North Carolina Hunger Champion, Jessica Soldavini, Wins 2019 World Hunger Leadership Award
It was an honor to be selected to receive the 2019 World Hunger Leadership Award from Rise Against Hunger. My passion for fighting hunger began over 10 years ago while I interned at a local health department providing nutrition programs in low-income communities. This allowed me to see the negative impacts that food insecurity and hunger can have and inspired me to pursue a career in public health nutrition so I could help alleviate these issues.
Hunger is a complex issue that I cannot solve alone, so I have found it very important to work with partners in order to have a larger impact. Currently, I work with No Kid Hungry NC, which addresses hunger through increasing access to meals served through underutilized federal child nutrition programs. We partner with organizations administering these programs to support communities in reaching as many children as possible. I also lead our nutrition education program, which teaches individuals how to prepare healthy meals on a budget. Since 2016, I have worked with the mayor of Chapel Hill and numerous other organizations on the Food for the Summer Partnership. Food for the Summer aims to increase the number of free summer meals served in low-income areas during the summer through the federal Summer Food Service Program. I have been actively involved with the partnership since it began and help with a variety of activities, such as planning, promotion, implementation and evaluation. With the help of hundreds of volunteers, we serve nearly 50,000 healthy meals each summer!
I also conduct research related to food insecurity and federal nutrition programs. I work closely with state and local agencies administering federal child nutrition programs on the research and evaluation I conduct to ensure that the information I collect and results I am able to provide are most useful. I work with Dr. Maureen Berner at UNC Chapel Hill to conduct research related to food insecurity among college students.
I believe that education is especially critical in addressing hunger because individuals are not going to get involved if they are not aware that an issue exists, the causes of an issue, or how they can get involved. I educate others to increase awareness that hunger is a serious issue and strategies for addressing it to both local audiences, such as student groups and large audiences at national conferences. I think the best way to learn is through experience, so over the past few years, I have provided volunteer and internship opportunities to nearly 100 students to work on projects with me at No Kid Hungry NC. I also think that it is important to educate policymakers on these issues as policy can play an important role in addressing hunger. I am excited to be participating in the American Society for Nutrition Science Policy Fellowship this year which will help make me more effective at doing this.
I admire the work being done by Rise Against Hunger and join them on their mission to end world hunger by 2030!