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Research is central to the mission of the Center for Hunger-Free Communities. Engaging in rigorous research informs our program development and advocacy work. The Center regularly publishes our results in peer-reviewed journals and releases briefs highlighting this research and providing informed recommendations to change policies. Learn more about ongoing and emerging research projects to see what's next for the Center and our work.

Policy Briefs and Research Reports

Adverse Childhood Experiences and Household Food Insecurity

This 2019 research report shows that families reporting Adverse Childhood Experiences, such as domestic violence, neighborhood violence, and family substance abuse, were much more likely to experience household food insecurity.

Affordable Health Care Keeps Children and Families Healthy

This 2009 Children's HealthWatch report presents that the health of young children is negatively impacted when parents cannot afford healthcare for themselves or or when parents have to forego payment of household expenses in order to pay for healthcare.

Aligning Systems to Build a Culture of Health: Integrating TANF and Medicaid to Achieve Wealth and Health

Public support programs that aim to improve employment and financial wellbeing should be better coordinated to provide more effective services and reduce costs. This 2018 brief demonstrates the effectiveness of integrating behavioral health components into financial programming.

Balancing Acts: Energy Insecurity Among Low-Income Babies and Toddlers of Color

This 2007 report highlights the negative effects of energy insecurity on food insecurity and health of low-income babies and toddlers of color.

Behind Closed Doors: The Hidden Health Impacts of Being Behind on Rent

Research presented by  Children’s HealthWatch in this 2011 report shows that being behind on rent or mortgage correlates strongly with negative health outcomes for mothers and children.

Child Care Feeding Programs Support Young Children’s Healthy Development

This 2010 Children's HealthWatch brief highlights research findings that show toddlers in subsidized child care with supplied meals are more likely to be in good health than similar toddlers whose meals must be supplied from home.

Childhood Adversity and Food Insecurity in Adulthood: Intergenerational Transfer of Hardship

The more adverse childhood experiences a caregiver reports, the more likely she is to report more severe forms of food insecurity, according to this 2016 Children's HealthWatch brief.

Children of Immigrants: Healthy Beginnings Derailed by Food Insecurity

This 2010 Children's HealthWatch report shows the role food insecurity plays in harming the health of young children of immigrants, despite their likelihood of having a healthier start.

Coming Up Short: High food costs outstrip food stamp benefits

This 2008 research report looks at the cost of a healthy diet by examining the affordability and accessibility of food for those receiving SNAP benefits, based on the USDA's Thrifty Food Plan. Philadelphia-specific data are also presented

Cost of Cutting SNAP

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is America's first line of defense against hunger, but as shown in this 2013 report, it is not enough for many families to make it through each month.

Earning More, Receiving Less: Loss of Benefits and Child Hunger

This 2010 report shows that families who lose SNAP or TANF benefits when they exceed income eligibility limits experience higher rates of child food insecurity than those receiving benefits.

Energy Insecurity is a Major Threat to Child Health

This 2010 Children's HealthWatch report shares that young children in energy insecure homes are at high risk for food insecurity, poor health, hospitalizations, and developmental delays. The recession increased the risk of energy insecurity, putting more children’s health in jeopardy.

Even Very Low Levels of Food Insecurity Found to Harm Children’s Health

This 2009 Children's HealthWatch report highlights that many of the 2.6 million children under age five living in marginally food-secure households are not receiving needed nutritional support through WIC.

Farm Bill and SNAP: What It Means For You

This brief provides a simple overview of the proposed 2018 changes to the Farm Bill and how they could impact SNAP.

Feeding Our Future: Growing Up Healthy with WIC

This 2009 report highlights the importance of the Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) and challenges limiting access for families who need it.

Financial Health: The Root of Economic Security - Defining and Measuring a New Social Determinant of Health

This 2020 research brief introduces financial health as a measurable concept underlying elements of economic hardship (housing, food and energy insecurity) that can contribute to greater health equity. The study demonstrates that financial health has a significant impact on overall well-being and belongs in the discussion of social determinants of health.

Focus Groups: A tool for program development and evaluation

This 2015 research brief describes focus groups, settings in which they are used, their use in program development and evaluation, and considerations for conducting effective focus group research. 

Food Insecurity Rates Rise Steeply with Recession

This 2009 Children's HealthWatch report explores the impact of the 2008 recession on food insecurity.

From Disparities to Discrimination: Getting at the Roots of Food Insecurity

In this 2018 report, research from Children HealthWatch in Philadelphia documents differences in food insecurity in relation to experiences with racial and ethnic discrimination. Additional briefs spotlight the discrimination experienced in public, healthcare, school, work, and criminal justice system.

Fuel for Our Future: Impacts of Energy Insecurity on Children’s Health, Nutrition, and Learning

This September 2007 report examines the impact of rising energy prices on low-income families and provides recommendations to minimize the impact on child health.

