The Center for Hunger-Free Communities

Solutions Based on Science and the Human Experience

Policy Action Briefs

The policy action briefs provide a brief summary of our and others' research.  They focus on the impact that different policy-relevant issues, like participation in state and federal programs like WIC, SNAP, and LIHEAP, have on the health and well-being of young children and their families.

(February 2020)

TANF is an important piece in supporting families with low or no income. However, Pennsylvania has not increased TANF cash grants in 30 years to keep up with inflation and rising cost of living. Pennsylvania caregivers striving to afford basic needs for themselves and their children need more support than TANF currently provides. While any increase in assets would help, raising basic cash assistance is the most effective strategy. The flexibility of cash ensures families can meet their unique needs and reduces the number of children living in deep poverty. 

(June 2019)

Healing-centered, two-generation approaches are key in intervening in economic insecurity imposed by systemic oppression. They’re also crucial to healing the historical and contemporary consequences of its trauma. 

(July 2018)

Economic security is strongly associated with physical and mental health and well-being. Programs such as Medicaid which focus on health and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) which aims to improve employment and financial well-being should be better coordinated to provide more effective services. Programs which integrate physical and mental health services reduce costs. Findings from the Building Wealth and Health Network demonstrate the effectiveness of integrating behavioral health components into financial programming on improving physical, mental, emotional and financial outcomes.

(May 2013)

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is American’s first line of defense against hunger, provides significant cost savings for health care needs, and is an economic boost to local economies.

SNAP alleviates hunger, improves nutrition and health, and increases the food-purchasing power of low-income households.  The benefits of SNAP reach beyond participants, affecting not only individual health but also the economy in local communities.  Any cuts to the program will have wide reaching effects for the individuals participating in the program, their communities, and the entire nation. 

(December 2012)

WIC serves 53% of all infants and 25% of all pregnant women in the United States.  Any cuts to the WIC program will mean that many children will not receive the adequate nutrition they need at a critical time resulting in lasting, life-long consequences on their physical, mental, and social development.

(Children's HealthWatch, May 2012)

A new policy action brief from Children's HealthWatch shows that families who are forced to make tough choices between paying the rent and paying for childcare or groceries may experience negative health consequences.  Children's HealthWatch analyzed survey data collected from caregivers in Philadelphia between 2005 and 2011.  In the sample of 4,500 families, Children's HealthWatch found that about 56% of families were housing insecure.  Housing insecurity is associated with poor health outcomes in very young children.  Short and long term interventions that help stabilize families in affordable housing will improve the health and development of Philadelphia's youngest children. 


(Children's HealthWatch, November 2011)

1. Young children in families that are overcrowded or living with another family for economic reasons are more likely to be food insecure.
2. Young children who have moved two or more times in the past twelve months are not only at greater risk for food insecurity, but also have a greater likelihood of poor health and developmental delays, and are more likely to be underweight.

Energy insecurity is associated with poor health and development in very young children.

Young children in energy insecure homes are at high risk for food insecurity,poor health, hospitalizations, and developmental delays.

U.S.-born children of immigrant mothers are more likely to be breastfed, have a healthy birth weight, and live with two parents than children of U.S.-born mothers.

Toddlers in subsidized child care whose meals are supplied by their child care provider are more likely to be in good health than similar toddlers whose meals must be supplied from home.

The health of young children is negatively affected when parents have to forego health care for themselves or other adult members of the household or when parents have to forego payment of household expenses in order to pay for health care.

WIC decreases the risk of costly health problems and developmental delays for young children.

(Children's HealthWatch, August 2014)

A recent policy action brief by Children's HealthWatch highlights the issues that low-income working mothers face as a result of job loss or reduced working hours during and after the Great Recession. The brief indicates that job instability increases the risk of poor health for young children and mothers, and that the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and unemployment insurance (UI) can help during difficult times. Based on this information, the brief recommends that state and federal policies should promote job stability so that low-income working mothers can obtain economic security and better health for themselves and their children.


The Supplemental Nutrition Assessment Program (SNAP) is the cornerstone of the federal nutrition safety net, protecting children’s health and reducing the likelihood of food insecurity.

A project of the Children’s Sentinel Nutrition Assessment Program.

The government system used to classify families struggling to access sufficient nutritious food does not capture the true impact of the problem on children’s health and development.

State and local housing agencies will be forced to reduce or eliminate rental assistance to thousands of families due to a federal funding shortfall.

Food insecurity rose from 18.5 percent to 22.6 percent between 2007 and 2008 in a five-city sample of low-income families with children under age three.


Media Request Form