The Center for Hunger-Free Communities

Solutions Based on Science and the Human Experience


Mariana Chilton, PhD, MPH is a nationally recognized leader addressing child hunger in America. She is a Professor at Drexel University School of Public Health, Co-Principal Investigator of Children’s HealthWatch and the Director of the Center for Hunger-Free Communities at Drexel University Dornsife School of Public Health. Dr. Chilton received her PhD from the University of Pennsylvania, Master of Public Health in Epidemiology from the University of Oklahoma, and Bachelor of Arts degree from Harvard University. She has testified before the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives on the importance of child nutrition and other anti­-poverty policies.

She has served as an advisor to Sesame Street and to the Institute of Medicine. Her awards include the Nourish Award from Manna, the Unsung Hero Award for Improving the Lives of Women and Girls from Women’s Way and the Young Professional Award in Maternal and Child Health from the American Public Health Association.


Victoria Egan, MPH is the Deputy Director for the Center. Victoria will lead our Center through its next phase as we embark on integrating economic security activities into the TANF program and continue to lead the way with Drexel in addressing childhood hunger through research, advocacy and community engagement.  Since 2010, Victoria Egan provided operational, administrative, logistical and financial management for all of the activities and programs of the Center for Hunger-Free Communities. 

Before joining the Center in 2009, Victoria was the Special Projects Coordinator at Our Lady of Lourdes Health System’s Center for Public Health in Camden, New Jersey, where she managed undergraduate and graduate public health internship programs and health disparities research.  Previously, Victoria served as a Commissioned Officer in the U.S. Navy.  During her service, Victoria served as Ship’s Navigator and Acting Operations Officer for the USS COWPENS (CG 63) stationed in Yokosuka, Japan and as Administrative Officer, Legal Officer and Electrical Officer on the USS DULUTH (LPD 6) stationed in San Diego, California.

Victoria is a graduate of Harvard College with a Baccalaureate degree in Biological Anthropology.  She holds her Masters in Public Health from Drexel University.

Joey Craciun is a research assistant for the Center’s Building Wealth and Health Network. Joey is currently a junior undergraduate transfer student at Drexel University majoring in psychology, with a minor in criminal justice. Additionally, Joey is a cadet in the Drexel Army ROTC program.

Prior to joining the Center, Joey was a volunteer at the Center for Autism Research at CHOP and a volunteer research assistant at the Jerry Lee Center of Criminology at Penn.

Gabriella Grimaldi is the Research Coordinator for Children's HealthWatch. In this position she manages and supervises interviews with caregivers of young children in an Emergency Department of a children's hospital, and provides the data to the national data coordinator in Boston, Massachusetts. Often these caregivers become participants in the many other innovative projects at the Center for Hunger-Free Communities. In addition to this role, she also provides support to The Building Wealth and Health Network. She has a bachelors in psychology from Temple University and a minor in Cognitive Neuroscience, with a concentration in Spanish and Latino studies for Health Professions and is pursuing a career in public health. 

Amanda Hallock is the Building Wealth and Health Network Project Assistant for the Center. She works to develop qualitative evaluation for the Network as well as forming and growing the Network’s Advisory Council.

Amanda is a recent graduate of the University of Pennsylvania with a B.A. in Political Philosophy. Her year-long fellowship with the Center is made possible through Philly Fellows, a post-graduate fellowship that connects college graduates to non-profit opportunities while developing their skills and engaging them in the city’s communities.


Alie Huxta, MSS is the SELF Empowerment Coach in the Center’s Building Wealth and Health Network. She provides a trauma-informed approach to the Network’s Financial SELF Empowerment sessions. She previously facilitated experiential learning and political consciousness with youth at the Freire Charter High School and later with at the University Community Collaborative at Temple.  In this time she was trained to lead Transformational Social Therapy groups, a model that urges people across identities to share personal violences, hopes, and fears in order to reach collective intelligence and solutions. This work led her to pursue a clinical social work degree at Bryn Mawr’s Graduate school for Social Work and Social Research where she studied the psychological effects of oppression as a counseling intern at Women Organized Against Rape. Alie also loves to backpack on the Appalachian Trail, cook with friends, and make songs.

