The Center for Hunger-Free Communities

Solutions Based on Science and the Human Experience


Our research projects focus on understanding and ending hunger and economic insecurity for families and their children. The Center for Hunger-Free Communities operates two major ongoing studies: Children’s HealthWatch and Witnesses to Hunger. We also do smaller studies, such as "The Real Cost of a Healthy Diet: 2011", that examine other issues related to hunger and poverty like the affordability and accessibility of food. Additionally, we have a number of emerging research studies, including the Building Wealth and Health Network, a demonstration project with Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) commencing in 2014 in partnership with the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services, as well as two studies focusing on toxic stress/childhood stress. Please see our Emerging Research page for more information.

At the Center for Hunger-Free Communities, we coordinate the Philadelphia site of Children's HealthWatch, a multi-site surveillance study that monitors the health and well-being of young children under the age of four in 5 inner-city medical centers located around the country. In Philadelphia, a team of trained interviewers conducts structured interviews with caregivers of young children about the factors affecting their child's health and development in the Emergency Department at St. Christopher's Hospital for Children six days a week. Our most recent work with Children's HealthWatch focuses on racism, discrimination and food insecurity.

Witnesses to Hunger is an qualitative, participatory research study. Begun in Philadelphia in 2008, our research sites now include Boston, Baltimore and Camden. Research  participants are caregivers with young children who receive some form of public assistance. Using the “photovoice” methodology, participants are given cameras to document their lives and their ideas for change. This study helps us to gain a deeper understanding of the nature of poverty and to partner with participants to find real-world solutions. Click here to meet the Real Experts from Witnesses to Hunger, see their photographs and learn more about our advocacy work.

The Building Wealth and Health Network is a 5-year research study that began in July 2014. We are in our third phase of the research study and have enrolled more than 750 TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) customers. We conducted a quantitative analysis looking at survey data results from the 103 TANF customers in our randomized controlled trial phase of the program (the intervention group) and TANF customers that are in other mandatory Employment and Training programs (the control group). Results demonstrated that participation in our program were associated with reduced economic hardship, increased employment and earnings, reduced depression and increased self-efficacy when compared to those not in our program. We are currently implementing our program at CareerLink Northwest, a local Employment and Job Center for individuals receiving TANF benefits. Next steps for The Network include expansion of our program across the city, state, and country.


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