Born in Havana, Cuba, María Cristina was raised in Miami, FL, and graduated from Stanford University in 2017 with a B.A. in Human Biology and a concentration in Sustainable Food System Development. While at Stanford, she centered her studies on obesity prevention, food waste reduction, and health policy, working closely with minority communities in East Palo Alto, San Francisco, and Miami. As a sophomore, María Cristina worked with the Stanford Prevention Research Center as a Nutrition Interventionist, helping implement a community-based trial to promote wellness in Latino neighborhoods. After receiving a grant from the Haas Center for Public Service, María Cristina interned with the Urban Oasis Project in Miami, where she worked to promote and increase low-income communities’ usage of Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards at farmers markets. As a senior, she worked as an Undergraduate Teaching Assistant (TA) in Health Care in America: An Introduction to U.S. Health Policy, where she led weekly discussion sections for undergraduates on topics focusing on the Affordable Care Act. Maria Cristina also worked closely with Stanford’s Hasso Plattner Institute of Design on projects related to food waste, sustainable agriculture, urban development, and civic engagement. As an Emerson Fellow, her hope is to become a champion of minority empowerment, social entrepreneurship, and anti-discrimination.
Field placement: Illinois Hunger Coalition
María Cristina focused on researching and evaluating best practices and takeaways from the SNAP Employment & Training (E&T) program. After Illinois applied for a waiver that allowed ABAWDs (Able-Bodied Adults Without Dependents) to retain their SNAP benefits without needing to enroll in an E&T program, María Cristina analyzed the barriers that have limited ABAWDs’ ability to gain meaningful employment. She worked closely with the Chicago Jobs Council and the Illinois Department of Health and Human Services to provide recommendations to community partners on how to best improve E&T initiatives.
Policy placement: Center for Community Change
As a member of the Public Policy team, María Cristina created a series of policy memos and fact sheets focused on critical safety net issues as well as the 2018 Farm Bill reauthorization process. Additionally, she assisted CCC’s Housing Trust Fund Project on a report that focused on the intersection of gentrification and housing trust funds.
Hunger Free Community Report
"Dead Ends: Assessing Transportation Barriers among the ABAWD Population in Illinois" is the culmination of María Cristina’s work at the Illinois Hunger Coalition, where she spent her field placement researching the impact of SNAP work requirements on the ABAWD population. The report focuses on transportation barriers and how these negatively impact ABAWDs’ ability to attain and sustain long-term employment, and offers policy recommendations that focused on taking a more nuanced approach to E&T programs for ABAWDs.