Angelo Melendez

Molly Knowles, MPH is a Research Manager for the Center, overseeing data collection, analysis, and dissemination of the Center's qualitative and mixed-methods studies, including Witnesses to Hunger and Childhood Stress. As part of her masters project as a student in the Masters of Public Health program at Drexel University, Molly collaborated with the members of Witnesses to Hunger in Camden, New Jersey to launch their site in 2013. Molly graduated from Drexel with an MPH, concentrating in Health Management and Policy, and received her BA from New York University.

Jonathan Krigger is the Administrative Coordinator for the Center for Hunger-Free Communities. Prior to joining the Center team, he has pursued a career as a nonprofit professional in Kentucky. Jonathan is an alumnus of AmeriCorps Vista, where he served as a Community Food Security Coordinator for the New York City Coalition Against Hunger and The Presbyterian Hunger Program, as well as a teacher for YouthBuild through AmeriCorps State/National. Jonathan is dedicated to facilitating spaces that foster prosperous and self-determined communities. He continues to balance life as a freelance Community Organizer, a teacher, a writer, and an artist.

Jonathan completed his Bachelor’s degree programs at the University of Louisville as an Ali Scholar with the Muhammad Ali Institute for Peace and Justice. As an undergraduate, he earned a B.A. in Philosophy with a concentration in Social Sciences, a B.A. in Political Science, and a minor in Economics.

Michael Moody is the Program Coordinator for the Center's Building Wealth and Health Network. In his role, Mike acts as a conduit between Network members and staff, various community organizations or partners and the Philadelphia county assistance offices. He spent six years working in the healthcare industry after which he transitioned into the non-profit sector, working  as the Business Marketing and Community Relations Developer for the African People's Education & Defense Fund for two years. Michael has a deep and unapologetic passion for combating social, racial and gender disparities and is particularly interested in the intersection between segregation and long term health outcomes. He has made it his life mission to advocate for oppressed groups and those who feel voiceless. Mike graduated from Temple University with his B.A. in Geography and Urban Studies, concentrating on Community Development. During his spare time Mike plays on a dodgeball league, volunteers with various organizations such as BlackStar Film Festival and Philly Urban Creators and loves to dance.


Falguni Patel, MPH is the Research Manager for the Children’s HealthWatch (CHW) Philadelphia site and the Project Manager for the Center's Building Wealth and Health Network project. She oversees the entire CHW research project in Philadelphia including the interviewing of participants, the management and supervision of research assistants, and the uploading and cleaning of interview data to the national data coordinator in Boston, Massachusetts. For the Building Wealth and Health Network, Falguni manages participant recruitment and data collection activities, and supports the analysis and dissemination of research findings.

Falguni has a bachelors in Psychology from University of Maryland, Baltimore County and her Masters in Public Health from Drexel University.


Pam Phojanakong is the data analyst for the Building Wealth and Health Network.   Pam is currently a second year PhD Student in Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the Dornsife School of Public Health. Her research focuses on chronic disease epidemiology, specifically the role of reproductive health and the environment on cardiovascular disease and metabolic disorder outcomes.

Prior to her doctoral work, she was the Research Coordinator for the Chaco Area Reproductive Endocrinology (CARE) Project based at the University of Pennsylvania and Yale University. She has also served as an International Intern for Unite for Sight. Pam received her BA in Biochemistry from Dartmouth College and her MPH in Epidemiology and Biostatistics from Drexel University.

