Prosperity 32304

Turning Hope into Opportunity

TSC understands how poverty effects achieving one’s own potential. We see it every day.

Not only does TSC’s main campus reside in 32304, of our three-county service district, Gadsden County ranks highest for food insecurity of the Florida's 67 counties, and Leon ranks third. 51% of our students are first in their family to attend college, 69% of our students are on some type of financial assistance, and 43% are Pell-eligible (meaning they come from low-income households.) Housing and food are two of the biggest issues for our student population. However, chronically underserved communities often face many related challenges such as poor health outcomes, low access to high-wage job opportunities, unsafe neighborhoods, lack of child and family care, unreliable transportation, justice system issues, and lack of agency. Collectively, these are the root causes of poverty.

Our goal is to build a network of relationships and a portfolio of Promising Practices around the root causes of poverty that are designed to positively impact the economic well-being of those who live in the ZIP code 32304.

As a community college, TSC believes in providing pathways to opportunity for everyone, regardless of their background or socioeconomic status. That's why we're partnering with community organizations, local businesses, and the Florida Chamber of Commerce to work towards reducing poverty and increasing prosperity in 32304, Florida’s most impoverished ZIP Code. 

32304 By The Numbers

Root Causes of Poverty

Job Opportunities

A good job that provides a living wage also provides the resources and stability for individuals and their families to overcome a variety of socioeconomic challenges. Unfortunately, in a 2018 United Nations report, it was found that the U.S. has the highest rate of income inequality among Western countries, "creating disparities in the education system, hampering human capital formation and eating into future productivity”. (Source


  • 56% of residents' income is below the poverty level, compared to Leon County at 20.8%
  • The unemployment rate in 2019 in 32304 among residents 16 years or older was 14.3%
  • 95.7% of the 19,780 employees (Tallahassee MSA:174,800) living in 32304 work in Leon County
  • 682 are companies registered with either a physical address or tax address in 32304 and pay a total of $168,034,406 in wages
  • The median household income in 32304 is $23,638, compared to Leon County at $53,106, and Florida at $55,660

Promising Practices

  • Leon County Sheriff's Office has spearheaded the 1000 Jobs for 1000 Youth initiative to provide access to lucrative employment and reduce juvenile crime rates among at-risk youth
  • As the second largest employer in the Zip code, TSC offers a competitive benefits package and a minimum $12/hour for all full-time, regular employees
  • Goodwill Industries-Big Bend, Inc. provides work experience opportunities, job placement, and job retention support
  • The City of Tallahassee’s “Tallahassee Engaged in Meaningful Productivity for Opportunity” (TEMPO) Program connects disconnected youth to educational and employment opportunities


Tallahassee Community College Classified Staff Council representatives deliver schools supplies to Riley Elementary"Equity gaps exist in Florida and Florida’s global competitiveness depends on a quality education system. For the business community, a commitment to this education system must begin early." - The Florida Chamber of Commerce Prosperity Initiative

One of the primary reasons for poverty is the lack of education. (Source) Early reading proficiency, particularly third-grade reading levels, are linked to long-term educational outcomes: (1) eighth-grade reading performance, (2) ninth-grade course performance, (3) high school graduation, and (4) college attendance. Today, it is hard to earn a middle-class wage without a college degree or postsecondary career training. (Source)


  • At John G. Riley Elementary School, the only elementary school in 32304, reports 76% of students are not at reading level, and 22% achieved Level 3 or above in the 3rd Grade Reading Florida Standards Assessment
  • Approximately 58% (28,915) of residents of 32304 are enrolled in college, either at the undergraduate or graduate level.
  • 3.7% of 18-24-year-olds and nearly 14% of those over the age of 25 do not have a high school diploma

Access the Florida Gap Map, which identifies identify school-level performance gaps so business and community leaders can focus resources on helping close those gaps. 

