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SW Virginia families struggle with poverty more than NOVA

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GALAX (WSLS 10) -  A new study from the child advocacy group, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, found more children are living in poverty in the U.S. now than before the 2008 recession.

Southwest Virginia is no exception to this trend.

67 percent of students in the Galax City School System qualified for free and reduced lunches in 2015. In 2008, less than 50 percent qualified. Superintendent Bill Sturgill said he watched this number skyrocket since he came on board in 2005. He said it makes school much more than a place of learning for the children.

"We are a little bit of a parent, we're a little bit of a teacher, we're a grandparent, we're all those things rolled in together," Sturgill explained.

When the recession was supposedly at its peak in 2008, 32 percent of children in Galax lived below the poverty line.  In 2013, that number had grown to 37 percent.

Next door in Grayson County, 2008 saw 26 percent of children in poverty. Five years later, that number also grew to 29 percent.

These numbers sharply contrast with other places across the Commonwealth.In 2013, four percent of kids in Loudoun County were living in poverty and 11 percent in Arlington County.

Kathy Cooley runs a non-profit food bank in Galax called Willing Partners. When Willing Partners launched in the 1990s, it fed about 500 families a month. Today, it has almost tripled to 1,400. But even with the help, the Willing Partners missing is an uphill climb.

"I really don't know how some of them are making it anyway. They struggle," Cooley said.

While many might tout economic recovery across America, those who call southwest Virginia home see family after family get left behind.

"This town was really a booming industrial town, and we lost all of that," Cooley said. "I'm seeing some of the same families that I saw 15, 20 years ago come through. It's like a generation of folks that are still finding themselves destitute."