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Rates of poverty and hunger have risen in Philly and in Pa.

Children make up 40 percent of the state's food stamp recipients.

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

Poverty and its byproduct, food insecurity, are getting worse in Philadelphia and Pennsylvania, according to federal and state data. The region’s children are heavily affected.

The state has more than 1.8 million recipients of food stamps, or SNAP. More than a quarter of them, or 500,000, are in Philadelphia. That is a third of the city’s population.

Children – individuals under the age of 18 – make up 40 percent of the participants in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), according to the data.


“The situation here is pretty dire,” said Kathy Fisher of the Coalition Against Hunger, an advocacy group. “Hunger and poverty go hand in hand. The fact is that we are the poorest big city in the nation. That is a problem here.”

One in four residents in the city lives in poverty. For children, the rate is 37 percent, or more than one in three.

More than one in 10 residents live in so-called “deep poverty,” or below half the federal poverty rate, which is now defined as just over $24,000 in annual income for a family of four.

As a result, food insecurity, which the U.S. Department of Agriculture determines largely through household surveys, is also a big problem in Philadelphia.

The federal school lunch and breakfast programs help address this. “They are critical programs,” said Fisher.


“Food insecurity has grown, deep poverty has grown,” said Fisher. “Family members are stretched thin. They are sharing food with not just their immediate family, but other family members who can’t get by.”

She said that it is harder to get Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and that welfare assistance for individuals is far less available. In Philadelphia, there is a significant population of people coming back from incarceration, who often have a difficult time getting jobs.

“Deep poverty and lack of cash assistance have a ripple effect,” she said.

The Notebook’s next edition is on food in schools. Publication date is Feb. 5.

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