The Center for Hunger-Free Communities

Solutions Based on Science and the Human Experience

Staff

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.

Samiah Foy is a Research Assistant for the Children’s HealthWatch Philadelphia site. She conducts interviews in the Emergency Department of a children’s hospital collecting data on children’s health. She is also is Master of Public Health candidate at Drexel University.  During her years after receiving her Bachelor of Science Public Health-Health Promotion, she has worked in public health as Nutrition Educator and Program Coordinator of Health Promotion Council while completing various trainings. Her Public Health interest include: nutrition, disease prevention, health promotion and reentry of juvenile offenders. Samiah plans to work in Disease Prevention Research department of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention after graduating from Drexel University with her MPH.

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. 

 

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.

Hanna Ibrahim is a Graduate Research Assistant for Witnesses to Hunger. She is assisting in the Witnesses to Hunger program evaluation. She is a Master of Public Health student concentrating in Epidemiology, at the Dornsife School of Public Health. Her research interests include health disparities, cancer, and autism. Prior to joining the team, she worked as an AmeriCorps member in Minneapolis, Minnesota teaching academic writing to long-term English learners.

Hanna received a BA in Sociology and Anthropology from Gustavus Adolphus College.

Donnell Jones-Craven is the General Manager for the EAT (Everyone At the Table) Cafe, one of the Center's emerging projects. Donnell is a culinary/hospitality professional with 25 years of experience in the food industry, including upscale dining, hotels, restaurants, healthcare, non-profits, and grocery. Donnell is passionate about people and food and the fellowship it gives to all. He is a recent transplant to Philadelphia from Atlanta, Georgia. Donnell is very interested in food culture, history, insecurity,  sustainability, clean eating and agriculture. His hobbies include cooking, arts, music, family genealogy, travel and reading.  

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.

Kelan McKibben is a research assistant for the Center’s Building Wealth and Health Network.  Kelan is currently a 4th year undergraduate student at Drexel University majoring in psychology, with a minor in criminal justice. Additionally, Kelan is a volunteer research assistant for the DeMatteo research lab at Drexel University.

Prior to joining the Center, Kelan was a volunteer research assistant for the Nezu Stress and Coping lab at Drexel University and the Center for Injury Research and Prevention at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. 

Michael Moody is the Participant Liaison 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.
Nijah Newton-Famous, MPA is the Program Manager of the Center’s Building Wealth and Health Network.  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.

Falguni Patel, MPH is the Research Manager for the Children’s HealthWatch (CHW) Philadelphia site 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. 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.

Angelo Melendez

Callie Perrone is the Community Engagement and Communications Fellow for the Center. She provides communications, policy work, and other support to the Center at large, the Witnesses to Hunger program, and the EAT Cafe.  

Callie is a recent Haverford College graduate with a B.A. in Political Science and Peace, Justice, and Human Rights. Her year-long fellowship with the Center is made possible through Haverford House, a post-graduate fellowship program in which selected graduates work at non-profits dedicated to social justice. 

 

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.  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.

 

Michelle B. Taylor 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.

Sandra Whitfield is the Administrative Coordinator for the Center.  Sandra has over 25 years experience in client relations, project coordination, and office administration. Before joining Drexel, she was employed for nearly eight years at ACHIEVability. During her time there Sandra handled numerous job assignments such as Admissions Coordinator, Donor Relations Officer and Executive Assistant.  Additionally, Sandra served as a Division Liaison and Project Coordinator at Prudential Financial, where she was employed for 10 years, and prior to that, she held several positions where she provided client support at General Accident Insurance. 

Sandra has completed numerous training courses in professional development, and received a professional certification in Project Management from George Washington University.

 

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