Funding Shortfall for Housing Vouchers Could Have Serious Health Consequences for Children

This 2009 Children’s HealthWatch report presents research showing that young children whose families have a housing subsidy are less likely to be seriously underweight than young children whose families are eligible for but do not receive a subsidy.

Healthy Families in Hard Times: Solutions for Multiple Family Hardships

Families experiencing multiple hardships suffer negative health effects that have life-long consequences; this June 2010 study shows that as the number and severity of hardships increase, so do risks to children’s health and development.

Keeping Children's Weight on Track: A Pathway to Health and Well-Being

This 2018 report examines weight trajectories among 2,719 children interviewed by Children's HealthWatch.

LIHEAP Stabilizes Family Housing and Protects Children’s Health

This 2011 Children's HealthWatch report highlights the health impacts of energy insecurity and the support offered by LIHEAP to stabilize families’ housing and protect children’s health and growth.

Making SNAP Work for Families Leaving Poverty

SNAP is effective in reducing food insecurity. However, this 2014 report shows that when SNAP is reduced too quickly or families are cut off of SNAP because of an increase in income, they experience greater hardships than those who consistently receive SNAP. 

Mother's Adversity and Their Children's Development Risk

This 2017 Children's HealthWatch research brief highlights the impact of maternal childhood trauma on their children's health.

Multiple Hardships Among Philadelphia Families with Young Children (2008-2011)

For many low-income families, hardships are rarely experienced in isolation. This 2012 report looks at the instances and impacts of housing, energy, and food insecurity and when families experience more than one at a time.

Overcrowding and Frequent Moves Undermine Children’s Health 

This 2011 Children's HealthWatch report explores the impact of overcrowded housing and frequent moves on child health and development.

Pennsylvania Cash Assistance Behind the Times

This 2020 policy brief looks at the decline in Pennsylvania TANF cash grants and provides suggested changes to support families.

Philadelphia Hardship Data

This 2016 Children's HealthWatch report provides a breakdown of the demographic, food insecurity and other hardship data that the Children's HealthWatch team collected from 2005 to 2016.

Philadelphia Hunger Increases

In this 2017 Children's HealthWatch report, research shows that food insecurity in Philadelphia is increasing at the household and child level for families of children under age 4. In families with a caregiver working at least 20 hours per week, food insecurity is rising even faster.

Punishing Hard Work: Consequences of Cutting SNAP Benefits

This 2013 Children's HealthWatch report looks at the “cliff effect” related to nutrition assistance programs and offers policy recommendations that would ensure families can climb to economic independence and not “fall off a cliff” when they begin to make progress toward self-sufficiency.

The Real Cost of a Healthy Diet

This 2011 report looks at the cost of a healthy diet by examining the affordability and accessibility of food for those receiving SNAP benefits, based on the USDA's Thrifty Food Plan.

Reducing Food Insecurity Without Food: Trauma-Informed Financial Education Program Improves Food Security

This 2020 report shows that participation in a trauma-informed educational program reduced the odds of household food insecurity for families with low or no income.

The Relationship Between Childhood Adversity and Food Insecurity

The childhood stress study report released in 2015 investigated the relationship between adverse childhood experiences—including abuse, neglect, and household instability—and food security status.

The SNAP Vaccine: Boosting Children's Health

This 2012 report examines the impact of SNAP on the health of young children, specifically among those from immigrant families, and provides recommendations to improve the program to better meet the needs of families.

Stable, Affordable Housing Supports Young Children’s Health in Philadelphia 

This Children's HealthWatch report from 2012 explores the impact of housing insecurity and frequent moves on child health and development.

Steadying the Foundation: Maternal Job Stability, Safety Net Programs and Young Children's Health

This 2014 Children's HealthWatch report explores the impact of mothers' job instability on her mental and physical health and the health and development of her children.

Systemic Oppression and Trauma: Why Healing-centered, Two-generation Approaches are Crucial to Poverty Alleviation

Systemic racism and discrimination have been found to be root causes of poverty and hunger in the US. This 2019 report looks at healing-centered, two-generation approaches as an important part of addressing economic insecurity imposed by systemic oppression and trauma. 

TANF Sanctions

This 2015 report looks at the impact of sanctions on those receiving TANF (cash welfare) benefits.

Too Many Hurdles: Barriers to Receiving SNAP Put Children’s Health at Risk

This Children's HealthWatch report from 2011 looks at how barriers to accessing SNAP put children’s nutrition, health, and growth at risk. 

Trauma-Informed TANF: A Randomized Controlled Trial with a Two-Generation Impact

This 2018 report highlights the positive impact of incorporating trauma-informed peer support into financial education and standard TANF programming. 

WIC Improves Child Health and School Readiness

This 2010 Children's HealthWatch report looks at the impact of the Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) on child health amd development.

WIC Improves Child Health Outcomes

This 2012 policy brief looks at the importance of the Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) for child health and stresses the importance of protecting its funding.