Reflections from GBFB’s 2023-2024 Bill Emerson National Hunger Fellow from The Congressional Hunger Center

Published on June 27, 2024

Written by Stefano Mancini, GBFB’s 2023-2024 Bill Emerson National Hunger Fellow from The Congressional Hunger Center

Walking into The Greater Boston Food Bank’s Yawkey Distribution Center in South Boston for the first time left me feeling overwhelmed. With GBFB distributing nearly 90 million healthy meals each year across 190 cities and towns in Eastern Massachusetts, I couldn’t help but be amazed looking up at aisles of fresh food or hearing the engines of trucks picking up meals bound for the Cape and Islands, the Southcoast, Cape Ann, or even just a few blocks away in Boston.  

The scale of GBFB’s food acquisition and distribution work is a reminder of the size of the need in our community. Overlapping challenges, from inflation to affordability and cost-of-living issues to rollbacks of pandemic-era benefits expansion, have caused one in three of our neighbors across the Commonwealth to experience food insecurity in 2022, with rates even higher when focusing on Black, Latino, and LGBTQ+ households. 

Tackling those overlapping challenges at their root causes is necessary to make Massachusetts a hunger-free state. And just like GBFB’s food acquisition and distribution work showcases the best of our Commonwealth, including volunteers, donors, and supporters who know that food insecurity shouldn’t be business as usual, our Public Affairs work brings allies together to build the power to end hunger here. I was placed at GBFB thanks to the Bill Emerson National Hunger Fellowship, a program of the Congressional Hunger Center, which trains and inspires new leaders in the movement to end hunger and poverty in the United States, and I have spent the past five months executing our advocacy strategy on behalf of our network of over 600 partner agencies. As a former AmeriCorps VISTA at a partner agency of Connecticut’s Feeding America member food bank, Connecticut Foodshare, it has been exciting to bring my experiences to the largest hunger-relief organization in New England!

While the challenges that Massachusetts faces are great, so too is the will to solve them. It has been an honor to work in a state advancing bold policies to enhance affordability and equity, including through historic hunger-relief investments. Thanks to GBFB, I’ve had the opportunity to meet Governor Maura Healey, Boston Mayor Michelle Wu, five members of Massachusetts’ Congressional delegation, and several state legislators, to visit colleges across Eastern Massachusetts who are fighting food insecurity on campus as members of the Massachusetts Hunger-Free Campus Coalition, which GBFB co-leads, and to collaborate with stakeholders across the state working in partnership to end hunger at its root causes, being a part of key successes in my time here like restoring SNAP benefits to legally present immigrants. There’s been a lot to learn – like at the MA Food Systems Collaborative’s Food Systems Forum in Worcester  – and to celebrate – like at GBFB’s annual Chain of Giving and Project Bread’s reception at Fenway Park to recognize the passage of permanent K-12 School Meals for All, for which GBFB was a key partner in the Feed Kids coalition. Apologies to my family of Yankees fans! My work over the last few months in developing communications and advocacy materials channels this energy into advancing GBFB’s policy priorities alongside our network of advocates. 

My time as part of Team GBFB is up as I begin the policy placement portion of the fellowship at the Food Research and Action Center in Washington, DC, bringing the tools I’ve honed at GBFB to the national level. But Massachusetts’ FY25 budget cycle is just beginning, with the Healey-Driscoll administration recommending strong hunger-relief investments. This budget cycle, through advocating and joining hands with GBFB, you have the power to end hunger. 

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