Although poverty can be invisible in the rural areas of Waterloo Region, almost 5,000 people living in the four townships are struggling to make ends meet, a forum on rural poverty heard Thursday.

That number includes about 2,255 children living in poverty, said Kristine Allison from the Social Planning Council of Cambridge and North Dumfries. “Just think how many schools that would fill,” she said.

While on the surface the townships appear to be fairly affluent communities, with median incomes well above the Canadian average, “we still do have people living at or below the poverty line. They’re people like us, our neighbours.”

Poverty is hidden in rural areas, said Joe Nowak, the mayor of Wellesley Township, where a surprising 14.4 per cent of residents are living below the poverty line.