Staff

Meet Our Staff

Filomena Acevedo, Director of Organizing
(212) 825-0028 x221 l facevedo@hungerfreenyc.org

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Filomena coordinates the East Harlem and the Bronx Food Action Boards (FABs), which mobilizes low-income community members concerned with hunger and other anti-poverty initiatives in their communities.

She worked for over ten years at the Morrisania Health Center with the City of New York. She also worked at the Department of Refugee and Services, as well as the Immigration and Naturalization Services. She has lived and worked in New Orleans, where she was selected as a Representative of the Children’s Health Insurance for Low Income Children (C.H.I.P) to address the State Legislature in Baton Rouge, which resulted in the children being awarded with health insurance. Filomena studied Sociology at Herbert Lehman College in the Bronx.

Filomena's favorite foods are fresh fruits such as strawberries and blueberries, as she fights everyday for low-income individuals to be able to gain access to affordable, nutritious produce.


Magen Allen, Director of Communications

(212) 825-0028 x 212 l mallen@hungerfreeamerica.org

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Magen serves as the Director of Communications for Hunger Free America, where she oversees the organization's public message. This includes executing media relationships, communications strategy, social and traditional media, as well as writing and overseeing all web content. 

Magen's passion for poverty reduction and anti-hunger work runs deep. Growing up in rural Eastern Washington state, she witnessed early on how difficult it is for our country's small farmers to get by and afford food for themselves. Prior to her current role, Magen was the Communications Intern with the New York City Coalition Against Hunger, and was hired on full time following her graduation.

Magen holds a B.A. in Global Studies from LIU Global, where she spent four years of her undergraduate degree studying social justice issues in Costa Rica, Taiwan, Thailand, India, Turkey, China, South Africa, and the United States. Her undergraduate thesis was on the roles of public and private sector initiatives in the fight against hunger in the United States. She currently lives in Brooklyn, NY.

Her favorite food: blueberries! Magen's first job was on a small blueberry farm in rural Eastern Washington state, where she became known as the blueberry girl.  While there, she drove across the state to sell organic blueberries to Whole Foods and small shops alike, always with a basket of blueberries by her side.


Magdelan Andreoni, Research, Policy, and Advocacy Associate
(212) 825-0028 x202 l  MAndreoni@hungerfreeamerica.org

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Joining the Hunger Free America team in 2017, Maggie serves as a Research, Policy, and Advocacy Associate. She assists in the coordination of all the quantitative and qualitative research related to hunger, poverty and nutrition policy from the local, state, and national-level, including SNAP benefits, WIC, school lunch, and summer meals programs.

Before this position, she worked as a bread baker and pastry chef at several bakeries and restaurants witnessing firsthand the struggle to support families on low wages and minimal benefits. Inspired by HFA’s mission to mitigate the social issues around hunger by working directly with low-income communities, the drivers of change, she is galvanized to help break down stereotypes and search for solutions.

Maggie received her Bachelors of Science in Studio Art, specializing in oil painting with a minor in anthropology from Skidmore College. Currently, she is pursuing a master’s degree at NYU focusing on agriculture and food policy.

Favorite Food: Bread “I am a glutenphile with a love of bread that runs so deep that my marrow is probably a sourdough starter. Growing up outside of Chicago with strong family ties to my Italian grandfather, a loaf with crisp crust and soft interior always accompanied dinner, and undeniably, breakfast and lunch too.”


Paul Bennett, Director of Finance & Administration
(212) 825-0028 x209 l  pbennett@hungerfreeamerica.org

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Paul Bennett is currently the Director of Finance and Administration for Hunger Free America. He coordinates the administrative, financial, and office support work, processing a range of financial reports for federal, state and city offices. Paul also oversees Hunger Free America's operating budget and billing for various grants.

Paul has over 10 years of experience in the non-profit sector as a financial officer and consultant, serving over 200 organizations. Paul spent seven years at Nonprofit Finance Fund where he served as a Senior Consultant and Director of Analytics, amongst other roles. Prior to the nonprofit sector, Paul worked as an analyst focusing on mergers and acquisitions in the financial services sector. Paul has taught as an adjunct professor at NYU, and is an alumni of the Coro Fellows Program.  He received an MPA from Baruch College and a BA in economics from Binghamton University.

