Breaking the poverty cycle involves education. That's a reason why Head Start is important. But funding cuts are slicing into hours. That leaves less time for learning, and time for more decisions.
"It's not just Congress," said Mo Hart, executive director of Project Now. "It's us, too. Where are our priorities? What is important to us?"
Important questions with the countdown on again to a possible federal government shutdown. Congress has until October 1 to enact a temporary deal.
That's why Rep. Cheri Bustos, (D) Illinois, convened a discussion on Monday in Rock Island.
She says that a government shutdown will hurt local agencies. Agencies that already are doing more with less.
"These are people who are caring for victims of child abuse," she said. "This is just not a way we want to run our government."
The group learned that hunger leads to other problems. But proposed federal cuts could drastically slice into the food stamp program. One East Moline food pantry just finished its busiest month ever. Many of its clients also get food stamps.
"It is all about real people who are struggling every day to be the best people that they can be," said Cindy Fisher, executive director of the Rock Island County Children's Advocacy Center.
Providers worry that a shutdown will affect everybody, not just the poor. It could become a short term situation with long term consequences.
Congress must decide whether it will choose people over politics. But a vote scheduled for later this week presents the most severe options, defunding the so-called Obamacare.
"These programs are strengthening our community," Hart concluded.
Programs and partisan politics up for debate at crunch time for Congress.