These striking black-and-white photos bring poverty in America to life.

These somber photos document a part of the United States many rarely see.

Photographer Matt Black's latest project shows us an America we're all a part of but not all of us see.

After two decades of documenting impoverished areas in California, Black decided to take his project on the road, tracing a path all across the country.

A photo posted by Matt Black (@mattblack_blackmatt) on



He visited areas that have at least a 20% poverty rate (which as of 2014 is an income of $11,490 for individuals and $23,550 for a family of four). A whopping 45 million of Americans are living in poverty — the highest number recorded. And that isn't even including the working poor (who are more than 50% of SNAP recipients).

While it's clear that poverty's impact is different in every town, the project shows there is a commonality that connects them — us — all.

In an interview with Time, Black explains,

"I wanted to find a continuous route that linked all of these towns, which are no more than a couple of hundred miles from each other. And the fact that you can link all of these communities from coast to coast and back again is telling." — Matt Black
A photo posted by Matt Black (@mattblack_blackmatt) on


So many of the representations of poverty we see in the media are usually from out there — other countries. Black's work sheds light on what's happening right here at home.

His remarkable photos are accompanied by stunning facts about life in each specific area. The captions range from quotes from locals to statistics about the health conditions of the region's residents.

A quick look at his Instagram account shows photos from California...

The Geography of Poverty USA - Santa Maria, CA. Santa Maria is a city in Santa Barbara County, California. The population is 99,553 and 20.7% live below the poverty level. Approximately 10,000 people work in the city's surrounding strawberry fields, earning $1.25 per box picked. Amador Angeles, field worker: “I wish for my kids to to study so they don't have to carry on like us." #geographyofpoverty www.geographyofpoverty.com
A photo posted by Matt Black (@mattblack_blackmatt) on
The Geography of Poverty USA - Oil field. Bakersfield, CA. Kern County's fields produce one in every 12 barrels of domestic oil. Deep shale drilling releases into the air compounds that cause smog, respiratory problems, and cancer. #geographyofpoverty
A photo posted by Matt Black (@mattblack_blackmatt) on


...to the Southwest.

The Geography of Poverty USA - Brownsville, TX. Brownsville is a city in Cameron County, Texas. The population is 175,023 and 35.3% live below the poverty level. #geographyofpoverty
A photo posted by Matt Black (@mattblack_blackmatt) on
The Geography of Poverty USA - The remains of an unidentified migrant discovered in Brooks County, Texas, await forensic analysis. The bodies of twenty-six border crossers have been found so far this year in the rural Texas county, one of the nation's poorest. #geographyofpoverty
A photo posted by Matt Black (@mattblack_blackmatt) on


Through the South...

The Geography of Poverty USA - Hyden, KY. Hyden is a city in Leslie County, Kentucky. The population is 365 and 26.3% live below the poverty level. #geographyofpoverty
A photo posted by Matt Black (@mattblack_blackmatt) on
The Geography of Poverty USA - Cancer Alley, Louisiana. Cancer Alley is an 85 mile stretch of over 200 petrochemical facilities beginning in Baton Rouge (25.4% poverty) stretching past New Orleans (27.3% poverty) and towards the coast. Though comprising just 1/3 of the state's population, 80% of Louisiana's African-American residents live within three miles of a hazardous industrial zoned facility. #geographyofpoverty
A photo posted by Matt Black (@mattblack_blackmatt) on


...up the Northeast...

Burlington, VT. "They think I am stealing something because I have two kids and a stroller. If you get mad you are just giving them more reason to discriminate against you." Burlington is a city in Chittenden County, Vermont. The population is 42,417 and 25.1% live below the poverty level. "You just got to keep calm and suck it up." #geographyofpoverty
A photo posted by Matt Black (@mattblack_blackmatt) on
Erie, PA. Pistolvania. "The first 15 days of July featured two gunshot-related homicides, at least nine shootings that wounded people, a shots-fired investigation in which a police officer was fired upon and at least two armed robberies." Erie is a city in Erie County, Pennsylvania. The population is 101,786 and 27.8% live below the poverty level. #geographyofpoverty
A photo posted by Matt Black (@mattblack_blackmatt) on


...and completing the circle in the Northwest.

