Evidence That Young Children Are Falling Through the Safety Net

Policy Implications of Hunger and Poor Health in Pennsylvania


  • Mariana Chilton
  • Michelle Chyatte
  • Edward Gracely




Hunger is still lurking in Pennsylvania. But it can be addressed and treated by policymakers and legislators. This paper gives an overview of the empirical evidence that federal and state policymakers have a direct impact on the health and wellbeing of young children through the statewide implementation of safety net programs such as the Food Stamp Program, Women, Infants and Children Supplemental Nutrition Program, and Low Income Heat and Energy Assistance. Food insecurity, known as the lack of access to enough food for an active and healthy life, is strongly associated with increased hospitalizations, poor child health, developmental risk and maternal depression. The Philadelphia GROW Project research in Philadelphia demonstrates that food insecurity and its negative health consequences are prevalent and damaging to the lives of children and their parents in the Commonwealth. The continuing food insecurity in Philadelphia and Pennsylvania is having a damaging affect not only on the wellbeing of young children, but also on the purse strings of Pennsylvania. Policymakers and legislators have the opportunity to turn this trend around with sound, evidence-based decision making as they carry out their legislative agendas. We end this paper with recommendations for how key decision-makers can have an immediate and lasting impact on improving the lives of low-income families with young children.






Part I. Critical Issues in Pennsylvania’s Public Health System