Abalo headshot

Emerson Fellow

Trish Abalo

26th Class, 2019-2020

Raised in Midland, Michigan, Trish graduated from Michigan State University with a degree in interdisciplinary studies in public health, and a minor in philosophy. While at MSU, Trish researched small-scale urban markets in Detroit, Mich. and Lilongwe, Malawi through the Global Center for Food Systems Innovations, where her team generated outcomes shared in a FY16 USAID Title XII Report to Congress. After graduating, she evaluated community capacity building programs in the Sisaket Province of Northeastern Thailand with Raitong Organics Farm, as a MIT D-Lab Monitoring & Evaluation Fellow. She has also facilitated a massive open online course as a teaching assistant for the Smithsonian Institution and Harvard Extension School, and served in the North Quarter of Grand Rapids, Mich. through Cherry Health AmeriCorps, assessing and expanding a CDC-funded women’s health and community gardening program.

Field placement: Hunger Free Colorado

Denver, Colorado

Trish completed her field work with Hunger Free Colorado, a nonprofit that leads efforts to connect families and individuals to food resources and fuel changes in systems, policies, and social views all across Colorado. She conducted an impact evaluation of the Food Pantry Assistance Grant, a statewide pilot initiative that aims to increase community access to nutritious food by facilitating food pantries to procure with local Colorado farmers. She provided evaluation design, conducting surveys and interviews across 40 counties, and compiling tools to share results. She also collected best practices and models for technical assistance emphasizing fair pricing, a robust food system, and equitable healthy food access.

Policy placement: AARP Foundation

Washington, D.C.

At the AARP Foundation, Trish worked with the Food Security Impact Team. She conducted an assessment of the challenges and opportunities for low-income older adults in applying for the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Trish adapted human-centered design, action research, and other innovation methodologies to map the journey of older adults during the program cycle. Trish's evaluation drew from multiple perspectives, and featured grassroots organizations working in Alabama, California, Florida, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina. Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, her assessment was shared with the wider Impact Areas leadership to inform equitable food access and public assistance strategies for strategic planning.