In Taylor Swift’s Hometown, 4 in 10 Are On Food Stamps

Taylor Alison Swift (born December 13, 1989) was born and raised in Reading, Pennsylvania. In 2011, The New York Times said Reading was the poorest city in the US. Image: © Glenn Francis,, CC BY-SA 4.0

“To a lot of us, SNAP is all we know.” – Janelle Rosado, Reading, PA

| WESA – No place in Pennsylvania has more trouble keeping food on the table than Reading, Pennsylvania, a city an hour outside of Philadelphia, where nearly half of all households receive food stamps, the highest rate in the state.

Reading has 88,495 residents, of whom almost 62% are working and 36% live in poverty. In 2011, The New York Times said it was the poorest city in the US.

Its economy struggled after factories closed down or downsized, laying people off. An estimated 44% of households are on food stamps, among the most in the country …

The human toll of that statistic can be found everywhere, including among the people lining up for a monthly food pantry operated by St. James Chapel Church of God.

That’s where Janelle Rosado waits. She receives about $300 a month in food stamps loaded onto a government-issued debit card to help feed herself and her three kids at home, but she still struggles to keep her family fed.

Like everyone else in the line of about two dozen people, Rosado is quick to talk about the subject on her mind: the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as SNAP.

“To a lot of us, SNAP is all we know,” said Rosado, 41. “And that’s the horrible truth but it’s the truth. Like, I’ve never been without SNAP … ”

Rosado has a lot of company in Reading, formerly a coal and steel boomtown that, over the decades, has experienced the painful effects of deindustrialization … Read more. 

Reading, Pennsylvania and Taylor Swift

  • Reading (pop. 87,575) is the county seat of Berks County, Pennsylvania, United States.
  • Reading is strategically situated along a major transportation route from Central to Eastern Pennsylvania, and lent its name to the now-defunct Reading Railroad.
  • According to the 2010 census, the city was 48.4% white; 32.9% of all residents lived below the poverty level, the highest share of citizens living in poverty in the nation.
  • Business Insider recently rated the “50 Most Miserable ” U.S. cities based on current census data. Reading, the only Pennsylvania city on the list, came in at number 38.
  • Taylor Swift was born and raised in Reading. She moved to Nashville, Tennessee at the age of 14 to pursue a career in country music. Her current net worth is estimated at $360 million.
  • In 2019, the superstar singer reportedly donated $113,000 to the Tennessee Equality Project, a pro-LGBTQ advocacy group in her adopted home state. Swift’s most significant reported charitable activity in Reading was her gift of 6,000 books to Reading Library in 2011.