The Center for Hunger-Free Communities

Solutions Based on Science and the Human Experience



Jessica Barbour

Jessica Barbour is a Research Assistant for Children's HealthWatch Philadelphia at St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children. She is a proud graduate of Hampton University in Virginia. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Biology and has since began a journey to find her niche in the healthcare world. Over the years she has explored different health related avenues from coordinating a newborn hearing screen program, to phlebotomy training to shadowing in the operating room and NICU. This venture led Jessica to volunteer with Children's HealthWatch of Boston at Boston Medical Center. Eventually, she joined our team when she returned to her native city of Philadelphia. As Jessica embarks on her road to becoming a pediatric healthcare professional, in her spare time she loves trying new foods, traveling and listening to old school music. She also dedicates most of her time to her family and improving her community through tutoring and mentoring children and feeding those less fortunate. Jessica would like to start a program that provides healthcare to children and health education to families as well as academic assistance, mentoring and extracurricular activities for children.

Maura Boughter-Dornfeld

Maura Boughter-Dornfeld is a Research Assistant at the Center for Hunger Free Communities as well as a Dornsife Fellow. She is currently pursuing her MPH in Health Management & Policy and is seeking to develop a stronger understanding of food insecurity and childhood trauma, as well as policy implementation to support communities most affected by these experiences.

Prior to coming to Dornsife for her master’s degree, Maura worked for the Philadelphia Department of Public Health in the AIDS Activities Coordinating Office (AACO) as an HIV Surveillance Data Manager. Maura graduated from Brandeis University in 2014 with a BS in Health: Science, Society, and Policy, as well as Biology. Maura is a Philadelphia native and is eager to help support the best city in the US in uplifting our communities by fighting for equality. 

Emily Brown

Emily Brown Weida, MSW is a Research Associate for the Building Wealth and Health Network. She is currently a DrPH student in Health Management and Policy at the Dornsife School of Public Health. Her research interests are on the effects of trauma and the social determinants of health.

Prior to her doctoral program, Emily was the research coordinator for an NIH-funded study looking at the relationships between trauma, PTSD and alcohol use in veterans. She received her master’s degree in clinical social work from Virginia Commonwealth University and her bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the College of William and Mary.

Mariana Chilton

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

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.

Gabriella Grimaldi

Gabriella Grimaldi, MPH 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. She has a bachelors in psychology from Temple University with a minor in Cognitive Neuroscience, and a concentration in Spanish and Latino studies for Health Professions. She also completed her Masters of Public Health at Drexel University.

Kaitlyn Guild is a Research Assistant for the Center working directly on an archival project for Witnesses to Hunger. She is finishing her senior year at Haverford College where she is majoring in anthropology and minoring in gender and sexuality studies. After graduation, she hopes to further her education and pursue a career in public health. She is interested in the overlap between the fields of public health and anthropology, particularly in the use of oral history, ethnography, and storytelling, to center social justice work around the needs and experiences of the communities most affected by systemic injustice and oppression. Outside of work and school Kaitlyn enjoys hiking and cooking with her family and friends.

Gabe Halperin-Goldstein

Gabe Halperin-Goldstein is the Policy and Communications Fellow for the Center. He recently graduated from Haverford College where he majored in sociology with minors in health studies and economics and conducted his senior thesis project on the political controversy surrounding safe injection sites in Philadelphia. He is particularly interested in creating more democratic approaches to research and political advocacy in the field of health.

Gabe joins the Center for one year as a part of the Haverford House fellowship. In addition to working at the Center, he will spend his Fridays programming a community service project that will connect current Haverford students with communities in Philadelphia. Outside of work, Gabe enjoys playing ultimate frisbee, reading, and writing.

Alie Huxta

Alie Huxta, MSS is the Associate Director, Partnerships and Strategic Planning, for the Center’s Building Wealth and Health Network. Starting at The Network in the coach role, she is now excited to lead the Network team as a Co-Director and also continue coaching. As a coach she provides a trauma-informed anti-oppressive 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 coordinated and built youth programming with 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.

RJ McGhee

RJ McGhee is the Administrative Assistant for the Building Wealth and Health Network. Their responsibilities include supporting the Network’s Operations Manager with managing the program. They have a strong passion for both the arts and social justice. RJ is a recent graduate of Temple University with a bachelor’s degree in Music Performance.

Michael Moody

Michael Moody is the Operations Manager 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.

Sherita Mouzon

Sherita Mouzon is member of Witnesses to Hunger who currently lives in Philadelphia, PA.

As a founding member of Witnesses to Hunger, Sherita is a seasoned advocate whose activism explores issues of mental health, addiction, youth development, healthcare, poverty, and housing in Philadelphia. As a member of Witnesses, Sherita was a leader in the movement to introduce the Sanctuary Model as the program’s foundation of practice, and her commitment to bettering trauma-informed care extends into her professional career working in human services at the Salvation Army, St Christopher’s, and as a Certified Recovery Specialist. Her writing and activism has been featured in TalkPoverty, DrexelNow, and elsewhere.

Pam Phojanakong

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.

Natalie Shaak

Natalie Shaak joined the Center in 2019 and serves as Operations Manager. In her role, Natalie supports all of the Center’s programs through communication, business operations, and event planning. She oversees the Center’s website, supports central office administration, and assists the Executive and Deputy Directors in strategic planning, grant writing, and budget oversight.

Natalie holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Millersville University and master’s degrees in Educational Psychology/Counseling from West Chester University and Publication Management from Drexel University. She previously held roles in communication with Drexel Student Life and the LeBow College of Business and served fraternity and sorority communities at Drexel, West Chester, and Washington State Universities. In her free time, Natalie enjoys volunteering with the Philadelphia Animal Welfare Society (PAWS), collecting cookbooks, and reading. Natalie is currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in culinary arts at Drexel and has a strong interest in community food education, mental health, and food waste reduction.

Jenay Smith

Jenay Smith, MSS, LMSW, is the Life Skills Development Trainer for the Building Wealth and Health Network. Jenay is a graduate of Bryn Mawr’s Graduate School of Social Work and Social Research (GSSWSR) with a concentration in Community, Practice, Policy and Advocacy.

At the Network Jenay is part of a training team developing onboarding material and training Network staff. In the classroom she is a SELF coach facilitating lessons and conducting one on one support with members after class. Jenay supports with grant research and implementation for the Network. 

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 excellence and service to the GSSWSR community.

Isabel Solorzano

Isabel Solorzano is a Bilingual Research Assistant for Children’s HealthWatch, Philadelphia. For more than 10 years she worked for the Arizona State University in different research projects as a Faculty Research Project Assistant and Coordinator working with children and families in low-income, high risk neighborhoods, which motivated her to engage in work that would bridge the gap between research and community practice.

Kevin Thomas Jr.

Kevin Thomas Jr., MPP works with the Building Wealth & Health Network as the Associate Director of Operations and Asset Building. His primary role is to manage the day-to-day Network activities and staff, as well as develop the program and its capacity. Kevin is responsible for facilitating Financial SELF Empowerment sessions for the Networks members, but he also works with the Network team to develop new coaches and expand its footprint. Prior to joining the Center, Kevin was a highly decorated banker, working with industry giants PNC Financial Services and Commerce Bankcorp. He was also a recognized community advocate in the North and West Philadelphia sections of city. Kevin received his Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from St. Joseph’s University and attained his Masters in Public Policy at Drexel.


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