#Repost @msnbcphoto
・・・
Between 2009 and 2013, some 41.5% of Flint's residents lived below the poverty line, compared to just 16.8% of the rest of the state. A quarter of its families have an annual income of below $15,000 a year. The city's child poverty rate of 66.5% is nearly 10 percentage points higher than Detroit's. Block by block, neighborhoods where GM had built houses for its workers were marked by the detritus of abandonment, crumbling homes and overgrown lots. Crime and despair began to fester. And generations of families barely making it replaced those that had once thrived. Often those families were one and the same. The population loss and economic collapse has compounded other issues, including access to quality education, healthcare and safety. There are also serious environmental concerns. When industry pulled out of the city, it left behind huge swaths of contaminated land. Aging and decrepit infrastructure, including a deteriorating water system, has meant dangerously high levels of toxins in the city's water supply. Today on MSNBC we launch Chapter 3 from our on-going feature, Geography of Poverty, “The Rust Belt: Once Mighty Cities in Decline - An auto giant's exit brings Flint to its knees" by photographer @mattblack_blackmatt and reporter Trymaine Lee. You can see the latest installment of this in-depth feature with detailed interactive graphics and powerful photography on msnbc.com/photography (link in profile) Thank you to our partners on this project the @pulitzercenter, the @economichardship and the @magnumfoundation
A photo posted by Matt Black (@mattblack_blackmatt) on
Fort Yates, ND. "The poverty that has been imposed, and the taking of our riches, says it all for their American Dream. It's very different for us." Fort Yates is a town in Sioux County, North Dakota. The population is 2,386 and 44.3% live below the poverty level. #geographyofpoverty
A photo posted by Matt Black (@mattblack_blackmatt) on
Pasco, WA. Pasco is a city in Franklin County, Washington. The population is 59,781 and 21.5% live below the poverty level. #geographyofpoverty
A photo posted by Matt Black (@mattblack_blackmatt) on


Black's roadtrip shows us how poverty isn't an isolated problem caused by individual failure. It's a systemic issue that connects (too) many communities.

As he explained to Time:

"'What really dawned on me is how connected these places are,' he adds. 'I've driven all the way across the country, but in a lot of ways I feel I still haven't left the Central Valley. It feels like one place. Uniting them in this kind of visual document is challenging but immensely satisfying because it feels like I'm making a statement that needs to be made.'"

And now folks around the world can get a rare look into these all-too-common, greatly hidden pockets of American poverty. And they're struck by it.

Each Instagram post includes comments from users — many who share that they have a new awareness of poverty throughout the U.S. And it's not just Instagrammers who are impressed. Black's photography has received critical acclaim, including a nomination from Magnum Photos.

Says Black to Time, "A lot of people have been blown away by it. It's not so much about the individual circumstances as it is about the collective whole."

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Should a man lose his home because the grass in his yard grew higher than 10 inches? The city of Dunedin, Florida seems to think so.

According to the Institute of Justice, which is representing Jim Ficken, he had a very good reason for not mowing his lawn – and tried to rectify the situation as best he could.

In 2014, Jim's mom became ill and he visited her often in South Carolina to help her out. When he was away, his grass grew too long and he was cited by a code office; he cut the grass and wasn't fined.

France has started forcing supermarkets to donate food instead of throwing it away.

But several years later, this one infraction would come back to haunt him after he left to take care of him's mom's affairs after she died. The arrangements he made to have his grass cut fell through (his friend who he asked to help him out passed away unexpectedly) and that set off a chain reaction that may result in him losing his home.

The 69-year-old retiree now faces a $29,833.50 fine plus interest. Watch the video to find out just what Jim is having to deal with.

Mow Your Lawn or Lose Your House! www.youtube.com

Cities

The world officially loves Michelle Obama.

The former first lady has overtaken the number one spot in a poll of the world's most admired women. Conducted by online research firm YouGov, the study uses international polling tools to survey people in countries around the world about who they most admire.

In the men's category, Bill Gates took the top spot, followed by Barack Obama and Jackie Chan.

In the women's category, Michelle Obama came first, followed by Oprah Winfrey and Angelina Jolie. Obama pushed Jolie out of the number one spot she claimed last year.

Unsurprising, really, because what's not to love about Michelle Obama? She is smart, kind, funny, accomplished, a great dancer, a devoted wife and mother, and an all-around, genuinely good person.

