Elevating Lives 2017: Hunger, It’s a Woman’s Issue

Hunger Panel Blog Graphic

Thursday, November 2, 2017, YW Boston hosted the 2017 Elevating Lives event “Hunger, It’s a Women’s Issue” at The Boston Foundation. Focused on the intersection of gender, poverty, and food scarcity, this panel investigated how hunger disproportionately affects women and how to combat this issue. YW Boston was honored to host five expert speakers, each of whom works to combat hunger in Boston:

  • Andrea Silbert, Eos Foundation, Moderator
  • Judy Bigby, MD, Health Policy Expert
  • Ann Bookman, PhD, Director, Center for Women in Politics and Public Policy
  • Deborah Frank, MD, Founder and Principal Investigator, Children’s HealthWatch
  • Monica Valdes Lupi, JD MPH, Executive Director of the Boston Public Health Commission

Following introductions by Beth Chandler, YW Boston’s Interim CEO, Kemarah Sika, YW Boston’s Health & Wellness Manager, and Andrea Silbert, each panelist spoke about how hunger intersects with their personal expertise. Judy Bigby spoke about how hunger affects all aspects of a woman’s day to day life, explaining that “African American women report hunger of the body and hunger of the mind…hunger is a manifestation of violence in their communities and has the same traumatic effect that physical violence has.”

Ann Bookman, who focuses on women’s issues, work-family integration, women’s leadership and community engagement, spoke on food insecurity for low-income elders, and Deborah Frank, who works most closely to combat childhood hunger, made it clear that the effects of hunger are experienced by people of all ages, but that it disproportionately affects the oldest and youngest in our society. As Deborah Frank explained, “A student may go to school hungry and not be able to focus and miss the lesson ‘2+2’. In a few days their SNAP benefits go through, but by that time the class is learning ‘8×8’,” illustrating the long-term educational effects of hunger. Ann Bookman reminded the audience to listen to those who have faced hunger, stating that “While we want to argue for all the public policies, we need to look for the creative solutions that come from the women themselves,” a sentiment that many of the other women echoed.

Lastly, Monica Valdes Lupi spoke about how food security is key to building strong communities and achieving social equity. As she explained, “It’s becoming very hard for our residents to find transportation to get affordable healthy food,” and therefore healthy food initiatives must be community-based. After each expert spoke, Andrea led a panel which looked toward solutions, and answered audience questions on topics such as food barriers for undocumented individuals and those with disabilities. Andrea sums up the morning with an important reminder for everyone working to hunger: “We need significant but sustainable change; sustainable is key.”

YW Boston focuses on women’s health and well-being in a variety of ways, including the Women’s Health and Wellness and Girls’ Health programs and an advocacy initiative focused on paid family leave. We are glad to have brought these experts together to speak specifically about how hunger is a women’s issue.

Here are three things you can do right now to address hunger in Boston:
  1. Call Aging Services Access Points and ask why hunger is a hidden problem for aging populations.
  2. Advocate for legislature that directly impacts hunger via the Rise & Shine Coalition
  3. Support YW Boston’s Women’s Health and Wellness initiatives.

Check out photos from the event:

Listen to the full program on Soundcloud

& stay tuned on social media for video segments featuring individual panelist slide decks.


Thank you to our speakers, and to everyone who joined us!