Paul's favorite food: dried mangos, "Because they are chewy and delicious. Plus, they help your body work smoothly."


Joel Berg, CEO
(212) 825-0028 x204 l jberg@hungerfreeamerica.org

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Joel Berg is a nationally recognized leader and media spokesman in the fields of domestic hunger, food security, obesity, poverty, food-related economic development, national service, and volunteerism.  He is CEO of Hunger Free America. He is also the author of All You Can Eat: How Hungry Is America? , the definitive and most well-reviewed book on American hunger of the last decade. Seven Stories Press just publish his second book, “America We Need to Talk: a Self Help Book for the Nation.” Nobel Prize-winner Toni Morrison called the book important and entertaining.

Since 2001, Berg has led Hunger Free America, formerly known as the New York City Coalition Against Hunger throughout its many successes. Joel has grown the nonprofit into a multi-million-dollar, respected national champion for Americans struggling to obtain nutritious food. Hunger Free America is building a nonpartisan grassroots movement coast-to-coast to enact the economic policies and programs needed to finally solve the problem of domestic hunger. Operating on the philosophy, “Ending hunger lifts us all,” Joel and his team advocate for systemic change across the country, seeking higher wages, more living wage jobs, and a stronger nutrition safety net. The group also manages AmeriCorps*VISTA national service projects in 29 states and the USDA National Hunger Hotline, which provides callers the tools they need to obtain government and private food resources close to home. Joel is recognized as a powerful voice arguing for skilled volunteerism and has led his organization to establish a nationwide volunteer matching website, allowing people to best use their special skills like accounting, web design, or fundraising to help local soup kitchens and food pantries beyond packing cans or serving food.

Prior to his work with the Hunger Free America, Berg served for eight years in the Clinton Administration in senior executive service positions at USDA. For two years, he acted as USDA Coordinator of Community Food Security, a new position in which he created and implemented the first-ever federal initiative to better enable faith-based and other nonprofit groups to fight hunger, bolster food security, and help low-income Americans move out of poverty.

In addition, Berg worked as USDA Coordinator of Food Recovery and Gleaning for two years, working with community groups to increase the amount of food recovered, gleaned, and distributed to hungry Americans. Also while at USDA, he served as Director of National Service, Director of Public Liaison, and as acting Director of Public Affairs and Press Secretary. From 1989 to 1993, he served as a policy analyst for the Progressive Policy Institute and as a domestic policy staff member for then President-elect Bill Clinton’s transition team.

Berg has been published widely on the topics of hunger, national and community service, and grassroots community partnerships. These include recent papers on what President Obama can do to improve hunger metrics in the United States and other papers on childhood hunger and poverty, obesity, and practical solutions to end hunger when he was a Senior Fellow for the Center for American Progress.  He has also published papers on creating food jobs and other topics for the Progressive Policy Institute.

A native of Rockland County, NY, and a graduate of Columbia University, Berg now resides in Brooklyn. He is the past winner of the US Secretary of Agriculture’s Honor Award for Superior Service (one of the Department’s highest honors) and the Congressional Hunger Center’s Mickey Leland National Hunger Fighter Award. Joel also serves on the board of the Human Services Council.

Joel's desert island food: dumplings! “Properly prepared and cooked, Chinese pan-fried dumplings (known on the U.S. west coast as pot stickers) are crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside, the perfect combination of textures. To eat them properly, you need to cover them with a mix of soy sauce, chili paste, and vinegar, which turns them from ultra-delightful to ultra-even more delightful.” -Joel Berg


Charlene Caceres, Program Coordinator, National Hunger Hotline
(212) 825 0028 x234 l ccaceres@hungerfreeamerica.org

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Charlene joined the Hunger Free America team in December 2014, where she serves as a Program Coordinator for the USDA National Hunger Hotline. Charlene is responsible for collecting and disseminating information about federal nutrition programs, emergency food providers, and public and private programs that improve the lives of low-income individuals and families contacting the Hotline. Prior to joining the NYCCAH team, Charlene was an Office Manager at Premier Health Care (YAI), a nonprofit organization that specializes in medical services for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Charlene graduated from Kaplan University with a degree in Human Services Administration and is currently a member of Toast Masters International Club. Charlene’s goal is to utilize her leadership skills and abilities in order to provide services to individuals and families in need.

