Hunger Facts

More than a quarter of Philadelphia residents live in poverty, one of the highest rates in the nation. For many, poverty means making tough choices: paying the rent vs. paying for medicine, paying for heat vs. paying for food.

In 2008, 1 in 5 Philadelphians, or 260,000 people, were considered at risk for hunger. That’s a 65% increase over the past eight years and double national and state rates. The USDA considers these residents to be “food insecure,” or “lacking access to enough food to fully meet basic needs due to lack of financial resources.”

Hunger means more than an empty stomach. It’s a basic need that affects every aspect of a person’s life, from health to performance in school.

Who are the Hungry in Philadelphia?


  • 30% are children
  • 6% are seniors


  • 14% are white
  • 18% are black
  • 25% are Latino


  • 31% work full time or part time
  • 27% are looking for work
  • 9% are retired
  • 36% are unable to work
  • 24% are full-time students

Hunger and Healthcare

Hungry people are:

  • 30% more likely to be hospitalized and require longer in-patient stays.
  • Twice as likely to need mental health services.
  • At higher risk for obesity, because healthy, fresh foods usually cost more than high-calorie options, like chips and soda. Low-income neighborhoods often lack supermarkets, so residents rely on limited grocery selections at local convenience or corner stores.

Hunger and Education

Hungry children are:

  • 60% more likely to miss school.
  • 50% more likely to repeat a grade.
  • Twice as likely to be suspended from school.
  • Twice as likely to require special education.

Hunger and the Economy

Hunger costs the state of Pennsylvania $3.25 billion every year, including:

  • $2.4 billion for medical and mental health care to due to increases in illness and psychosocial dysfunction.
  • $330 million in lost educational achievement and worker productivity.
  • $517 million in costs for charities that work to relieve hunger.

Fighting Hunger

Policymakers, hunger advocates and the public must work together to find sustainable solutions to hunger and poverty in Philadelphia. Until that happens, there are two main lines of defense against hunger:

  • Food Stamps/SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program):
    More than 380,000 Philadelphians now receive food stamps. But there are still more than 150,000 eligible residents who don't get them, for many reasons.

    Other federally funded hunger-relief programs are: WIC (the Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children); the National School Lunch Program; the School Breakfast Program; the Summer Food Service Program for Children; and The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP).
  • Food Pantries and Soup Kitchens:
    There are at least 700 food pantries and soup kitchens scattered throughout Philadelphia. Every month, they serve 140,000 meals and distribute more than 4 million pounds of food. Many of these programs receive food through Pennsylvania’s State Food Purchase Program.

Questions? Contact the Greater Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger at 215-769-0659 or

*Sources: Greater Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger, Mayor’s Task Force on Hunger, Public Health Management Corp., U.S. Census