Courtney Sartain is a Research Assistant for Children's HealthWatch Philadelphia. She holds a Bachelor of Science with a major in Nutritional Sciences and minors in Public Health and Biology from Rutgers University.  She is a 2nd year MPH student at Drexel University, with a concentration in Community Health and Prevention.  As an undergraduate, she served as a research assistant for the Nutritional Sciences Preschool at Rutgers University. She created nutrition related lesson plans and planned healthy snacks for preschool children, as well as coordinated nutrition education for parents of the preschool children. She is interested in developing and evaluating public health programs and policy aimed at reducing hunger and food insecurity. She is also interested in pursuing efforts to increase healthy food access in urban areas and food deserts.

Angelo Melendez

Courtney Scott is a Research Assistant for the Building Wealth and Healthy Network. Courtney conducts intake and orientation for the Drexel Network members and provide support for the Network team at large.  She graduated from Haverford College with a Bachelors in Psychology and a minor in Child and Family Studies. Prior to coming to the Center, Courtney volunteered as a Research Assistant with the Attachment Care-giving and Emotions Lab in the Drexel Couple and Family Therapy Department.

Kate Scully, JD is the Policy Director for the Center.  She works to translate the Center’s research and practices into policy-relevant communications at the local, state, and national levels.  She also manages the communications for the Center from our website, press requests, to social media. Kate works closely with all of the program at the Center and our partners on the national and local levels. 

Kate earned her JD from Widener University where she was the Research Editor of the Widener Law Review. She also has her bachelors in History from the University of Maryland Baltimore County and graduated as a Humanities Scholar.


Jenay Smith, MSS, is the Resource Specialist for the Building Wealth and Health Network (The Network). Jenay provides resources to Network members through referrals, one on one meetings and also supports with member engagement. Jenay is a recent graduate of Bryn Mawr’s Graduate School of Social Work and Social Research (GSSWSR) with a concentration in Community, Practice, Policy and Advocacy.

During her time at Bryn Mawr, Jenay served as the president of Macro Social Work Student Network, was the student representative on the strategic planning committee and was selected by the Dean to serve as a Graduate Assistant for a national Special Commission to Advance Macro Practice in Social Work. Jenay was also asked to participate in a panel for the Policy Practice Summit, hosted by the National Association for Social Workers, about social work education and its attention or inattention to policy. Upon graduation Jenay received the 2017 McPherson Award for her for excellence and service to the GSSWSR community.

Michelle B. Taylor, MSW is the Witnesses to Hunger Program Manager.  Michelle is a social worker and community organizer originally from New York City. A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania (CAS ’02), she is delighted to return to the Philadelphia area to continue the work towards eradicating hunger, homelessness, and poverty. Michelle obtained her MSW in Organizational Leadership and Management from the Silberman School of Social Work and has almost a decade of program management experience.

As a community organizer, she has organized global campaigns of resistance against police brutality, street harassment, and domestic violence for which she has received international acclaim and national honors. Michelle is also an award-winning writer whose work has appeared in The Washington Post, EBONY, TIME, and other publications. As a highly sought-after public speaker, Michelle has traveled the country and world speaking to audiences about social justice for the poor, women’s rights, and liberation for people of color.  

Michelle has spent the entirety of her professional career working with people in need and she looks forward to continuing the work with Witnesses to Hunger.

Angelo Melendez

Kevin Thomas Jr. works with the Building Health & Wealth Network as a Financial Empowerment Coach. His primary role is to facilitate Financial SEG classes for the Networks members. Prior to joining the Center, Kevin was one of Philadelphia’s brightest young bankers for close to a decade, working with industry giants PNC Financial Services, and Commerce Bankcorp. 

Kevin received his B.S. in Business Administration from St. Joseph’s University, and is currently looking to attain his MS in Public Policy at Drexel. Kevin has received several awards for his work in banking, but is most proud of his recognition for community involvement.  In 2009, he was given the “Key to the Neighborhood” by the Wynnefield Business Association, for his community presence, his work with developing and experienced businesses, and his ability to acquire financing for non-profit community based centers in the area. This led to Kevin starting a business advising firm in which he primarily worked with non-profit companies building capacity. Kevin joined the Center in August 2015 in hopes of using his experience to impact the world.


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