Charlene's favorite food are strawberries, "Because they are great low calorie snack and they are super yummy"


Benson Chan, Benefits Access Associate
(212) 825-0028 x321 l bchan@hungerfreenyc.org

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Benson worked for the Chinese American Planning Council's (CPC) Chung Pak Day Care Center for 11 years as an Educator that provided Early Education for low income families from Manhattan's Chinatown. When Hurricane Sandy hit, he wanted to do more for the residents of Chinatown. He joined University Settlement's Project Hope as a Crisis Counselor immediately after the storm. He provided immediate Crisis Counseling to individuals affected by Sandy utilizing Skills for Psychological Recovery (SPR) to help them recover and become more resilient when faced with crises. He also connected residents to their neighbors in order to build a stronger sense of community while assisting them in accessing disaster related services such as long term counseling, Disaster SNAP benefits, and applying for FEMA assistance.

Benson's favorite food: Spaghetti and Meatballs! "It's a simple food that you can make very elegant with everyday ingredients, making it a very versatile dish. Growing up this was one of my favorite dishes that my grandma made for me as a child."


Sheila Ramos-Corrales, Benefits Access Associate
(212) 825-0028 x241 l scorrales@hungerfreenyc.org

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Sheila works on Hunger Free America’s Nutritional Outreach Education Project (NOEP) and visits farmer's markets, Bronx supermarkets, and community based organizations to prescreen clients for food stamp eligibility. She also assists clients with electronic food stamp applications and re-certifications as part of HFA's Paperless Office System (POS) and Recertification Improvement Project (RIP).

Sheila attended Bronx Community College and Lehman College for Business Administration. She has worked for over 20 years in the nonprofit sector, providing social services to the East Harlem community. Prior to working at NYCCAH, she worked at the Yorkville Common Pantry doing Single Stop services and administrative / secretarial duties for the Executive Director and Board of Directors.


Miguelina Diaz, Food Support Connections Program Manager
(212) 825 0028 x213 l mdiaz@hungerfreenyc.org

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Miguelina is part of the Benefit Access Team in NYCCAH. She dedicates the majority of her time to helping clients successfully complete the process of applying and recertifying for SNAP / Food Stamps benefits, ensuring that the correct amount of benefits are received in a timely manner. She also conducts outreach and pre-screenings at community-based locations, informing people of their potential eligibility for SNAP benefits.

Miguelina received her B.S. in Accounting from Hunter College. Prior to working at NYCCAH, she worked for the NYC Dept. of Health and Mental Hygiene as a program assistant in an effort to increase healthier food access in corner stores. This included encouraging residents to demand healthier food in low income neighborhoods throughout the South Bronx and in East and Central Harlem.

Favorite Food: Pickles! "I selected Pickles because it’s a food I’ve enjoyed eating since I was a really young. As a child I was a very picky eater, however anytime  my mom mentioned pickles I was the first in line. Eating pickles reminds me of how much I’ve grown to liking different food."


Victoria Dumbuya: Director, National AmeriCorps VISTA Program
(212) 825-0028 x219 l vdumbuya@hungerfreeamerica.org

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Victoria Dumbuya manages Hunger Free America’s AmeriCorps*State program. In this capacity, she is responsible for managing the program, which places 26 full- and part-time members at soup kitchens, food pantries, and anti-poverty organizations throughout New York City. She joined the Coalition in Fall 2006.

A graduate of Rutgers University, Victoria previously served as an AmeriCorps national service Team and Service Leader at Hands on Atlanta, a non-profit that coordinates tens of thousands of volunteers with service opportunities in over 400 organizations and schools throughout Atlanta, Georgia.

Vicky's favorite food: Baked Ziti!