She has remained dignified and strong in the face of rabid masses of so-called Americans who spent eight years and beyond insisting that she's a man disguised as a woman. She's endured non-stop racist memes and terrifying threats to her family. She has received far more than her fair share of cruelty, and always takes the high road. She's the one who coined, "When they go low, we go high," after all.

She came from humble beginnings and remains down to earth despite becoming a familiar face around the world. She's not much older than me, but I still want to be like Michelle Obama when I grow up.

Her memoir, Becoming, may end up being the best-selling memoir of all time, having already sold 10 million copies—a clear sign that people can't get enough Michelle, because there's no such thing as too much Michelle.

Don't like Michelle Obama? Don't care. Those of us who love her will fly our MO flags high and without apology, paying no mind to folks with cold, dead hearts who don't know a gem of a human being when they see one. There is nothing any hater can say or do to make us admire this undeniably admirable woman any less.

When it seems like the world has lost its mind—which is how it feels most days these days—I'm just going to keep coming back to this study as evidence that hope for humanity is not lost.

Here. Enjoy some real-life Michelle on Jimmy Kimmel. (GAH. WHY IS SHE SO CUTE AND AWESOME. I can't even handle it.)

Michelle & Barack Obama are Boring Now www.youtube.com

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via EarthFix / Flickr

What will future generations never believe that we tolerated in 2019?

Dolphin and orca captivity, for sure. They'll probably shake their heads at how people died because they couldn't afford healthcare. And, they'll be completely mystified at the amount of food some people waste while others go starving.

According to Biological Diversity, "An estimated 40 percent of the food produced in the United States is wasted every year, costing households, businesses and farms about $218 billion annually."

There are so many things wrong with this.

First of all it's a waste of money for the households who throw out good food. Second, it's a waste of all of the resources that went into growing the food, including the animals who gave their lives for the meal. Third, there's something very wrong with throwing out food when one in eight Americans struggle with hunger.

Supermarkets are just as guilty of this unnecessary waste as consumers. About 10% of all food waste are supermarket products thrown out before they've reached their expiration date.

Three years ago, France took big steps to combat food waste by making a law that bans grocery stores from throwing away edible food.According to the new ordinance, stores can be fined for up to $4,500 for each infraction.

Previously, the French threw out 7.1 million tons of food. Sixty-seven percent of which was tossed by consumers, 15% by restaurants, and 11% by grocery stores.

This has created a network of over 5,000 charities that accept the food from supermarkets and donate them to charity. The law also struck down agreements between supermarkets and manufacturers that prohibited the stores from donating food to charities.

"There was one food manufacturer that was not authorized to donate the sandwiches it made for a particular supermarket brand. But now, we get 30,000 sandwiches a month from them — sandwiches that used to be thrown away," Jacques Bailet, head of the French network of food banks known as Banques Alimentaires, told NPR.

It's expected that similar laws may spread through Europe, but people are a lot less confident at it happening in the United States. The USDA believes that the biggest barrier to such a program would be cost to the charities and or supermarkets.

"The logistics of getting safe, wholesome, edible food from anywhere to people that can use it is really difficult," the organization said according to Gizmodo. "If you're having to set up a really expensive system to recover marginal amounts of food, that's not good for anybody."

Plus, the idea may seem a little too "socialist" for the average American's appetite.

"The French version is quite socialist, but I would say in a great way because you're providing a way where they [supermarkets] have to do the beneficial things not only for the environment, but from an ethical standpoint of getting healthy food to those who need it and minimizing some of the harmful greenhouse gas emissions that come when food ends up in a landfill," Jonathan Bloom, the author of American Wasteland, told NPR.

However, just because something may be socialist doesn't mean it's wrong. The greater wrong is the insane waste of money, damage to the environment, and devastation caused by hunger that can easily be avoided.

Planet

The world is dark and full of terrors, but every once in a while it graces us with something to warm our icy-cold hearts. And that is what we have today, with a single dad who went viral on Twitter after his daughter posted the photos he sent her when trying to pick out and outfit for his date. You love to see it.




After seeing these heartwarming pics, people on Twitter started suggesting this adorable man date their moms. It was essentially a mom and date matchmaking frenzy.

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