Help hungry families afford the food they need

 
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Summer Meals for Kids in North Philadelphia
Summer Meals for Kids in North Philadelphia

It’s hard to believe that summer is already over. But thanks to supporters like you, thousands of students in the Philadelphia region went back to school last month, nourished and ready to learn.

From June through August, the Coalition Against Hunger connected more than 3,400 children in our city with free summer meals, ensuring no kid went hungry while school was out.

There were over 1,000 parks, churches, recreation centers and other community sites that offered free summer meals to children throughout the city. Despite this availability, we found that more than half of low-income students in Philadelphia were still missing out on those critical summer meals.

That’s why the Coalition works hard every summer to get the word out to families across the city who could benefit from this important nutrition program. This summer, we operated the toll-free Philly Summer Meals Hotline and text messaging service, so families could find their nearest sites.

We also partnered with community organizations, neighborhood food pantries, places of worship, libraries, health centers and more, enlisting their help to spread the word about free summer meals for kids.

By summer’s end, we had helped more than 3,400 children get free summer meals in Philadelphia, ensuring they had the nutrition they needed while school was out.

We couldn’t have done this work without the support of dedicated individuals like you.

Thank you for your help in making this summer a good one for more kids in our city, and we look forward to staying in touch throughout the year.

Nutrition staff Tanya Sen and Leah Gable
Nutrition staff Tanya Sen and Leah Gable

Some staggering facts:

  • Last year, nearly half a million people in Philadelphia turned to food pantries for help.
  • At the same time, the overwhelming majority of them (70 percent) had household members with chronic disease, such as diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and high cholesterol. 

With numbers like these, we know it's no longer enough to provide food to hungry families. We must ensure that these families have nutritious food that improves their overall health, instead of just filling their bellies.

That's why last month, the Coalition Against Hunger opened a first-of-its kind food pantry in the city. Unlike most food pantries, this new program will provide only highly nutritious, quality foods to clients. We call the program our "Green Light Pantry.”

Here, we provide families with only foods that can be categorized as “Green Light Foods” under a system that ranks foods based on their Nutritional Facts labels and USDA Dietary Guidelines.

Families are also allowed to choose their own food. Among the selection: Whole-wheat pasta and cereals; low-fat milk and yogurt; fresh fruits and vegetables; and lean proteins, such as canned salmon, frozen chicken, fresh eggs, and beans with no salt added. Items that you might typically find at other food pantries—mac and cheese, for instance, or canned soups that are high in sodium—will not be carried.

Clients also attend nutrition classes every month and receive free health screenings and assistance in applying for SNAP (food stamps), school meals and other programs that can help their families afford to make healthier food choices. 

Our first Green Light Pantry opened in the Kensington section of Northeast Philadelphia this spring, and we've already seen some results.

“The Green Light Pantry gives me access to healthy and fresh grown food—things that I wouldn’t think of buying myself,” says one pantry client, Nasheeda, who has a 1-year-old son. “I now have the opportunity to change my diet and have learned how to make healthier meals.” 

We think it's a good start. Next up? A second Green Light Pantry in North Philadelphia, scheduled to open this fall.

Thank you, as always, for your support.

Whole grains
Whole grains
Produce can be hard to find in low-income areas.
Produce can be hard to find in low-income areas.
Fresh fruit
Fresh fruit

Links:

View our interactive map: www.hungerreportpa.com
View our interactive map: www.hungerreportpa.com

Nearly 1.6 million. That’s the number of people in Pennsylvania who struggle to put food on the table every year.

More precisely, that figure represents the 1 in 8 residents considered to be “food insecure.” That means they don’t always have access to the food they need for an active, healthy life, according to the USDA..

Who is affected by food insecurity in Pennsylvania? What resources are available to people living with it? Most importantly, what more can we do to make sure they get the help that they need?

Last week, we released a report that aimed to answer these questions. The report, “State of Hunger: Pennsylvania 2013,” features an interactive map that, for the first time, makes data available on the number of residents who receive food assistance in all 67 counties.

Hunger exists in communities across Pennsylvania, though it’s easy to overlook. You probably wouldn’t know that a co-worker often goes home to an empty refrigerator. Or that the boy in your child’s class can’t concentrate because he hasn’t had breakfast. Or that the cashier at your grocery store worries about being able to pay for enough food for his own family.

“The report paints a vivid picture of how important programs like SNAP (food stamps) and school meals are to every community in Pennsylvania,” says Julie Zaebst, the Coalition's interim executive director. "But it also reminds us that far too many people who struggle with hunger aren’t participating in these vital programs. As a state, we must ensure more residents get the help they need."

