Field Sites Announced for the 24th Class of Emerson Hunger Fellows

Emerson, Updates

The Congressional Hunger Center is pleased to announce the fall field site partners for the 24th Class of Emerson National Hunger Fellows. The fellows will be placed with organizations in seven states plus the District of Columbia, including two in Arkansas, the first ever fellows to serve in that state. They will be working on a wide variety of projects, from conducting needs assessments to coalition-building, from supporting healthy corner stores to supporting new immigrant families learn how to grow their own food in an unfamiliar climate. See below for more information on where they’re going and who they’ll be working with—

Chicago, Illinois

About 11.7% of all Illinois households are food insecure. In Cook County, home to the city of Chicago, 1 in 7 people are food insecure. Emerson Fellows Laura Yepez and María Cristina Chicuén will spend their field placements in Chicago.

Laura will work with La Casa Norte, a five-time partner with the Emerson Fellows Program. La Casa Norte provides shelter for people experiencing homelessness in Chicago, while also empowering their clients to become their own change agents. La Casa Norte recognizes the overlap of homelessness and food insecurity and plans to expand their nutrition services through the opening of a food pantry, nutrition center, hot meal program, and medical clinic in 2018. Laura will develop the food and nutrition programming for these services, surveying residents to uncover gaps in the existing community food infrastructure and researching models that have worked elsewhere in Chicago and throughout the country.

María Cristina will work with the Illinois Hunger Coalition (IHC). IHC provides direct services, cultivates community through organizing and education, and advocates for effective public policies to end hunger. One focus area for IHC’s advocacy is expanding the state’s SNAP Employment and Training (E&T) program, continuing a project started by 23rd Class Emerson fellow Anne Marie Buron. María will create a curriculum and lead trainings for allied direct service providers to help their clients navigate the E&T program, and strengthen Illinois’ E&T program overall.

Fayetteville, Arkansas

Native American populations experience different rates of food insecurity and are not a monolithic group. However, “virtually all of Indian Country resides within a food desert,” according to the Indigenous Food and Initiative (IFAI) a project of the University of Arkansas School of Law. Emerson fellows Corey Malone and Sarah Goldman will spend their field placement with IFAI in Fayetville, Arkansas. Sarah and Corey will be the first Emerson fellows to serve in the state of Arkansas.

Corey will support the Model Comprehensive Food and Agriculture Code Project, which aims to create a model legal code for food and agriculture, hunger, nutrition and health, and economic development. This model, along with an implementation guide, will be shared with all Tribes within the United States to serve as a jumping-off point for developing a localized economic strategy and food policy.

Sarah will support IFAI by convening monthly round table discussions focused on food policy across the United States. These round table discussions will foster important intertribal discussion and collaboration, allowing the 567 Tribal Nations throughout the United States to come together as one voice to address national food policy while meeting their individual needs around food, agriculture, and nutrition.

Fort Pierce, Florida

Florida’s Treasure Coast encompasses Indian River, St. Lucie, and Martin counties along Florida’s Atlantic Coast. Around 15% of Treasure Coast residents are food insecure.  Emerson fellows Meg Buckley and Paige Shortsleeves will work on the Treasure Coast in Fort Pierce, Florida, for their field placement.

Meg and Paige will both be placed with the Treasure Coast Food Bank (TCFB). TCFB, a member of the Feeding America network, supplies 400 active pantries, soup kitchens, shelters, and other partners in a four-county service area. The Treasure Coast Food Bank is the largest hunger relief organization on Florida’s Treasure Coast, where about 27% of food-insecure residents do not qualify for Federal nutrition programs, and must rely instead on charitable food assistance to meet their nutrition needs. TCFB is currently working to address hunger among children and seniors of color, who experience food insecurity at disproportionately higher rates. Meg and Paige will support this work by joining community conversations on food justice and developing additional food distribution sites in the region to target these under-served pockets of the population.

Jersey City, New Jersey

Located in New Jersey’s Hudson County, Jersey City has a food insecurity rate of 13.5%. Emerson Fellows Bardia Vaseghi and De’Sean Weber will work in Jersey City for their field placements. They will both collaborate with the Jersey City Department of Health and Human Services (JCHHS), a first-time partner with the Emerson Program whose goal is to make Jersey City the healthiest city in the state.

Bardia will lead a community food assessment in the city’s Ward F, which will help JCHHS and local anti-hunger partners improve access to food and nutrition services. He will actively engage with the community to assess barriers to healthy food access, create a report with recommendations to fill gaps in in services and resources, and develop a toolkit for future food assessments in other areas of the city.

De’Sean’s project is aimed at increasing access to healthy food in Ward A by expanding Jersey City’s Healthy Corner Store Initiative to two new stores in the neighborhood. Through cooking demonstrations and nutrition education workshops, De’Sean will increase consumer demand for healthy, fresh foods while providing store owners with technical assistance and training to effectively market and sell their new items.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Outline of the State of Pennsylvania framing a photo of the Philadelphia skyline viewed from the Delaware RiverIn the Delaware Valley, which encompasses the Philadelphia metropolitan area, 13.8% of people are food insecure. Emerson Fellows Alex Boyd and Maggie Tsai will be work in Philadelphia for their field placements.

