Local Organizations Tackling Food Insecurity in Philadelphia

The Pew Charitable Trusts’ 2019 state of the city report showed that while Philadelphia’s population has been rising steadily for more than a decade, the growth has been mainly concentrated in Center City.


Philadelphia had 5,788 homeless people in January 2018, according to the annual one-night count of those on the streets and in emergency shelters, transitional housing, and drop-in centers. 25 percent of this number was children and 40 percent were women. From 2014 through last year, the share of the homeless who were unsheltered grew from 6 percent (361 people) to 19 percent (1,083).


Philabundance works to fight food insecurity locally by serving 90,000 people each week, a third of whom are children. The nonprofit works with 350 agencies in the Delaware Valley to distribute more than 26 million pounds of food a year, and each agency serves the specific needs of their communities.


“Many work with clients to help them sign up for SNAP or WIC; many offer formula, baby food and diapers; some help with resume assistance and job training; some may offer childcare,” said Stef Arck-Baynes, Director of Communications at Philabundance. “The vast majority of those Philabundance serve have homes; much of the food we distribute needs to be cooked or refrigerated.”


Every May, Philabundance hosts a baby food fundraiser to help their member agencies stock up on formula, which many babies need, but is prohibitively expensive for their parents. Baby food is also a high-priced, high-need item. 


“Like others facing food insecurity, not knowing where your next meal is coming from – or if you’ll have one at all – is very stressful, especially for those with families. We encourage anyone who needs help to visit our find food page on our website to locate an agency or food distribution near them,” said Arck-Baynes.


As a recent new mother, Arck-Baynes thinks that there is a wealth of support in this city, for which she will be eternally grateful. She noted there are free support groups for new moms, including breastfeeding and new parent support groups at the local hospitals. There are lactation consultants; the Nesting House offers a bi-weekly new mom support group; Mama’s Wellness Joint offers a new mom support group and Center City Pediatricians offers breastfeeding and other support even if you’re not a client.


The Nesting House also has clothes, toys, strollers and other items on consignment for pennies on the dollar – onesies for just $3, e.g. Also, my local buy nothing group on Facebook has tons of free items, like baby bathtubs, formula, clothes, diapers and toys, so these are clutch to join,” she added.  


Arck-Baynes recommended these other local resources available to single mothers:  

Turning Points for Children, for which Philabundance raises money for formula every year.

Maternity Care Coalition: offers more than diapers, clothes and food – it offers emotional and other support services, like breastfeeding, for mothers/caregivers.


Alicia Victoria Lozano, a digital reporter for NBC10, recommends Witness to Hunger:  some single Moms run the program under Drexel University’s Dornsife School of Public Health.

Lozano said the hardest hit neighborhoods for food insecurity are West Philly, Southwest Philly, North Philly and portions of the Northeast.


Food insecurity and financial insecurity in general affects more people than we realize. “Oftentimes when you hear words like poverty or low income, people start to tune out and say that doesn’t affect me or I don’t fit that category but when you break down the numbers and you start to see what debt really looks like or how much it actually costs to go to the grocery store, it becomes much more of a universal issue,” said Lozano. “I was surprised to see how many people from different demographics living near each other were all experiencing different levels of insecurity and finding themselves in the same place even though they may not interact in their daily lives.”

Broke In Philly