Promising Practices

  • Sabal Palm Elementary is a Community Partnership Schools™ model school
  • TSC works with local school districts to provide education acceleration opportunities like summer bridge programs, coding academies, and dual enrollment courses
  • TSC's Get There campaign highlights career training programs, some of which can be completed in 90 days or less right in 32304, that lead to high-wage, in-demand jobs.
  • TSC and Lively College both offer GED® preparation and English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) in 32304
  • TSC provides scholarships to residents of 32304 and uses direct mail marketing and other targeted advertisement to promote access to college
  • ASPIRE local college access network (LCAN) priorities high impact practices that facilitate college access and achievement
  • Goodwill of the Big Bend provides skills-based fast-track career training for free
  • CareerSource Capital Region offers financial assistance and resources for career training through the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) program
  • United Way of the Big Bend offers Reading Pals and Math Pals for students from Voluntary Prekindergarten (VPK) to 3rd grade who may need extra help
  • Karen Moore and The Moore Agency have contributed to local Title 1 elementary schools with a focus on John G. Riley Elementary School, including:
    • Since 2021, invested hundreds of hours, secured and donated more than $65,000, and given endless heart to Riley
    • Every year adopts each year a kindergarten classroom at John G. Riley Elementary School where 2 students in every classroom are homeless or housing insecure
    • Invested hundreds of hours of volunteer time, provided $15,000 in classroom resources, and raised more than $25,000 for various student needs. This includes more than $15,000 raised in 2021 from the community to ensure that every kindergartener went home for the holiday break in December with toys, a box of food, and more
    • Worked with two other Classroom Connection sponsors (Prime Meridian and Mill Creek Financial) and Second Harvest of the Big Bend to establish a permanent food pantry stocked with produce, meat, dairy, and shelf-stable foods
    • Secured a $5,000 donation from Sparkle Boutique owner Ashley Thomas, a former Title 1 elementary school teacher, to keep the pantry stocked for an entire year
    • Donated $10,000 to Second Harvest of the Big Bend to provide tens of thousands of meals to Leon County Title 1 school families in need
    • Karen noticed the school library needed some love and donated over 100 books covering topics like science and exploring, Dr. Seuss characters and historical figures, and everything in between. Knowing how much reading meant to her and how important it was to feed young minds with information and imagination, it was necessary to see some new literature on the shelves

Affordable Housing

According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, there is no state or county in the U.S. where a renter working full-time at minimum wage can afford a two-bedroom apartment. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development defines cost-burdened families as those who pay more than 30% of their income.


  • 87.7% of houses in 32304 are renter-occupied
  • The median household income in 32304 is $23,638 while median housing costs (rent or mortgage) are about $919 per month
  • Of the 6,888 households making less than $20,000 a year, 6,529 spend more than 30% of their income on rent or mortgage

Access the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies Cost-Burdened Housing Map

Promising Practices

  • Connecting Everyone with Second Chances (CESC) programs include The Dwellings, The Kearney Center, Westgate Community, CESC Health Services, and a new income match strategy and software for affordable housing

Health Outcomes

Poverty can significantly impact an individual's health, across all demographics and throughout all life stages. If a family cannot secure adequate healthy food, clean water, and safe housing, they usually do not have access to other necessities like healthcare and education. 

Read Poverty and Health - The Family Medicine Perspective

Read 'No access': Poor, isolated and forgotten, kids of 32304 see their health care compromised


  • 10.1% of 32304 residents are without any type of healthcare coverage 
  • Between 2014 and 2018, 32304 had the highest reported number of babies born to moms without a high school education in Leon County: 268 births out of 1,756, or 15% (Source
  • According to a Center for Health Equity community needs survey, 32304 was the most affected Zip code when it came to lack of access to preventative health services and health insurance (Source

Promising Practices

  • Riley Elementary offers free dental screenings for second graders
  • Capital Area Community Action Agency ensures that 100% of Head Start program participants have access to medical care within 30 days of being enrolled 
  • Dental hygiene students at TSC provide free basic dental care to the residents of the Kearney Center, as well as low-cost basic dental care on TCC's main campus
  • Tallahassee Memorial Healthcare provides telehealth technology that brings healthcare to any neighborhood
  • Florida State University's FSUCares organization provides basic health screenings and preventative care to low-income and medically underserved populations 

Food Security

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, food deserts are areas that have limited access to a suitable variety of fresh, healthy food, and are commonly located in neighborhoods with higher poverty rates. 


  • In 32304, there are only two major grocery stores to serve 16 square miles.
  • Additionally, more than 2,200 households do not have access to a vehicle for transportation to and from the grocery store.

Access the USDA's Food Access Research Atlas

Read "Food Deserts in Leon County, FL: Disparate Distribution of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program - Accepting Stores by Neighborhood Characteristics

Promising Practices

  • Second Harvest of the Big Bend supports food distribution events on TSC's main campus and throughout the community
  • Second Harvest is also exploring the opportunity for food distribution "lockers" which would allow access to emergency food supplies 24/7 for those in need
  • TSC's Talon's Market provides free food and hygiene items to students

Safe Neighborhoods

Research shows that the higher the poverty rates and more concentrated disadvantaged populations are in any given neighborhood, the more likely they are to experience higher rates of violent crime. (Source) Higher crime rates in neighborhoods can affect everything from home insurance and real estate prices to businesses and the distribution of public resources.