Alex will be working with Philabundance, a member of the Feeding America network and a first-time partner with the Emerson Program. In addition to direct distribution of food through their network of 350 member agencies, Philabundance operates a first-of-its-kind non-profit grocery store and free farmer’s markets and promotes anti-hunger advocacy campaigns. Alex will expand Philabundance’s advocacy efforts by managing their community mobilization campaign and activating community allies such as health care providers, social service providers, educators, and food distribution partners to rally around their mission of ending hunger.

Maggie will work with the Reinvestment Fund, another first-time partner for the Emerson Program. The Reinvestment Fund is a federally-certified community development financial institution that serves as a “catalyst for change in low-income communities,” supporting 88 food access projects across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to date. Currently, the Reinvestment Fund is building a strategy to improve food access for rural communities through increased participation in the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP). Maggie will help craft this strategy, conducting interviews with community providers and USDA representatives.

Portland, Oregon

Oregon has had the most severe increase of food insecurity than any other state since 2013, with 1 in 5 people reporting food insecurity. Emerson fellows Jamila Cervantes and Erica McCoy will work in Portland for their field placements.

Jamila and Erica will both partner with the Oregon Food Bank (OFB), a four-time field site host with the Emerson program and member of the Feeding America network. OFB serves the entire state of Oregon and Clark County, WA, working with 21 regional food banks and 970 local agencies to provide food for over 270,000 people every month. OFB sees systemic racism and oppression as root causes of hunger, and has created an Equity Team to promote inclusion and equity, both internally and externally. Jamila will support the Equity Team, engaging with community members and other stakeholders and researching practices of other food banks to create a vision of an equity model for client engagement. OFB also engages in educational outreach, including the award-winning Seed to Supper program, where members on limited budgets learn to grow their own produce. Erica will expand the reach of this program by creating partnerships in immigrant and refugee communities, adapting training models, and assessing barriers for participants who have limited English proficiency or limited experience with the culture and climate of the Pacific Northwest.

San Diego, California

Approximately half a million residents of San Diego County, or 1 in 6, are food insecure, including 1 in 5 children. Emerson Fellows Valery Martinez and Rosa Rada will complete their field work in San Diego.

Valery and Rosa will work with San Diego Hunger Coalition (SDHC). SDHC has built and maintained strong coalitions of allied organizations with the common vision of ending hunger in San Diego.

Valery will help build SDHC’s organizational capacity in the School Meals program, visiting potential partners and offering guidance on starting up new feeding sites. Valery will also develop a tool kit with guidelines for new school meal program creation, as well as assessment tools for measuring the viability of a location for a new program.

Rosa will support the Hunger Free San Diego Coalition, increasing engagement with partner organizations and researching barriers that San Diego residents face in accessing food assistance. Rosa will also lead focus groups of community members and develop a data dashboard that will serve as a monitoring and evaluation tool for the Hunger Free San Diego Coalition.

Washington, District of Columbia

In Washington, D.C., 14.5% of District residents are food insecure, and 27.9% of children under 18 live in food-insecure households. Emerson Fellows Funke Aderonmu and Amiro Freeman will be placed in D.C. for their field work.

Funke will be working with D.C. Greens, a first-time partner with the Emerson Program. D.C. Greens “uses the power of partnerships to support food education, food access, and food policy in the nation’s capital.” D.C. Greens has recently launched a Community Advocates Program, which trains District residents who have experienced food insecurity to become advocates for food justice and improvements to D.C.’s food policy. Funke will support this program, assisting with trainings, meeting facilitation, event organizing, and policy research.

Amirio will be placed with Martha’s Table, another first-time partner with the Emerson Program. Martha’s Table has supported D.C. families and communities for over 35 years with early childhood education programs, healthy eating programs for children and families, and emergency relief services. The organization is preparing to relocate its headquarters to the city’s Ward 8 section, while simultaneously expanding its services in the Columbia Heights neighborhood. Amirio will research and build community partnerships between Martha’s Table and its new neighbors in Ward 8. Amirio will also prepare an impact report for Columbia Heights, measuring the needs of the community to ensure planned services meet these needs.

Fellow Field Site Placement Location
Funke Aderonmu DC Greens Washington, DC
Alex Boyd Philabundance Philadelphia, PA
Meg Buckley Treasure Coast Food Bank Fort Pierce, FL
Jamila Cervantes Oregon Food Bank Portland, OR
Maria Chicuen Illinois Hunger Coalition Chicago, IL
Amirio Freeman Martha’s Table Washington, DC
Sarah Goldman Indigenous Food & Agriculture Initiative,
University of Arkansas School of Law
Fayetteville, AR
Corey Malone-Smolla Indigenous Food & Agriculture Initiative,
University of Arkansas School of Law
Fayetteville, AR
Valery Martinez San Diego Hunger Coalition San Diego, CA
Erica McCoy Oregon Food Bank Portland, OR
Rosa Rada San Diego Hunger Coalition San Diego, CA
Paige Shortsleeves Treasure Coast Food Bank Fort Pierce, FL
Maggie Tsai Reinvestment Fund Philadelphia, PA
Bardia Vaseghi Jersey City Dep’t of Health & Human Services Jersey City, NJ
De’Sean Weber Jersey City Dep’t of Health & Human Services Jersey City, NJ
Laura Yepez La Casa Norte Chicago, IL

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