Center for Hunger-Free Communities

The Network Project Assistant

 

Project Goal: The goals of the Network are to help families reach self-sufficiency, as well as, development of a model for TANF that truly leverages families out of poverty. Through the completion of the evaluation the fellow will complete, we expect to inform national advocacy groups and Congress of our results as they plan for TANF reauthorization, and/or revisit “welfare reform.” The long-term goal is to provide a dissemination mechanism so that this model can be adopted across the country in multiple state TANF programs. Evaluation of the pilot program is an essential step in our overall goal.

 

Agency Information

Website www.centerforhungerfreecommunities.org    

Agency Mission
The mission of the Center for Hunger-Free Communities is to develop innovative, empirically-tested solutions to the challenges of hunger and economic insecurity.

Address  3600 Market Street, 7th Floor
Philadelphia, PA

Total number of Agency Staff Members  16

Agency Budget   $1,200,000

 

Job Description

The fellow’s duties and responsibilities:

  1. Help develop a program evaluation plan for pilot groups
    • Research different program evaluation tools and practices and make recommendations
    • Help to design forms and data collection methods to obtain feedback from past and current participants
    • Implement tools to measure any effect and impact of program classes, matched savings and social service referrals.
    • Assist with implementation and summarizing focus groups meetings
    • Collect participant’s data from in-person interviews, focus groups, progress notes in our database, and consolidating class surveys
  2. Assist with program expansion
    • Gather participants’ data from our database to facilitate participants sharing their experiences, ideas, and feedback.
    • Conduct in-person and phone interviews with previous program participants to obtain updates on their lives.
    • Write summaries of program impact incorporating participant feedback
    • Present project purpose, goals, outcomes at neighborhood community meetings and partner agencies.
  3. Build an effective Advisory Committee
    • Help to develop a purpose and scope for the Advisory Committee.
    • Assist in recruitment of potential members.
    • Prepare Advisors for their role and the work of the committee.
    • Overall help empower the committee to create clear scope of work and committee goals.

Skills/qualifications a fellow should have to succeed in the position:

  • The fellow should be a dynamic and enthusiastic individual who is committed to ending poverty and hunger in the US.
  • The Center employs the Sanctuary Model in its implementation of programs. The Sanctuary Model is an evidence‐supported, trauma‐informed practice designed to facilitate the development of structures, processes, and behaviors on the part of staff, clients and the community‐as‐a‐whole that can respond to the wounds of traumatic experiences and extended exposure to adversity of program participants. This person should have some knowledge and/or interest in learning about this organizational culture model.  In addition, the Fellow should possess the following background and skillset.
  • Bachelor’s degree is required.
  • Experience working with low-income community members and adults with limited education and/or low literacy
  • Knowledge of program evaluation and qualitative data collection
  • Comfortable with presenting, public speaking and conducting one-on-one and group interviews
  • Strong analytical, writing and organizational skills
  • Ability to communicate clearly and effectively to a wide array of audiences
  • Comfortable conducting online research on various research methods, academic journals, and other related topics
  • Strong customer service and interpersonal skills
  • Proficient skills in Microsoft Office, specifically Word, PowerPoint, Outlook, and Excel
  • Strong decision-making skills and attention to detail
  • Ability to multi-task and prioritize in a fast-paced work environment
  • Emotional intelligence and knowledge of or  interest in the Sanctuary Model
  • Comfortable co-creating interacting with various departments as well as communicating with mid- to senior-level executives at partner organizations
  • Experience and/or interest in hunger and poverty issues in the US
  • Some experience with academic research, preferred but not required
  • Flexibility and willingness to adapt role as needed
  • Willing to create a fun, happy, and safe work environment for all

 

