Help hungry families afford the food they need

by Greater Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger

Too many students in Pennsylvania schools are missing the most important meal of the day. A recent Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) report found that just 45 percent of low-income children who eat lunch at school are also eating breakfast, ranking Pennsylvania 41st, nationwide. This not only affects a child's health, but also has been shown to have a negative impact on school performance.

In an effort to increase school breakfast participation, the Greater Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger, along with other agencies statewide, has once again launched the Pennsylvania School Breakfast Challenge. The inaugural Challenge in 2014 saw more than 1,100 schools take part, with Feltonville School of Arts and Sciences in Philadelphia earning first place. Feltonville's breakfast participation increased from 29 percent to 77 percent in one year's time.

We believe that even more schools can begin to offer breakfast to students across the state thanks to the second School Breakfast Challenge, which will begin in the fall of 2015. Thanks to supporters like you, students throughout the state will have access to nutritious breakfast to help them perform well in the classroom.


The results are in! We published our 2014 Summer Meals Hotline Report and we are thrilled to announce that through our hotline, we connected 4,523 children in Philadelphia to summer meal locations. 

Thanks to your support, we were once again able to operate our summer meals hotline and it proved even more popular this year. The total number of children connected to summer meals through the hotline in 2014 showed a 31 percent increase over 2013. While we advertised the hotline in many ways (robocalls, media, fliers), the most effective referral source was simply by word of mouth.

Many low income families struggle to provide meals once school lets out. Summer meals allows for no child to go hungry during the warmer months. According to Mayor Michael Nutter's office, 4,088,515 free meals were served to area youth over the summer. We will continue to staff our hotline for as long as needed to ensure that all children have the food they need to lead healthy lives.

Thank you for your role in helping to make last summer great for children in the Philadelphia area! 


On any given day, many people choose to skip a meal to save money or time. For millions of children across the country, however, there is no choice to make…because there is no food to eat.

Thanks to supporters like you, thousands of children in Philadelphia were able to receive free meals this summer at over 1,000 sites throughout the city. Our Philly Summer Meals Hotline and text messaging service proved wildly successful in connecting families to the nearest site to receive free meals. While the Greater Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger was able to help these families with children over the summer, we are happy to report that children in Pennsylvania will continue to receive free meals now that school has begun.

The Community Eligibility Provision went into effect this year and it allows schools to offer free or reduced cost meals to every student, regardless of the financial status of the student’s family. Prior to this year, a student had to qualify in order to receive a meal. This is a huge win for hunger fighters like you everywhere and its impact is especially felt in large school districts such as Philadelphia. According to early data collected by the state Department of Education, this new program will feed about 300,000 Pennsylvania students this year. About one third of these students come from families that would not have otherwise qualified for a free lunch.

As you can see in the video here, hungry students are a real concern for teachers. Thanks to you, we were able to keep students nourished with healthy food over the summer, and now that will extend throughout the year thanks to the new Community Eligibility Provision.


Free summer meals for kids
Free summer meals for kids

“How many of you sometimes go to bed hungry?”

A few weeks ago, Philadelphia Deputy Mayor Richard Negrin asked that question to a roomful of young children at a local YMCA.

Several small hands shot up. Other boys and girls nodded.

These children aren’t alone. In Philadelphia, one in four children are considered food insecure.

During the school year, an estimated 160,000 children receive free or reduced-price meals at school. But when school is out, many of them miss out on the food and nutrition they need to stay healthy and active all summer long.

That’s why the Greater Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger is working to connect thousands of children in our city with free summer meals. Kids and teens 18 and under can eat free meals at more than 1,000 sites across the city, including playgrounds, recreation centers, places of worship, community organizations and more.

Despite the importance of this program, nearly half of low-income children in Philadelphia are still missing out on summer meals.

Thanks to supporters like you, we’re working to change that. Our Philly Summer Meals Hotline and text messaging service help families find their nearest summer meals site. And we’ve partnered with the Mayor’s Office, community leaders and organizations to spread the word: No child should go hungry while school is out.

Toward the end of Deputy Mayor Negrin’s visit to the YMCA, all of the children sat down at their tables to eat their summer meal--a turkey sandwich on wheat bread, carrot sticks, fruit and low-fat milk.

The consensus? “Pretty good,” as one 7-year-old put it.

We couldn’t agree more. With your help, we’re confident that we’ll be seeing a lot more kids and teens enjoying some “pretty good” meals this summer, too.

Girls enjoy a free summer meal.
Girls enjoy a free summer meal.
Group photo!
Group photo!
Philadelphia Eagles player Jon Dorenbos
Philadelphia Eagles player Jon Dorenbos


Graduates from the inaugural Green Light class
Graduates from the inaugural Green Light class

Just a few weeks ago, we attended a graduation ceremony in North Philadelphia. It was a small gathering--19 proud women and men who were accompanied by their family members, busily snapping photos and clapping as each graduate’s name was called.

These weren’t high school or college students. These accomplished graduates were part of the inaugural group of members of our Green Light Pantry, and they had just completed a one-year series of nutrition classes.

We created the Green Light Pantry program over a year ago to serve as a new model for what food pantries could look like here in Philadelphia and beyond. Unlike traditional food pantries, Green Light Pantries provide only healthy foods to members--fresh fruits and vegetables; whole grains like brown rice and whole wheat pasta; lean proteins such as fish, chicken and beans; and low-fat dairy products, including yogurt and skim milk.

To further support families in making healthier choices, we also give them biweekly nutrition classes, medical screenings and other free services.

On that graduation day a few weeks ago, we were thrilled to honor the 19 women and men who had taken time out of their busy lives to complete a year’s worth of nutrition classes as part of our Green Light Pantry program. Among them were working mothers and fathers as well as grandparents who had made a commitment to helping their families lead healthier, more active lives.

That includes parents like Leonella, a mother of three teen boys. She works full time and attends college classes in the evening, so it’s a daily challenge to afford and prepare balanced meals. “My three boys have all struggled with their weight, because it can be really tough to afford healthy foods,” she said. "We used to eat a lot of mac and cheese, instant noodles, or other foods that were cheap and filling. The Green Light Pantry allows us to eat healthier foods, and my kids love it. They love trying new fruits and vegetables.”

Stories like Leonella’s (and those of all the graduates we honored a few weeks ago) wouldn’t be possible without supporters like you.

We know that we have much work ahead to ensure all families in our region have access to the healthy food they need, but reaching this milestone assures us that we’re on the right track.

Fresh produce at the pantry
Fresh produce at the pantry
The frozen section at our pantry
The frozen section at our pantry
New garden beds, provided by the Phila. Eagles
New garden beds, provided by the Phila. Eagles



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Organization Information

Greater Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger

Location: Philadelphia, PA - USA
Website: http:/​/​
Project Leader:
Laura Wall
Philadelphia, PA United States

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