Readers of this blog will be familiar with our profiles of current Emerson and Leland Hunger Fellows and their work for food and nutrition security across the country and around the globe. But once their fellowship is concluded, what kind of work do Hunger Fellows do, and what use do they make of their leadership skills that they developed?
This fall we released our 25th Anniversary Impact Report, filled with data and stories of how Hunger Fellow alums are continuing to work for the social good and making a difference in their communities and beyond. In the coming weeks we’ll be sharing some of those stories with you.
To start, let’s meet David Blount, an alum of the 21st Class of Emerson Hunger Fellows….
“Knowing that my voice is valuable, and that I do have something to contribute…that was a huge realization for me that came out of my fellowship experience.”
As a Research Analyst at Urban Institute, David Blount spends his days gathering data and evaluating workforce development programs aimed at strengthening pathways out of poverty. “Through the research, we’re trying to understand the factors that either alleviate or perpetuate poverty, while informing solutions intended to make a change.”
One of his current projects has him partnering with a major corporate foundation to review their $250 million grant-making portfolio in the area of workforce development. His research has taken him to Chicago, New York, and Texas, investigating best practices from community-based organizations who work with people facing significant barriers to employment: people with criminal records, young mothers, and people with a history of chronic unemployment or homelessness.
“We work with organizations, governments, and foundations that are trying to figure out what is the right way to fund and support initiatives and efforts to address poverty,” he explains.
“We try to have a very intentional conversation about our history in this country when it comes to race and poverty and equity, and how certain systems are structured in a way where even if you’re funding helpful programs, you still may not be addressing the root causes of poverty. Our goal is to build the evidence that guides decision-makers to not just address the symptoms of poverty and inequity but address their root causes head-on.”
Working with youth has long been one of David’s passions, starting when he became a mentor through a youth ministry he took part in during high school. While he was placed at Urban Institute as an Emerson National Hunger Fellow, he worked with teenagers who lived in public housing to determine what kinds of food security interventions would have the most traction in their communities. He has also been a schoolteacher in Baltimore, Maryland, and a City Year Corps Member in Chicago, Illinois.
David especially values his time as an Emerson National Hunger Fellow for the confidence it gave him in his ability to lead. “Personally, it was the affirmation and validation that I needed for my own voice,” he says. “I’m a person of color who never fully saw myself as a leader in the way that I am now in D.C… Knowing that my voice is valuable, and that I do have something to contribute…that was a huge realization for me that came out of my fellowship experience.”
“I think a lot of places could use spaces like CHC creates, where we can be intentional about truth-telling, intentional about the real lived experiences people go through, and being able to bridge across race, gender, and rural/urban perspectives. I think there’s a secret sauce to that, and that we need to make sure it gets slathered everywhere.”
From our 25th Anniversary Impact Report, “Fighting Hunger by Developing Leaders: How Hunger Fellows Continue to Shape the World.”