Erica McCoy: An Emerson Hunger Fellow Brings Experience, Passion to Racial Equity Work at the Alliance

April 4, 2018

Erica McCoy, Emerson Hunger Fellow, Alliance to End Hunger

The Alliance to End Hunger is dedicated to building the public and political will to end hunger. In order to do this, the Alliance works in coalition with a diverse group of national and international organizations as well as foundations, corporations and universities. The members of the Alliance inform the projects that are taken on and the overall focus of the organization. A main focal point of the Alliance’s work is advocacy as it is a key component for building public and political will. Through their advocacy efforts the Alliance has taken on projects to look at the root causes of hunger. In particular, looking at hunger as it relates to international and domestic health, national security, agriculture and race. Their mission, structure and focus on root-cause issues is what sparked my interest to work here.

I spent my childhood in California, but moved to Mississippi at the age of 12 and stayed until going to college at Stanford University. Throughout these formative years I witnessed racial inequities in many different forms and even experienced them myself as a mixed woman of color. However, I did not necessarily see how these moments were connected to an overall picture of injustices. As I began to study sustainable food and agriculture in college this big picture was slowly illustrated for me. I could see links between different systemic problems and their effect on people especially people of low income and/or color. For example, lack of access to affordable housing and transportation can affect someone’s ability to access healthy food because they might not be able to afford to purchase healthy foods such as vegetables, or they may lack the transportation to get to a grocery store and they live in a food dessert. Having a macro view of the world also helped me to see how my own lived experiences with poverty and hunger fit into the big picture. These revelations ignited my passion for issues surrounding food systems including sustainability, food justice and hunger. Therefore, as I was looking for post-college jobs, I sought out opportunities that would allow me to fuel my passions and I found the Emerson National Hunger Fellowship. The fellowship aims to build future leaders in the anti-hunger and anti-poverty movements with a focus on racial equity as well as social justice. Additionally, the goal is to bridge national policy with grassroots work. For me this program felt like the natural progression after graduating with a bachelor’s of science degree in earth systems concentrating in sustainable food and agriculture as well as a minor in art practice.

The Alliance began the Hunger is a Racial Equity Issues project with the help of another Emerson National Hunger Fellow, Margot Nitschke. This collaboration resulted in a background paper co-authored with Bread for the World Institute as well as two fact sheets; one for anti-hunger organizations and another for advocating with legislators. Additionally, the Alliance held webinars to dive further into the topic and created a racial equity learning group. People of color within the United State are disproportionally affected by hunger and the Hunger is a Racial Equity project supports this claim through data as well as analysis of U.S. policy. The project is illuminating the connection between hunger and racial inequities within the U.S. and encouraging members to see the need to use an equity lens in their work. As a continued commitment to racial equity as it relates to hunger, the Alliance decided to bring me on to further the project. I will be creating a racial equity toolkit for members of The Alliance to End Hunger to implement within their organizations as well as support the project through additional webinars and/or fact sheets. I believe in this project and look forward to supporting the Alliance and their members on this journey.