Over the past 10 years, the country has seen a historic rise in poverty with 46.2 million Americans living under the federal poverty line.
In a recent report, the Brookings Institute ranked Rochester the 13th poorest metropolitan city compared to other cities. Buffalo ranked 24th.
Students at St. John Fisher College are getting a taste of what poverty and hunger feels like.
"Poverty in Rochester is everywhere. I mean everywhere,” Carmen Vega of IBERO said.
The students at St. John Fisher College were divided into three socio-economic classes: the elite, the middle class and the poor.
"It’s just one of those things, you feel so bad if you're up on the stage, you don't want to eat the food that you have because you see all the people and what they have in the class below you,” Gina Roselli, a senior at St. John Fisher College said.
The elite dined with table linens and had a full course meal, while the middle class ate beans and rice on chairs. The poor sat on the floor and ate only rice.
"It’s just expanding. It’s a greater need out there. It’s just not based in the city of Rochester, it’s all over,” Vega said.
Local organizations like IBERO Emergency Services say it’s seen a rise in poverty over the last year. Vega says last year IBERO served 1,200 people and this year it’s already served 1,900 people.
Vega says poverty isn't just based in the city – it’s spreading and everyone is affected.
"You might see someone living next to you living in the suburbs and you think, 'oh they're fine' when in reality they might be about to lose their home because they don't have a job to pay their mortgage or put food on the table,” Vega said.
A report released by the Brookings Institute says over the last 10 years, the country's poor population grew by 12.3 million people.
The students broke up into groups and talked about very real scenarios that could happen to their families or to themselves, and what they would do if that happened.
“We did fresh out of college. You’re a sports management major and you just graduated and you can't find a job in your field. So, you're working at Wegmans and you have to provide for yourself. You only make $2,000 a month so that's $24,000 a year and you have to pay rent and all this stuff. So what would you do if you couldn't afford it? Would you get a second job? How are you going to pay your student loans back? Student loans are huge, especially at Fisher. Most people graduate having $24,000 or more in student loans," Roselli said.
Vega says for some people these are very real scenarios. She hopes the students will recognize that fact and get involved by donating time or helping out in other ways.
"Every little bit helps,” Vega said.