The Center for Hunger-Free Communities

Solutions Based on Science and the Human Experience


Mariana Chilton

Mariana Chilton, PhD, MPH is a nationally recognized leader addressing child hunger in America. She is an Associate 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 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 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 is currently completing her Masters in Public Health in the Executive Program at Drexel University School of Public Health.  Her scholarly work focuses on the ethical considerations and challenges of the Center’s Witnesses to Hunger project, a participatory action research, community engagement and advocacy project.

Jessica Charles is the Peer Group Facilitator of the Center’s newest project, a trauma-informed peer support model of microfinance for women receiving TANF. She is responsible for facilitating peer support groups, post-group surveys, data entry and referrals to the Center’s social worker/resource specialist for needed services. She previously worked at PHMC as a group facilitator for the SIHLE project, aimed at decreasing the rate of HIV/STI infections in teenage girls. She also hosts a cable television show for teenage girls on “The Hype”.  Jessica is a graduate of Temple University with a BA in Psychology.

Lili Dodderidge is the Communications Coordinator for the Center. She oversees the traditional and social media efforts of the Center and is responsible for maintaining the Center's brand and increasing the public outputs produced by the Center. She will also be leading the communications and public relations initiatives around the EAT Cafe, opening in Summer 2015.

Lili is a graduate of Georgetown University with a degree in English. Previously, Lili worked as an intern for the Center and served as the Administrative Coordinator for the Center for two years.

Nijah Newton-Famous

Nijah Newton-Famous, MPA is the Project Coordinator of the Center’s newest project, a trauma-informed peer support model of microfinance for TANF recipients.  She previously worked at ACHIEVEability for 9 years.  She began her career as a Social Worker for single-parent homeless families for 5 years. She then obtained her Master’s in Public Administration from Widener University which allowed her to move into community empowerment and engagement field as the Director of Community Services for her last 4 years. Additionally, Nijah completed an one-year Fellowship with City of Philadelphia Councilman Curtis Jones, Jr.’s office in 2008.  She graduated from Temple University, Cum Laude, with her B.A. in Broadcasting, Telecommunication & Mass Media. When she has the opportunity, she enjoys performing in local Community Theater productions and taking dance classes.

Angelo Melendez

 Rachel Kirzner, MSW, LCSW is the Director of the Center’s newest project, a trauma-informed peer support model of microfinance for women receiving TANF.  She oversees all staffing, data collection, and program functioning for this demonstration project on transformative approaches to work with very low income women in Philadelphia.  She previously worked at PHMC for 17 years, primarily in a welfare-to-work program for long-term TANF recipients with disabilities, and at Children’s Crisis Treatment Center with child survivors of trauma. Rachel received her BA and MSW from the University of Pennsylvania, and she is a doctoral candidate in social work at Bryn Mawr College.  Her research interest is neighborhood violence exposure and its impact on the need for safety net programs.

Molly Knowles, MPH is the Qualitative Research Coordinator for the Center. She oversees data collection, analysis, and dissemination of the Center’s qualitative and mixed-methods studies, including Witnesses to Hunger. She recently helped to launch a Witnesses site in Camden, New Jersey.  She is a graduate of Drexel’s Master of Public Health program in Health Management and Policy and received her BA in Political Theory from New York University.

Angelo Melendez, MSW, LCSW is the Outreach Manager for the Center. He has over twenty-five years of experience in the social work profession ranging from direct clinical to mental health and juvenile justice program settings. As Outreach Manager, he connects participants from Children’s HealthWatch and Witnesses to Hunger to social services and resources. He earned his Masters in Social Work and BA in Criminal Justice from Temple University.

Angelo Melendez

Constance Owens is the Research Assistant of the Center’s newest project, the Building Wealth and Health Network. In 2012, Constance was part of the first cohort of students accepted in the Opening Doors to Health Disparities Research Training Program at Drexel University. It was through this program she began her work at the Center, where she conducted preliminary analysis on how wealth inequalities impact a caregiver’s ability to provide for their family. After her research fellowship through the Opening Doors program and completing a research internship with the Center, Constance went on to intern at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). During this internship, she created an assessment that investigated the effectiveness of health information technology used in pediatric out-patient clinics. Following her work at CHOP, she worked at the Logistics Management Institute (LMI), where she provided analytic support for the Center for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) in order to implement the new policies of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Constance Owens holds a B.S in Public Health with a minor in Statistics from Temple University. She is currently enrolled in the Masters of Public Health (MPH) program at Drexel University, concentrating in Health Management and Policy.

Falguni Patel, MPH is the Quantitative Research Coordinator for Children’s HealthWatch (CHW) Philadelphia and 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. Falguni has a bachelors in Psychology from University of Maryland, Baltimore County and her Masters in Public Health from Drexel University.
Angelo Melendez

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.  Kate also works closely with the Witnesses to Hunger team to develop steering committees in each Witnesses site to ensure active and engaged advocacy and policy work with members of Witnesses to Hunger throughout the country. 

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.


Jing Sun, MD, MPH, PhD is the data analyst and research assistant in the Building Wealth and Health Network project. She supports the study design and data collection, and conducts the data analysis for the project. She received her MD from Guangdong Medical College in China, Master of Public Health (MPH) from University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. She defended her doctoral dissertation in May 2015 and will graduate with a doctoral degree in epidemiology at Drexel University this June. Jing’s research interest is health disparities in underserved population, infectious disease epidemiology, and epidemiological methods.


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