In Delaware County, More Food Taken Off Tables, While Need Continues To Rise

Things have been getting better lately— but not for kids in Delaware County.  Poverty levels in the Philadelphia area are beginning to return to pre-recession levels, but in Delaware County, they’re going in the wrong direction.  While childhood poverty rates dropped throughout the region last year, the number of children in poverty and children in deep poverty rose at alarming rates in Delco.

Despite the child population falling last year in Delaware County, there were almost 2,000 more children living in poverty with about 1,500 more living in deep poverty.  The number of children in poverty in 2012 was 109% of the 2011 level, deep poverty at 117% of the 2011 level.  To put that in perspective, the poverty line for a family of four is $23,550; a family of four in deep poverty sees less than $11,775 annually.

This continues a disturbing trend in Delaware County.

While not hit hard during the first three years of the Great Recession, Delco’s childhood poverty rate has jumped at least 1.5% each of the last two years.    “While the median income remained practically identical in 2011 and 2012 (around $61,000), the percentage of households needing food stamps in Delaware County increased from 9.9% to 11.1%,” reports the Philadelphia Inquirer, “County officials could not explain the increase.”

It may be unknown why poverty levels are jumping in Delco, but one thing is for certain, something needs to be done— and quick. “Clearly, economic recovery has yet to reach many Delaware County families with children.  Delco’s increases in both SNAP enrollment and child poverty reflect the severe financial hardship many families continue to face,” said PCCY’s Kathy Fisher.  “SNAP has been a lifesaver since the economic downturn – exactly as it is designed to be. With the increase in child poverty continuing in Delco, the program is more important then ever in helping families stave off hunger.”

Meanwhile Congress has proposed slashing $40 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), more commonly known as food stamps.  According to an editorial in Sunday’s Philadelphia Inquirer from Mazon president Abby Leibman, if these cuts take place, as many as 13% of those on food stamps would be kicked out of the program. 

In Delaware County, there are currently 29,463 children participating in SNAP (Department of Public Welfare).  That’s up from 19,429 children in 2009, a 51.6% increase.  With about 126,000 children living in Delaware County, that means that nearly one in four children in the county need food assistance.  A 13% cut would be devastating.  With so many children living in poverty in Delaware County, and the numbers getting worse by the day, we must do everything we can to turn things around.  Cutting benefits would only make a bad situation worse.

Thankfully, the entire Southeastern Pennsylvania delegation—both Democrats and Republicans—united to vote against SNAP cuts.  Except for Jim Gerlach, that is.  Congressman Gerlach has yet to defend his vote, only having his spokesman say the bill had “various benefits,” notably a provision centered on “work requirements for able-bodied adults without dependents”— a provision that limits benefits to three months.  He may not be saying much now, but just three years ago he was vehemently opposed to any cuts saying “It makes absolutely no sense” to fund federal programs while “cutting food stamps,” something he just voted to do.  He went on to quote a letter stating cutting food stamps would “increase obesity by making it even harder for struggling families to purchase healthy food, harm job creation and economic growth, and increase the number of hungry children.”  Too bad he didn’t listen to himself.