Each morning, after sending her two boys off to school - good, safe schools in far-off neighborhoods where they can arm themselves with an education - Angela Sutton asks herself a question: What will she put on the table for them when they come home?
If she is lucky and can style a neighbor's hair, maybe she will earn enough to buy some Oodles of Noodles, eggs, lunch meat, and bread. Things to get them through.
If it is near the end of the month, if the cupboard is empty, perhaps she will only have enough for fast-food dollar-menu meals.
Each night, when she goes to bed, she will thank God for all she has. And she will wake up the next day and ask the question again: What can she put on the table?
That's what deep poverty is about: day-to-day survival.
Sutton is one of the 186,000 Philadelphians living in deep poverty. Philly, as The Inquirer reported last week, continues to have the highest deep poverty rate among America's 10 biggest cities.
These are the poorest of the poor, people who need a lifeboat, not a lifeline. For a family of four, it means surviving on $12,000 a year, or half the poverty rate.
The numbers are stomach churning: 12.3 percent of Philadelphians, including 60,000 children, live in this abject poverty. It's a rate nearly double the national average.
We can't claim ignorance. For a decade, my colleague Alfred Lubrano has documented the suffering of Philadelphians in the grips of this poverty and the catastrophic consequences that collective hunger has visited on our city.
It's a scale of suffering that can no longer be tolerated.
We have been busy of late constructing a narrative of Philadelphia as a world-class city, the place to be for papal visits and DNC bacchanals, a playground of beer gardens and boutiques. And that's great. I have been shouting our praises as loudly as anyone. And real transformation is happening - for some.
But, as I have said before, in order to truly change the narrative of our city, we have to change the narrative for the whole city.
Some say the only thing holding Philly back is its perception of itself. Last week, Mayor Nutter, in a moment of somewhat-justified anger, blamed the media for "scaring the s- out of people" before the papal visit. He had a point. It's still very much in our city's nature to see failure and disaster at every turn.
As I'm sure the mayor would agree, we are also held back by our own reality - by the real-life living conditions of so many in this city.
It feels like Philly has arrived at a specific moment, a moment of transformation that we cannot let pass. The new mayoral administration, and the city as a whole, must focus as much on lifting up those left behind in our city, as we do on the glittering parties we bring here.
You don't become a world-class city by hosting parties, no matter how cool they are. You become a world-class city by taking care of your own.
Angela Sutton sure gets that.
In her willingness to share her story, she has become one of the most recognizable faces of Witnesses to Hunger, a group run through Drexel's Center for Hunger-Free Communities. It's a group of women who share their own experiences to bring attention to the suffering.
A group of women like her. Mothers who ask themselves every day, "What will I put on the table?"