PHILADELPHIA) March 5, 2019 – Today Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown (At-Large) and the Committee on Children and Youth held a hearing to examine the prevalence of child hunger in Philadelphia and to evaluate the efficacy of existing programs addressing child hunger.
Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown stated, “As elected officials, I believe it is our duty and responsibility to make sure we do everything within our reach to tackle poverty which is a barrier that impedes young people from reaching their potential.”
According to the Philadelphia Food Policy Advisory Council, in 2016, 21.7 percent of all children living in Philadelphia faced food insecurity. The impacts of child hunger are significant. They include poor health risk for developmental delays, emotional distress, psychosocial and behavioral problems, and lower academic performance.
Linda M. Kilby, PhD, RD, LDN, Executive Director of North, Inc. stated, “Over the past few years, we have seen our caseload number decline. This would be great news if that decline could be attributed to a reduction in food insecurity and nutrition risk factors, but that is not the case. 26 percent of the residents of Philadelphia, approximately 400,000 residents, live at or below the poverty level. That total includes 37 percent of the city’s children under the age of 18!”
While organizations, such as Philabundance, Summer Meals, the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP), the Women, Infants and Children Program (WIC), and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) do great work, the problem of food insecurity persists. Forces within the government pose threats to these programs. While 2015 saw 1,453 sites serve over 4 million meals in Philadelphia, 2017 saw 1,157 sites serve just under 3 million.
“One third of the hungry people we serve are children-30,000 kids and their families benefit from our food assistance each week. Our Kids Programs provide access to nutritious food in a variety of ways to meet the needs of each unique community.” stated Hilary Stiebel, Manager, Agency Relations for Philabundance.
Drexel University’s Professor of Health Management and Policy, Mariana Chilton, PhD, MPH, who has carried out research on hunger and poverty for the past 18 years stated, “Through my research study, Children’s HealthWatch, we have interviewed over 11,000 families about food insecurity, employment, public assistance, discrimination, and adverse childhood experiences.” Based on her research, the rate of child hunger in North Philadelphia has tripled in the last ten years among those who work at least 20 hours a week.
In the absence of concerted national effort, alternative approaches to ending child hunger must be examined with the goal to design strategic solutions embraced by willing stakeholders.
Councilwoman BlondelI Reynolds Brown stated, “I agree with Councilwoman Helen Gym: Poverty is a moral stain on our city – we must make sure our children’s basic needs are met.”
Amanda Wagner, Philadelphia Department of Public Health, Terri Kerwawich, Philadelphia Parks and Recreation, Wayne Grasela, Sr., School District of Philadelphia, Mohona Siddique, Economy League of Philadelphia, Jacob Zychick, American Heart Association, and Leann Luong, Student, also testified in support of eliminating child hunger in Philadelphia.
Written testimony was also submitted by the Philadelphia Food Policy Advisory Council.
Watch the hearing: