Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

This September, Rhode Island’s Department of Human Services launches a new online portal for health and social service benefits. It’s the state’s biggest IT project ever. 

Elisabeth Harrison / RIPR

In 1987, researchers in Finland began following tens of thousands of babies who were about to be born. In fact, they followed every child born in Finland that year, and they continue to follow them today. The study is known as the 1987 Finnish Birth Cohort Study. One of the key findings is that poverty for very young children can have lasting consequences.  Rhode Island College Graduate Tina Ristikari is one of the researchers who have been studying this data. She told Rhode Island Public Radio’s Elisabeth Harrison what the Ocean State can learn from it.

Rhode Island is 7th in the nation for children’s healthcare coverage. That’s according to 2014 numbers from the U.S. Census.  It’s a big jump from last year, when Rhode Island was 16th.

Today, nearly 97 percent of Rhode Island children have health insurance, up from about 94 percent in 2013. Elizabeth Burke-Bryant of the advocacy non-profit Rhode Island Kid’s Count said the leap can be partly attributed to a major PR push to get people insured, under Obamacare.

General Mills

School is nearly out for the summer. And that means thousands of children who rely on free or reduced price school meals are at risk of going hungry. That's why there's a USDA-funded summer meals program. In Rhode Island, the program serves an average of 300,000 meals each summer.

Young children in Rhode Island are more ethnically diverse than ever before. That according to new data from Rhode Island Kids Count.

Fewer than three out of every five Rhode Island kids under age five now identify as white. That’s a huge drop from their grandparents’ generation. 91 percent of state residents who are 65 and older identify as white. Kids Count released the numbers as part of a new report on infants, toddlers and their families.

Rhode Island Community Food Bank will begin delivering boxes of food to low-income seniors. That’s thanks to the expansion of a federal program for seniors in need, the Commodity Supplemental Food Program.

Boxes of canned fruit and vegetables, cereal, pasta and other items will be delivered to low income elderly Rhode Islanders starting this summer. Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) helped secure federal funding to bring the US Department of Agriculture nutrition program for poor seniors to Rhode Island and six other states.

County Health Rankings 2015 / Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has released its annual County Health Rankings, and Rhode Island's counties (Providence in particular) seem to be faring worse than the national average on a few measures, and much better on a few, too.

New numbers out of Rhode Island Kids Count show the number of children living in poverty has grown nearly five percent since the start of the Great Recession.  Kids Count RI executive director Elizabeth Burke-Bryant sat down with Rhode Island Public Radio's Elisabeth Harrison to go over the numbers.

The latest report on child poverty in Rhode Island found in 2013 44,923 children under the age of 18 lived below the federal poverty threshold. That’s 21.5%, and higher than the rate of 15.5% in 2008.

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

Advocates for the poor gathered in the Statehouse rotunda Wednesday to appeal to lawmakers to address poverty as they begin a new legislative session. The coalition of faith leaders in attendance hope lawmakers will adopt several policy initiatives to fight homelessness and increase assistance for the poor.

Flo Jonic / RIPR

A coalition of Rhode Island religious leaders is calling on lawmakers to put poverty at the top of their agenda this year.  The plea was issued at a Statehouse rally Wednesday.

National Institute of Mental Health

Stress can affect developing brains, including the kind of stress that poverty can create. But a strong caregiver can mediate those effects. Those are the findings of a new study in the Journal JAMA Pediatrics. It's not news that stress and poverty can have negative effects.

US Dept. of Agriculture

Rhode Island is getting a boost from the US Department of Agriculture to help attract more kids in need to its summer food program. The USDA’s goal is to increase participation by 10 percent.

Kristin Gourlay

Rhode Island has a poverty rate of 14%, according to a scorecard from the Corporation for Enterprise Development, a national think-tank.

The Economic Progress  Institute of Rhode Island holds  its annual policy conference Thursday to tackle the complex issue of poverty in the Ocean State.  Rhode Island Public Radio's Elisabeth Harrison sits down with that organization’s executive director, Kate Brewster.