Community Need

Specific community need that the Philly Fellow will address:
While SNAP and WIC benefits are associated with improvements in depressive symptoms, hospitalization rates, and child development, our Children’s HealthWatch research shows that  TANF’s strict work requirements and administrative barriers can exacerbate poor health and increase rates of child hunger. Despite its emphasis on work participation, TANF has not been shown to effectively move families out of poverty, resulting in an even greater burden for families who are experiencing hardship in terms of the food, housing, and energy insecurity that cause poor health. Through our participatory research, Witnesses to Hunger, we have learned that TANF policies discourage savings and participation in conventional banking—both of which are known to improve economic mobility and health and wellbeing. Low-income families have few formal opportunities to gain financial literacy, possess poor or no credit history, few or no assets, and generally are unbanked or under-banked. Consequently, in order to supplement meager income, families resort to earning income and spending money through the informal economy. This is a network in which they are paying higher fees for check cashing, paying bills, and running small businesses. Our research shows that they may hide these actions from public welfare case managers for fear of losing existing income supports, and thus are unable to take advantage of business and banking resources that may be available to them. The TANF system currently creates a disincentive to save and build assets, and tends to utilize punitive, individualistic approaches to work requirements that are reported to isolate and degrade mothers of young children. Since 2004, the Center has investigated the maternal and child health impacts of public assistance participation. Most of our quantitative research through Children’s HealthWatch has investigated the child health impacts of food insecurity, energy insecurity, and housing insecurity.

1) We have also demonstrated how public assistance programs can help promote health and wellbeing.

2) Our qualitative, participatory action research with Witnesses to Hunger also provides evidence that the safety net can promote maternal and child health. However, the women also insist that researchers pay attention to two interrelated issues that are rarely seen in the same intervention: economic mobility and exposure to violence.

3) What brings both issues together is a focus on financial, social and human capital. Researchers have found that economic mobility is not possible only with income, good networks, or good health. It is a composite mixture of all three domains together. For this reason, our intervention focuses on all three.

4) This demonstration brings together four previously disparate areas associated with poverty alleviation: (1) asset building through matched savings (financial capital); (2) peer group support (social capital); (3) financial literacy (financial capital); and (4) trauma-informed practice (human capital). These areas have never before been provided in a single intervention within the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) structure, nor as a maternal-child health intervention. The innovation of this demonstration demands strong and thoughtful development of a plan for evaluation which will be the Fellows main focus.

1. Frank DA, Casey PH, Black MM, et al. Cumulative hardship and wellness of low-income, young children: multisite surveillance study. Pediatrics. May 2010;125(5):e1115-1123.  2. Frank DA, Chilton M, Casey PH, et al. Nutritional-assistance programs play a critical role in reducing food insecurity. Pediatrics. May 2010;125(5):e1267; author reply e1267-1268.   3. Chilton M, Rabinowich J, Woolf N. Very low food security in the USA is linked with exposure to violence. Public Health Nutr. Feb 22 2013:1-10.   4. Butler S, Beach W, Winfree P. Pathways to Economic Mobility: Key Indicators2008. Located at: Economic Mobility Project: An Initiative of the Pew Charitable Trusts, Washington, D.C.

 

How the agency addresses this need, and how the new capacity created by this fellow will help alleviate the problem:
The program is based on theoretical, practical and empirical evidence that economic security built through income, public assistance, assets, and strong social networks improves the health of low-income families, having a profound two-generation effect.  The evaluation the Fellow will focus on will help demonstrate our impact on these areas.  The program aims to increase low-income parent and caregivers’ self-sufficiency by improving financial, social, and human capital as follows:

a) Financial capital: helping women and men achieve economic independence. Many low-income families have low financial literacy, poor or no credit history, few or no assets, and are unbanked (having no checking or savings account) or under-banked (having a bank account, but still primarily relying on alternative financial services such as check cashing locales and money orders). Through financial literacy classes and matched savings accounts, the demonstration project will improve participants’ economic security and financial capital.

b) Social capital: facilitating ways in which parents and caregivers can use social support and community connections to support their employment, education, business and leadership skills. Through trauma-informed peer support groups, the demonstration seeks to remedy isolation, and build soft skills essential for career development.

c) Human capital: addressing the challenges of poor mental health, poor child health and development, and exposure to violence.   Human capital refers to individual attributes such as health and education that shape a person’s ability to find and maintain employment, and to earn adequate income. In the Center’s qualitative and quantitative food insecurity research and in other studies, mental health problems, anxiety, suicidal ideation, post-traumatic stress disorder, and social isolation have all been associated with very low food security. Drawing on skills gained through financial literacy classes, matched savings and peer support, we hope our program will increase self-efficacy, reduced depressive symptoms, and improve parental assessment of child development among participants. These skills will also help improve their work readiness and employability.

