On Friday, March 5, the Bill Emerson National Hunger Fellows presented findings from their field placements in a briefing entitled “The State of Hunger in America.” The briefing drew an online audience of over 100 policymakers, nonprofit and corporate leaders, Hunger Fellow alums, and others, to hear how community-based organizations are addressing the root causes of hunger and poverty in the midst of an historic crisis of food insecurity. From community outreach and engagement for a food action plan in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to advocating for supports for Tribal agriculture in Indian Country; from evaluating the strengths and limitations of Pandemic EBT in California, to assessing a food bank’s internal racial equity policies and practices in Houston, Texas; presentations reflected a diversity of approaches, strategies, and community perspectives.
Watch video of the fellows’ presentations here:
“These fellows should be very proud of the work they have done,” said Program Director Tony Jackson, “and I encourage anti-hunger advocates to take note of their presentations. In addition to building capacity within their host communities, Emerson Fellows are sources of crucial firsthand information and experience on what’s working, what isn’t, and how we can best refocus our efforts on eradicating hunger and its root causes in America.”
Reporting on strategies and results from community-based work has been a key component of the Emerson Fellowship since its beginnings. “Our founders quickly realized,” said Executive Director Shannon Maynard (Emerson ’98) in opening remarks, “that if we wanted to create the political will to end hunger, we needed leaders who could bridge the gaps that so often exist between direct service providers and policymakers. We needed leaders who could bring the perspectives of communities experiencing hunger to the Halls of Congress; leaders who understood the root causes of hunger and take a holistic approach to designing solutions.”
In addition to live presentations fellows also publish Hunger-Free Community Reports, which detail their findings and recommendations for anti-hunger advocates and service providers.
While the organizations that hosted fellows were spread across nine U.S. states, most of the fellows’ work was conducted remotely. “I want to congratulate the fellows for completing the first half the fellowship, for the most part virtually,” remarked Hunger Center Board Secretary Katharine Emerson. “It is amazing to see how you all have adjusted to working remotely, and building new relationships with each other and your host organizations in this virtual word we’re living in.” Emerson is the daughter of former Rep. Jo Ann Emerson and the late Rep. Bill Emerson, in whose honor the fellowship is named.
Also in attendance was Rep. James P McGovern, who praised the fellows for their devoted efforts to end hunger. “I’m glad to continue my work and advocacy,” said McGovern, “knowing that young people like you will continue fighting to end hunger.” McGovern serves as Hunger Center Board Chair. “One of the great things about being associated with the Congressional Hunger Center…, is that we are constantly buoyed by your commitment and your dedication. You give us hope, and you get it, and so I can’t wait to see what the future holds for all of you.”
The briefing came at the midpoint of the fellows’ training in preparation for their policy placements. The following week, fellows began their work with Washington, D.C.-based think tanks, nonprofit advocacy organizations, and federal agencies. “I want to encourage you to educate your policy sites about what you have learned working in the community,” continued McGovern. “Your host organizations will greatly benefit from your fresh perspectives, and the research and conversations that guided each of you in your time with the Congressional Hunger Center are critical in understanding the intersection of nutrition, poverty, policy, and health.”
Special thanks to USDA, the Kroger Co. Foundation, PepsiCo, and C&S Wholesale Grocers, whose support makes the work of the 27th Class of Emerson Fellows possible.