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In the shadows of Florida’s Legislature, children struggle in the state’s poorest ZIP code

In the shadows of Florida’s Legislature, children struggle in the state’s poorest ZIP code

Picture of Nada Hassanein
In the shadows of Florida’s Legislature, children struggle in the state’s poorest ZIP code

Two children are born in Tallahassee: one lives in the ZIP code 32304, the other in 32312. These two children live 24 miles apart, yet their experiences growing up are as if they were born in separate countries.

What explains this disparity? Specifically, how does it manifest in children’s health and well-being?

Tallahassee’s 32304 ZIP code contains about 16,834 households and is the poorest in the state, according to ALICE reports and the state’s Chamber of Commerce.

The area has the highest concentration of children living in poverty in the state of Florida. About half of children in this ZIP code live below the poverty level, as the Tallahassee Democrat has previously reported. That’s an estimated 1,837 children who struggle, the Chamber says.

Ten miles from the Florida capitol building, the ZIP code is nestled west of Florida State University and stretches to the edge of the Ochlocknee River. Families live amid student housing complexes and trailer parks.

How does the extreme poverty of 32304 impact the future health of individuals, families and communities? What happens to the children who fall through the cracks in local community health systems, and what needs to be done to prevent this?

I’m excited to delve into these questions under the auspices of the 2019 National Fellowship.

Through the series, I plan to capture families’ and children’s lives in the ZIP code while comparing them to lives in the city’s richest area. I’ll try to shed light on 32304’s specific socioeconomic stressors, neighborhood daily life and health care access, and school performance.

This series will delve into the different neighborhoods within the area to determine neighborhood dynamics that could impact health and overall well-being of children growing up in the area – with an eye toward illuminating solutions as a guide for policymakers and service providers.


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Hello. I'm a college student currently living in the 32304 zip code. I attend Florida State University as a Social Work major and am wondering how you're defining poverty to deem this the poorest zip code in FL. What was included in that idea of poverty? Who was measured?

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Hello Ms. Hassanein,

I would like to thank you for your articles, blog posts, research, and contributions to literature about the 32304 zip code as well as other Promise Zone areas in Tallahassee. It has been inciteful, intriguing, and phenomenal to take a deeper dive into the community that I have been engulfed in over the past few yeas. I am currently working toward my Master of Social Work at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University as I review your research for a paper. This has been so helpful, I look forward to meeting you one day.

I hope all is well


The Center for Health Journalism’s 2023 National Fellowship will provide $2,000 to $10,000 reporting grants, five months of mentoring from a veteran journalist, and a week of intensive training at USC Annenberg in Los Angeles from July 16-20. Click here for more information and the application form, due May 5.

The Center for Health Journalism’s 2023 Symposium on Domestic Violence provides reporters with a roadmap for covering this public health epidemic with nuance and sensitivity. The next session will be offered virtually on Friday, March 31. Journalists attending the symposium will be eligible to apply for a reporting grant of $2,000 to $10,000 from our Domestic Violence Impact Reporting Fund. Find more info here!


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