February 26, 2021
In honor of Black History Month, here are 8 Black anti-hunger champions you should know.
Representative Alma Adams
Representative Alma Adams serves on the House Agriculture and Education and Labor Committees and has led the fight to improve SNAP benefit adequacy. In addition to being a member of the Congressional Hunger Caucus, she is a co-founder of the Black Maternal Health Caucus and a co-chair of the Historically Black Colleges and Universities Caucus. Prior to serving in Congress, she was a teacher and held elected office at the city and state levels. As a state legislator she spearheaded a state minimum wage increase.
Howard University economics professor and AFL-CIO chief economist William Spriggs has worked in government as well as outside it to promote economic policy for good jobs and good wages for all. He served in the Labor Department in the Clinton and Obama Administrations. Among other distinguished posts, he directed the National Urban League’s Institute for Opportunity and Equality. He has been outspoken about the importance of addressing hunger and has pointed out that programs like unemployment insurance and food assistance are not just there for the individual but as “a safety net for the economy.”
Eric M. Bost
Eric Bost directed SNAP and other nutrition assistance programs for President George W. Bush, who as governor had appointed Bost to run human services programs in Texas. As United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services, Bost supported efforts to make sure those eligible for federal nutrition programs could access them. Under his leadership, USDA launched its “Food Stamps Make America Stronger” marketing campaign and adapted Disaster SNAP and other USDA nutrition program resources to quickly and effectively get aid to Hurricane Katrina victims. Later in the Bush Administration, Bost served as U.S. Ambassador to South Africa.
Earline Middleton has worked at the Food Bank of Central & Eastern North Carolina for over 30 years. She serves as the Vice President of Partner Services and Public Policy for the food bank. In her time there, she has engaged in food program outreach efforts, overseen food drives, and initiated programs to address hunger in the region. Earline has been a leader in the food bank and anti-hunger movement, and was honored by the Food Research & Action Center (FRAC) and Feeding America in 2020 at the National Anti-Hunger Policy Conference for her decades of work to improve and strengthen the federal food programs and her leadership on diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives.
Senator Raphael Warnock
Newly elected Senator Raphael Warnock (D-GA) was elected in a highly contested runoff race in Georgia in January. He serves on the Senate Committee on Agriculture. He was previously the Senior Pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia, where Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. was the pastor. Warnock has advocated for the expansion of health care coverage and adequate wages, and has volunteered at meal distribution events in Georgia. At a meal distribution event in November 2020, he said, “Today, we feed the hungry and the homeless. Tomorrow we ask the hard questions about why people are hungry and homeless in the wealthiest nation in the world.”
Kofi Essel, M.D. MPH, FAAP
Kofi D. Essel, MD, MPH, FAAP, is a board-certified community pediatrician at Children’s National Hospital in Washington, D.C., an assistant professor of pediatrics, the director of The George Washington University School of Medicine & Health Sciences’ Community/Urban Health Scholarly Concentration, and a clinical public health lecturer. Dr. Essel has dedicated his career to advocacy and research around health care training, health disparities, and community engagement, with a special interest and national recognition in the areas of addressing obesity and food insecurity in families. He also completed an internship at D.C. Hunger Solutions, an initiative of FRAC. Dr. Essel is now on FRAC’s board, and is one of the authors of Screen and Intervene: A Toolkit for Pediatricians to Address Food Insecurity, a recently updated toolkit for pediatricians released by the American Academy of Pediatrics and FRAC.
California State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond is an educator and social worker who has served in elected office at the state and city levels. Public assistance programs and public education were his pathway out of poverty. In 2016 then-Assemblymember Thurmond told hunger advocates about shame and stigma he felt as a supplemental nutrition program aid recipient but that he knew he was not alone and that the benefits are important for so many. He has been supportive of expanding stigma-free access to school lunch and helped maximize P-EBT and grab-and-go meal participation. As a legislator, he championed important SNAP provisions to ensure due process for applicants. As Assembly Budget Committee Sub-Chair, he passed the budget compromise to end the discriminatory TANF family cap and coined the quote “welfare queen myth rule,” which referred to the rule’s anti-black origins.
Congresswoman Gwen Moore was elected to represent the 4th Congressional district in Wisconsin in 2004. She has long been a strong voice in Congress calling for treating low income people with dignity and joining in the fight to end hunger, often drawing on her lived experience. In 2020, Moore joined with 8 colleagues with lived experience with SNAP to send a letter to President Trump opposing program cuts. Year after year, she has also led efforts to increase school breakfast participation, championing school breakfast grants to support access. Prior to serving in Congress, she was a state legislator. She chaired the National Black Caucus of State Legislators’ Human Services Committee and provided leadership for the group’s effective federal advocacy that helped secure important policy improvements to food stamps in the 2002 Farm Bill.