Denise Fernandez, NOEP Program Coordinator
(212) 825-0028 x207 l dfernandez@hungerfreenyc.org

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Denise is a member of Hunger Free America's Nutrition Outreach and Education Program (NOEP) staff. NOEP offers free and confidential services to connect hungry New Yorkers with nutrition assistance programs, especially food stamps. In an effort to reach eligible NYC residents, Denise travels through out the city to educate the diverse communities about ways to apply for and receive food stamps.

Denise graduated from Skidmore College with a major in Government and a minor in International Affairs. She worked in the private sector for 3 years before joining Hunger Free America's Benefits Access team.

Denise's favorite food: Chocolate!  "Because it's so easy to share with others…or not :)"


Rebecca Ligrani, Director of Strategic Volunteerism
(212) 825-0028 x237 l rligrani@hungerfreeamerica.org

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Becca Ligrani joined Hunger Free America in 2016 and leads the Strategic Volunteerism Department. She coordinates and oversees all volunteer activities for HFA, and works with emergency food providers to enhance their own volunteer programs. Prior to coming to HFA, she worked as an Engaged Scholarship Coordinator at Penn State, apprenticed on a CSA farm in Washington State, and cultivated her love of coffee by working as a barista in upstate NY and WA. Becca received her master’s degree from Virginia Tech in Agricultural, Leadership, and Community Education, focusing on community food work processes and practices that can restructure more equitable food systems. A volunteer herself, Becca is on the leadership team of the North American Food Systems Network, an emergent professional development organization for food systems practitioners.

Becca’s favorite food? A classic New York egg sandwich. Why? Four words: delicious, portable, affordable, customizable!  


Fabio Martinez, Benefits Access Associate
(212) 825-0028 x235 l fmartinez@hungerfreenyc.org

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Fabio meets with clients at our community-based host agencies to submit electronic food stamps applications and recertifications on their behalf, utilizing the Paperless Office System (POS). He is also the lead trainer for new staff utilizing this process. Fabio has been with Hunger Free New York City in this capacity for four years. Prior to joining HFNYC, Fabio worked with a non-profit agency in the Bronx, where he managed a food pantry and soup kitchen and performed other administrative functions.

Fabio's favorite food? Pizza!


Libby McClayton, Associate Director of the Anti-Hunger and Opportunity Corps
(212) 825-0028 x336 l EMcClayton@hungerfreeamerica.org

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Libby McClayton is one of the Associate Director of the Anti-Hunger and Opportunity Corps Program and is responsible for recruitment of VISTA members and VISTA leaders. Prior to working at HFA, she worked at the Community Action Council of Howard County as a Health Assistant for the Head Start program, coordinating nutrition education family nights, health screenings, and flu shot clinics for approximately 300 three to five year olds. Libby’s passion for anti-hunger work stemmed from her service as a Healthy Children, Healthy Families AmeriCorps member with Children’s Hunger Alliance in Dayton, Ohio where she taught nutrition education and physical education to children age five to fourteen. She also served at Baltimore Community Resource Center, an outpatient drug treatment center, as an AmeriCorps VISTA* member for the Office of the Mayor in Baltimore City, Recovery Corps initiative, creating resources, fundraising and planning events to help integrate those in recovery into the community.

Libby grew up in Columbia, Maryland and holds a B.A. in Behavioral Science from Drew University in Madison, NJ.

Libby’s favorite food is falafel (aka the “original veggie burger”).


Jannelle McCoy, Associate Director of the Anti-Hunger and Opportunity Corps
(212) 825-0028 x238 l JMcCoy@hungerfreenyc.org

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Jannelle McCoy is one of the Associate Directors of the Anti-Hunger and Opportunity Corps program and is responsible for VISTA placement site partnerships. She began her time with Hunger Free America by serving as a VISTA Member with NYCCAH's New York City-based program, followed by a year as a VISTA Leader working with a team of VISTA members with the New York City program. She took a hiatus from working with HFA when she was offered a position with the New York City Parks Department as a Conservation Corps Fellow. She served with NYC Parks for a few years as a volunteer coordinator with their Stewardship/MillionTreesNYC program. She worked to recruit and manage thousands of volunteers to plant and steward trees all around NYC. 

