Born and raised in El Paso, Texas, Sofia Hinojosa graduated with honors in public health and a certificate in Community-Based Research from American University. As a border-city resident, Sofia has a passion for increasing healthcare accessibility for immigrant communities, addressing health disparities, and building healthy communities. While volunteering for MEANS (Matching Excess And Need for Stability) Database, an online platform that redistributes food donations, Sofia along with community activists were able to connect El Paso food pantries and service organizations to MEANS’ technology as an effort to advance El Paso City Council’s “Food Waste Prevention and Recovery” initiative. She also completed health policy internships on Capitol Hill and conducted research in Medicaid expansion and improving healthcare access for immigrants.
Field placement: Western Center on Law & Poverty
Los Angeles, California
Sofia was placed with the Western Center on Law and Poverty in Los Angeles, California, a group of policy advocates and lawyers who fight on behalf of Californians experiencing poverty by securing housing, healthcare, and public benefits. In her role with the Public Benefits team, Sofia wrote a report on the unique barriers that immigrant families in California face when accessing Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits and other essential federal nutrition programs. She conducted a focus group comprised of front-line service providers who work directly with immigrant applicants to identify hurdles to participation. She also analyzed public hearing decisions from the past year regarding immigrants applying for SNAP and effective messaging strategies to streamline the SNAP application process.
Policy placement: Root Cause Coalition
At The Root Cause Coalition, Sofia gained a comprehensive understanding of Medicaid and cross-sector health interventions. She helped advance advocacy efforts through deciphering the details of federal and state legislation related to addressing social determinants of health. Her policy memos were shared with the Coalition’s membership of seventy clients to help them spearhead their own advocacy and strategic response to COVID-19. Along with writing memos, Sofia also conducted a federal legislative overview of SNAP. This project entailed compiling congressional bills related to strengthening SNAP as well as their legislative status and endorsement from non-profits.