  • In 2019, there were 651 juvenile arrests in Leon County (Source: LCSO)
  • For every 100,000 people, Leon County had a violent crime rate of 384 and a property crime rate of 1,768 in 2020 (Source

Promising Practices

  • ALLin LEON is a comprehensive plan to unify people, agencies, and organizations to work collaboratively to reduce crime in Leon County

Child & Family Care

Parents with children under the age of 18, particularly young children who cannot care for themselves yet, as well as caregivers of the elderly and disabled often need help in order to care for their loved ones while they work to support their families. Unfortunately, many care settings, particularly in low-income areas, are unable to provide an adequate level of education and/or medical care. (Source


  • 2,000 households in 32304 have children under the age of 18
  • There are 290 grandparents in 32304 who are responsible for children under the age of 18
  • 1,266 households in 32304 have at least one person over the age of 65
  • There are 8 childcare centers and 3 family childcare providers listed publicly in 32304
  • Of those who live with a disability in 32304, 562 individuals have difficulties with self-care and1,098 have difficulties with independent living

Promising Practices

Justice Reform

Poverty is both a strong predictor of entry into the criminal justice system as well as an outcome. Unfortunately, jails and prisons are often used in response to difficult medical or economic social issues. A United Nations special report on extreme poverty and human rights found that the U.S. is particularly unique in its treatment of the poor in the criminal justice system, citing the use of the legal system to raise revenue rather than promoting justice, and how punishments like burdensome fines and fees, large bail amounts and suspended licenses can disproportionately impact poor defendants. 


  •  The recidivism rate in Leon County is approximately 45%

Promising Practices

  • TSC partners with the Florida Department of Corrections and Leon County Sheriff’s Office to help to transition offenders earn an industry credential
  • Leon County Sheriff's Office Housing Dorms and Educational Center help inmates prepare for life after incarceration 
  • The Florida State Attorney's office often recommends enrollment in a GED program when individuals who are sentenced to probation have not yet completed a high school diploma


Access to reliable transportation ensures an individual can get a good job, go to the doctor's office, pick up groceries, and generally engage with a variety of community resources. While public transportation is one option, routes do not extend throughout the 32304 Zip code or may be inconvenient when a sudden need arises like a medical emergency.


  • 13% or 2,291 households in 32304 have no access to a vehicle for transportation

Promising Practices

  • StarMetro’s STAR Program provides unaccompanied students in grades 6-12 free transportation
  • TSC provides discounted StarMetro passes and free transportation for students with mobility impairments

Agency & Community Voice

"To solve poverty, to fight an active and effective war on poverty, requires more than meeting material needs with cash and non-cash assistance; it requires genuine empowerment and a relief in equal measure of poverties of agency and status." -Thomas A. Bryer and Sofia Prysmakova-Rivera, Poor Participation (2018)

Too often, those impacted most by poverty have the least time and energy to devote to connecting with the resources that will help eliminate poverty, or if those resources do not exist, advocating on behalf of their community's needs. However, the agency is critical for affecting lasting change.

Promising Practices

  • Mayor John Dailey and representatives from the City of Tallahassee visited Springfield Apartments to meet with residents and discuss their barriers to receiving public services
  • Moore Agency's Corporate Social Responsibility training
  • Frenchtown Rising
  • Community Lift
  • TSC’s Day of Service in 32304

 *If not otherwise cited, all data were obtained from the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey (ZCTA5 32304)  

Measuring Poverty Status

The U.S. Census Bureau uses a set of money income thresholds that vary by family size and composition to determine who is in poverty. The official poverty definition uses money income before taxes and does not include capital gains or noncash benefits such as public housing, Medicaid, and food stamps. Additionally, poverty status is not determined for people in institutional group quarters such as prisons or nursing homes, college dormitories, military barracks, and living situations without conventional housing and who are not in shelters. (Source)

In addition to those classified below the federal poverty threshold, the United Way examines a population just beyond called ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed). These individuals and families are often working but still unable to meet their basic needs, including food, child care, housing, health care, and transportation.

The United Way of Big Bend (UWBB) uses the ALICE Report data as an informational tool for reviewing where their initiatives can have an impact. This led to three new programs:

  • Kindergarten Readiness Program at Wesson Elementary.
  • Volunteer Income Tax program at 14 UWBB sites, including TSC.
  • Childcare program for parents looking for work or trying to get work training.

Read more about United Way of The Big Bend's Impact.

Cover image of the United Way of the Big Bend 2023 ALICE ReportALICE in the Crosscurrents

United For ALICE launched its newest Report for Florida and all of its counties including Leon County, and the seven neighboring counties in which United Way of the Big Bend serves: Gadsden, Jefferson, Taylor, Madison, Franklin, Wakulla, and Liberty.

ALICE in the Crosscurrents illustrates the impact of these economic forces on struggling households. 

Read the full report here.


TSC's Work in 32304