Jannelle grew up in Queens, NY and graduated from CUNY-Hunter College and recieved a BA in English with a concentration in Literature and Criticism.  She has a passion for volunteer management and is happy to play a part in the fight against hunger once again.

Jannelle's favorite food? Fresh fruit salad!


Eva Minkin, Benefits Access Associate
(212) 825-0028 x220 l eminkin@hungerfreenyc.org

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Eva Minkin is a Benefits Specialist at Hunger Free NYC, focusing on ensuring that eligible households gain access to SNAP benefits by helping them apply, coaching them through the application process, and confirming that benefits are received. Her fluency in Russian is useful in helping certain populations for whom English is not a primary language. Before this position, she had worked on several farms which helped her gain a firsthand appreciation for healthy, nutritious food, and empowered her to work towards providing access to it for all populations. She received a B.A in Sociology and Environmental Studies at Brandeis University in Waltham, MA.

"Potatoes are my favorite food because they're such a versatile product: you can cook them in so many different ways, including healthy options and sometimes not so much (such as the chips I chose for my photo!)" Thanks for sharing your chips Eva!


Amanda Melpolder, Director of Child Nutrition
(212) 825-0028 x210 l amelpolder@hungerfreeamerica.org

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Amanda Melpolder serves as Director of Child Nutrition at Hunger Free America. She has spent her career fighting for social justice and is passionate about food. She cut her political teeth in the office of the Majority Lead of the House of Representatives of the Connecticut General Assembly. She attended the Yale Women's Campaign School and has run several successful political campaigns. She came to New York for graduate school and stayed after earning a Master's Degree in Urban Policy Analysis and Management from the Robert J. Milano Graduate School a graduate program at the New School University. She has worked for several labor unions (SEIU, Local 32BJ and the National Writers Union, UAW Local 1981) advocacy organizations (the Innocence Project, Jewish Funds for Justice and others) and was a private investigator specialized in gun trafficking and international money laundering. Under her pseudonym Mia-Rut, she wrote as the Editor-in-Chief of the Jew and the Carrot, a blog focused on environmentally friendly food and cooking, and has been writing a book on food and Judaism. She is one of the founding Board Members of the egalitarian minyan Shir HaMaalot Brooklyn. Because of her love of food and cooking she attended the Chef’s Training Program at the Natural Gourmet Institute for Health & Culinary Arts. Since graduating from culinary school, she has been working as a personal chef and teaching cooking classes. She has also volunteered in homeless shelters, food kitchens and with the Brooklyn Food Coalition.


Maria Remache, Benefits Access Associate
(646) 836 9177 x243  l mremache@hungerfreenyc.org

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Maria was born and raised in Ecuador. Since coming to the US, she attended Borough of Manhattan Community College and has worked for 11 years for different nonprofit organizations, including Sunnyside Community Services and Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty. Most of her experience has involved helping eligible NYC residents access the SNAP (food stamps) program. Maria joined Hunger Free America in December 2013 and provides SNAP pre-screening and application assistance from several host locations in Queens.

Maria's Favorite Food: Grapefruit!


Will Thomas, Director of Research, Policy, and Advocacy
(212) 825-0028 x337  l WThomas@hungerfreeamerica.org

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Will Thomas is the Director of Research, Policy, and Advocacy at Hunger Free America. In this role, he is responsible for developing evidence, identifying policy solutions, and making sure the voices of low income Americans are heard on Capitol Hill.

Prior to Hunger Free America, Will has worked for AARP Foundation, the National Council on Aging, Meals on Wheels America, and Share Our Strength. He has successfully advocated for greater access to nutritious food at the state and federal levels, including successfully fighting back against sequestration cuts to meals on wheels. An Alabama native, he has a Masters of Science in Agricultural Economics from Auburn University and an BS in Economics and Finance from The University of Alabama.

Favorite food: Equally unhealthy and delicious, I can never turn down a good chicken finger or three.


