Gabe Hafemann, Bill Emerson National Hunger Fellow, Reflects on Time at GBFB

Published on January 21, 2023
Visiting Fellow Reflections:

Hello all! My name is Gabe Hafemann (they/them), and I’m a Bill Emerson National Hunger Fellow with the Congressional Hunger Center. The Fellowship cultivates up-and-coming leaders in the hunger relief and anti-poverty policy space. It serves as a living legacy to Congressman Bill Emerson, whose tireless bipartisan advocacy in Congress advanced anti-hunger initiatives like TEFAP (The Emergency Food Assistance Program). I’m one of eighteen fellows paired up with regional hunger relief organizations all over the country.

In September, I joined the GBFB Public Affairs team! Over the past few months, I’ve been supporting the statewide Hunger Free Campus campaign that GBFB co-leads, analyzing policies to shape our priorities for the 2023-2024 legislative session, and researching opportunities for food banks to address historical inequities in food access through public policy.

The Massachusetts Hunger-Free Campus Coalition (HFCC) organizes to address food insecurity among students enrolled in public colleges and universities, and one solution has been through advancing legislation to provide resources and a framework for how this is done on campuses throughout the state. This is the second college Hunger-Free Campus campaign I’ve worked on – the first was during my time as a student at the University of Minnesota. Six states have adopted similar legislation (including Minnesota!), and another eight (including Massachusetts!) have proposed it. That work represents a huge opportunity to ensure that students – especially students from minoritized and low-income backgrounds – can succeed in school.

Red Sox Wally and person in warehouseOn the policy priority side of things, I focused on identifying opportunities for GBFB to deepen engagement on policies that impact the root causes of hunger. To effectively end hunger in Eastern Massachusetts, it’s critical that we address entwined factors like housing insecurity and income inequality through policy change. The new executive administration and many newly elected state legislators provide us with ample opportunities to build partnerships, share our priorities, and make a meaningful impact for our neighbors in these intersecting avenues.

My third major project has been developing a toolkit for GBFB staff to better understand racial equity concepts as they relate to hunger and our personal journeys as advocates, and to give an overview of some of the nuanced political history of food programs, complete with their disparate impacts on the neighbors we serve. It’s been a fascinating opportunity to dive deep into how we arrived at the challenges that so many of our clients face. With that context, we’re better positioned to identify opportunities to advance racial and other forms of equity through our policy and advocacy agenda.

people celebrating at inaugurationAs a visiting fellow living in Boston for the first time, I’m grateful that my time at GBFB has also given me the chance to work off some major parts of my Boston-area bucket list! I helped at a September fundraiser at Fenway Park and got to see a Red Sox game, met Congressman Jim McGovern (organizer of the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health and Chair of the Board at the Congressional Hunger Center) and Senator Elizabeth Warren, had the pleasure of helping to capture images at GBFB’s Chain of Giving event with partners, legislative/political champions, and the Red Sox mascot Wally. Most recently, I had the distinct pleasure of witnessing history at Governor Healey’s inauguration celebration at the TD Garden.

Group of people in lobby of food bankMy time with GBFB has been an incredible learning opportunity, studded with exciting experiences and the support and mentorship of a truly excellent team. It’s been an honor to be here. Together, we can end hunger in Eastern Massachusetts!

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