 

The organization’s experience operating anti-poverty programming of this nature:
Since its inception in 2004, the Center for Hunger-Free Communities has focused on addressing child hunger through research, advocacy, and direct care. Through research with Children’s HealthWatch, the Center became nationally recognized for its expertise in child food insecurity.   In 2008, the Center added the participatory research project, Witnesses to Hunger, to ensure that low-income mothers are included in the national dialogue on hunger and poverty.  The project quickly drew attention from major media outlets and Congressional leaders.  Senator Bob Casey, Jr. from Pennsylvania invited Witnesses to Hunger to display their photo exhibit in Washington, D.C. and hosted their traveling exhibit across Pennsylvania in 2010.  Later that year, Witnesses to Hunger was featured in an influential Philadelphia Inquirer series titled “A Portrait of Hunger” (additional articles from the series archived in In the News in October 2010, November 2010, and December 2010).  Since adopting its new name in January 2011, the Center continues to carve out an important and influential space in the national anti-hunger arena.  The most recent project of the Center is The EAT (Everyone At the Table) Café.  The Café is collaboration between Drexel University, Vetri Family, and the West Philadelphia community. The Café aims to provide a welcoming space where all community members can share a two-three course, high quality meal regardless of income or ability to pay. The EAT Café is scheduled to open early 2016.  It will address food insecurity in the most basic sense by providing families and individuals experiencing hunger with a safe space to have a healthy meal in a nurturing, supportive environment.

 

Fellowship Logistics

 

Fellow orientation plan:
Day 1:   Tour of the office floor with brief staff introductions, and set up of phone, computer, and email with IT. Sit in on a Network class in session. Participate in a meeting with supervisor (Program Manager) to discuss experience and learning goals. At this time, the Fellow will be given reading material to become acquainted with the program. Reading materials include grant proposals, our self-assessment of the first pilot group, program 15-week curriculum, and SELF curriculum from the Sanctuary Model ™.

Day 2:   Fellow will receive information on certifications that must be completed. This includes the completion of our Institutional Review Board (IRB) online training which will allow the fellow to work with participants in the research study.

Day 3: Fellow will participate in scheduled 30-minute meetings with each Center staff member from Center Director to our co-op students. The purpose of these meetings are to get a better understanding of their new colleagues, the role they play in the center and how that role may interact with the Fellow.  Gain access online files and documents and our database.

Day 4: One-on-one meeting with supervisor for question and answer discuss on the reading material provided, feedback from fellow on first week, one-on-one meetings, and certifications.   At this meeting the fellow and supervisor will review goals for the first 3-months.

*The Fellow will also participate in the following weekly activities of the Center during their orientation week: Staff meeting, Program team meeting, Sanctuary gathering (30 minute to 1-hour check-in with the entire Center staff to discuss any stressors of the work week and lend support) and Community Lunch (once a week we make sure not to eat lunch at our desks and gather in the lunchroom to eat lunch together).

 

Name and title of the fellow’s immediate supervisor:
Nijah Newton-Famous, Program Manager

 

Plans for supervision of the fellow:
The supervisor will meet with the fellow weekly for the first 3-months, then meetings may reduce to bi-weekly or monthly as determined by both the supervisor and fellow.  For supervision meetings, both the fellow and supervisor collaborate to set the meeting agenda. These meetings run on average 1-hour.

 

Will fellow be working at the same address listed above?
Yes

 

Will the fellow have their own…             

Office?  Fellow will not be provided with            Desk?  Fellow will share  Computer?  Fellow will share

 

The approximate percentage of time the fellow will work…

Independently  45  

As a team member in a group setting  35

As a team leader in a group setting  20

 

Will the fellow be expected to travel as part of the position?  Yes

If so, how often and where?   In order to lead the outreach initiatives to help establish our Advisory Committee, Fellow will need to travel to attend community stakeholder meetings and introduction meetings within other organizations within Philadelphia County approximately 4 times a month.

 

Will the fellow need the following to carry out the position…

A driver’s license?  No

Their own car?   No