Jim Wengler, Director of Benefits Access

(212) 825-0028 x218 l jwengler@hungerfreenyc.org

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Jim has been with Hunger Free America since 2003, and currently serves as Director of Benefits Access.  He manages projects that help connect low-income New Yorkers with the public nutrition benefits available to them, with a particular emphasis on SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program). Jim is a graduate of Rutgers University and has 20 years of experience in the social services field, previously working with agencies serving those affected by HIV/AIDS. He also spent a year in Nicaragua as a volunteer for an organization that served impoverished and orphaned children.

Jim's Favorite Food: Bananas and Peanut Butter! Because it's fast, healthy, and a great source of protein.


Ying Zhang, Benefits Access Associate

(212) 825-0028 x242 l yzhang@hungerfreenyc.org

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Ying works on the United Way of NYC Food Support Connections Program as a member of our Benefits Access team. In this role, she prescreens clients for SNAP eligibility at several Brooklyn and Queens community-based host sites, and provides application assistance. A fluent speaker of both Mandarin and Cantonese, she is a valued asset in the Chinese communities of those boroughs. 

Prior to coming to Hunger Free America, Ying worked as a Medicaid Recertification Coordinator at Met Council, conducting home visits in all 5 boroughs to home-bound or chronically fragile elderly residents. She received her BA in Fine Arts from the School of Visual Art.

Ying's favorite foods are her homemade Madelines and fresh strawberries.  "I love fruit and sweets, because when I am having a bad day, they always remind me that there are so many little happy things in life that we can enjoy and smile about."


 

AmeriCorps VISTA Leaders:

Alex Bengel, AmeriCorps VISTA Leader
(212) 825-0028 x335  l ABengel@hungerfreeamerica.org

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Alex is a VISTA Leader for the Anti-Hunger Opportunity Corps (AHOC) Program. Born and raised in Oregon's Willamette Valley, he just recently returned to the lower-48 from a year-long stint in Alaska working as a VISTA for 4-H. His task was to create a financial literacy curriculum for local at-risk youth in Fairbanks. He has a B.A. in history and anthropology from the University of Oregon.

His favorite food is sushi, because in every bite there is such a wonderful range of taste. 


Tripat Kaur, AmeriCorps VISTA Leader
(212) 825-0028 x335 l TKaur@hungerfreeamerica.org

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Tripat is currently serving as a VISTA leader with the Anti-Hunger and Opportunity Corps (AHOC) Program. After volunteering & working for a few organizations, Tripat served as a VISTA with FIRST Foundation. While there she worked with a few public health organizations. She comes to HFA after working with Sunnyside Community Services as an HHA Program Associate. She is excited to join Hunger Free America as an AHOC VISTA Leader.

Her favorite food is "khatal ki sabzi" also known as jackfruit curry. Growing up in a punjabi family, she was fortunate to be introduced to many exotic foods of South Asia. Khatal ki sabzi is packed with vital nutrients and vitamins, making it a nutritious meal. She hopes to join this fight against hunger so that everyone can have access to healthy foods! 


Lauren Valentine, AmeriCorps VISTA Leader
(212) 825-0028 x335  l LValentine@hungerfreeamerica.org

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Lauren is currently serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA Leader with Hunger Free America's Anti-Hunger Opportunity Corps (AHOC) Program. Lauren began her time with Hunger Free America as an AHOC VISTA serving at the Idaho Hunger Relief Task Force in Boise Idaho. Lauren convened the state-wide SNAP advisory plan and developed comprehensive anti-hunger plans and trainings. Additionally Lauren worked with the Idaho Farmers Market Association creating market manager resources and training materials.

Lauren received her a BA in social work and a BS in criminal justice at Boise State University, in Boise ID. During her years as a social worker, Lauren worked with many different demographics and populations including teaching financial literacy at a refugee resettlement agency, as a domestic violence and sexual assault victim advocate, as a living and vocational coach for folks with disabilitiesa researcher at the BSU Gender Equity Center doing research on gender equity and sexuality on campus, and developing curriculum's and providing guidance to abandoned children.  

Her favorite food: Sushi! Lauren not only loves high quality fresh sushi, but she is also a big fan of all you can eat sushi!