registration is required to attend the online event. Register at

Joseph Malual, presenter and Extension regional specialist, will share community-led research using a case study of rural households and will provide strategies communities can use to address root causes and increase resilience among their vulnerable, food-insecure populations.

"Building trusted relationships and establishing connections with households experiencing poverty is critical to enhance their assets and break the cycle of poverty," says Joseph Malual, Extension regional specialist. "We see positive outcomes when a helping hand comes in and bridges that gap."

Given the complexity of challenges facing households and communities, effective poverty reduction programs require local action and a holistic approach that recognizes and builds household and community resources to address root causes and improve well-being. Intentional collaboration among providers maximizes the impact of services.

Malual serves Illinois Extension as a community and economic development regional specialist and holds a doctorate from Iowa State University in developmental sociology and sustainable agriculture. Malual’s previous work at University of Wisconsin-Madison included organizational development, participatory research, and minority entrepreneurship.

If you need a reasonable accommodation to participate in the online session, contact organizer Nancy Ouedraogo at Early requests are strongly encouraged.

SOURCE: Joseph Malual, Community and Economic Development Regional Specialist, University of Illinois Extension

COPY EDITOR: Liz Smith, Media Communications Specialist, University of Illinois Extension

ABOUT EXTENSION: Illinois Extension leads public outreach for University of Illinois by translating research into action plans that allow Illinois families, businesses, and community leaders to solve problems, make informed decisions, and adapt to changes and opportunities.