Thanks to supporters like you, the Coalition has helped more than 50,000 families apply for SNAP and other food assistance programs over the past decade. We're also able to support more than 100 food pantries and soup kitchens, so they can serve more low-income families and seniors in neighborhoods across the Philadelphia region.

And we work with community members to raise awareness about ways we can all fight hunger in our backyard.

This report is one way that everyday citizens can get involved.

Visit www.hungerreportpa.com to:

  • View our interactive map to see how many people rely on food assistance in each county. 
  • Download the report and county fact sheets to educate your community about hunger.
  • Use our online tools to contact elected officials in Pennsylvania.

Hunger is an overwhelming issue, but it’s a solvable one. In a country as wealthy as the United States, we have plenty of food to nourish every resident.

We hope this report offers you more insight into the challenges we face in ending hunger and what more we can all do to make it a reality.

Thank you, as always, for your support. 

School meals are vital to many low-income children
School meals are vital to many low-income children
More than 1 in 8 PA residents are food insecure.
More than 1 in 8 PA residents are food insecure.

Links:

Nicetown community volunteers
Nicetown community volunteers

If you couldn't afford enough food for your family, where would you go for help?

Every year, more than 6,000 people call our Food Assistance Hotline. Some of them saw a flyer at the unemployment office; others heard our PSAs on the radio. Some were lucky enough to have family or friends to refer them. 

But for every person who calls us, there are many more who need help but have no idea where to find it.  

That’s why we started “Fighting Hunger Block by Block.” The goal: To reach struggling families in Philadelphia’s highest-need areas by raising awareness in their communities about the help that’s available to them. 

In recent months, the Coalition Against Hunger has focused on the Nicetown section of North Philadelphia—an area where more than 1 in 3 residents live in poverty. For a family of four, that means getting by on about $23,000 a year.     

We’ve talked with Nicetown residents and community leaders at town hall meetings, resource fairs and back-to-school nights. We’ve enlisted neighborhood organizations, places of worship, schools, and businesses to join our network and educate the people they serve about resources in their community.

We even went door to door to equip as many people as possible with information on food assistance—including how to apply for SNAP (food stamps), where to find their nearest food pantries, how to enroll their kids in free school meals, and where they could buy affordable produce. 

Every community member needed to know: Help is here if you need it.

What’s more, we wanted the entire neighborhood to play a role in spreading that message, especially to those who needed it most. 

Supporters like you make it possible for us Fight Hunger Block by Block in Philadelphia. And with your help, we’ll continue to work hard to reach every person who needs help putting food on the table in every community.

Thank you, as always, for your support.       

Going door to door in Nicetown
Going door to door in Nicetown
Mother-son volunteer team in Nicetown
Mother-son volunteer team in Nicetown
Philly Eagles encourage students to fight hunger
Philly Eagles encourage students to fight hunger

Links:

The Coalition helps 7,000 families every year.
The Coalition helps 7,000 families every year.

As you’ve probably heard, the U.S. Census reported that nearly 1 in 6 Americans--46.2 million people--lived in poverty in 2011.

For an individual, poverty means living on just over $11,000 a year. For a family of four, that figure is less than $23,000 a year.

By now, numbers like these shouldn’t surprise us. Although the recession is over, we know it doesn’t feel that way for millions of Americans. 

That’s where supporters like you have made all the difference.

Your support helps the Greater Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger ensure families can afford the food they need while they get back on their feet. Every day, we hear from people stung by the recession—mothers who’ve been out of work for a over a year, fathers scraping by on part-time work, and retired seniors who worry about rising food prices at the grocery store.

With your support, we’ve helped people like husband and wife Don and Michelle Adams and their three teenage boys. Between Don’s job as a part-time mail sorter and Michelle’s as a restaurant cashier, the family earns less than $18,000 a year--well below the poverty threshold for a family of five.

“I realized we needed help when my oldest son came home from school one day, open the fridge, and there was hardly anything there,” Michelle says. “Instead of complaining, he just closed the refrigerator. He didn’t say a word.”

The Coalition helped Michelle’s family apply for food aid through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Every year, we assist nearly 7,000 families in Pennsylvania, connecting them with nutrition programs, food pantries, and other services that can help them make ends meet as our nation's economy continues to improve.

And there is no way we could do it without supporters like you.

Thank you, as always, for your commitment in the fight against hunger.

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Project Leader

Laura Wall

Philadelphia, PA United States

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Map of Help hungry families afford the food they need