Black History Month: Celebrating black leaders championing nutrition

February 1, 2019

By Marlysa D. Gamblin

Black History Month is a time to celebrate the contributions of Black people across a variety of areas, and that includes individuals who’ve made significant contributions to fighting hunger.

This year, Bread for the World is honoring the work of Black leaders championing nutrition assistance. One of these is Rev. Jennifer Bailey, a Bread member in Greater Nashville, Tennessee, who assists members of her community to gain access to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). As founder and executive director of Faith Matters Network, Bailey engages with faith leaders to challenge structural inequities in their communities, especially root causes that perpetuate malnutrition and hunger.

Other leaders are part of national and global nutrition networks assisting Black communities. The National Organization of Blacks in Dietetics and Nutrition over the last 50 years has championed best practices and policies to ensure racially equitable access to healthy food. The African American Breastfeeding Network was establish established in 2008 to provide racially sensitive breastfeeding supportive tools and community supports to strengthen nutrition outcomes for African American women, infant, and children. The African Union, a network of 55 African countries established in 2002, recently developed the Africa Regional Nutrition Strategy that outlines how to address malnutrition.

As countless studies show, nutrition is a critical determinant of our ability to survive and thrive. And while it often gets less attention, improving access to nutrient-rich foods is inseparable from the goal of ending hunger. Poor nutrition is harmful to children’s physical and cognitive development, and is a predictor of chronic illness in adulthood, leading to higher rates of depression, high blood pressure, and diabetes among other conditions. All of these put people at greater risk of hunger.

Limited access to nutritious food is common in U.S. communities that experience structural and institutional racism—making the commitment of Black leaders to improve access and simultaneously address the root cause of racism a superb reason to celebrate their contributions.

Honoring Black leaders who have championed nutrition in the United States is especially relevant this year, as we observe the Quad-Centennial—the 400-year anniversary marking the arrival of enslaved Angolans who were taken to Jamestown, Virginia. The anniversary allows us to honor the resilience Black communities while acknowledging how the practice of enslaving them led to the policy of slavery in Virginia and later on the federal level.  

Slavery led to later policies and practices that, to this day, are rooted in racism. Equitable access to nutritious foods is a critical component of ending hunger in communities that were directly affected by the history of slavery.

Please join Bread in thanking these leaders and networks for being on the frontline on issues that so deeply impact our ability to end hunger by 2030.

Marlysa D. Gamblin is domestic advisor for policies and programs for specific populations at Bread for the World Institute.

Limited access to nutritious food is common in U.S. communities that experience structural and institutional racism.

from our Resource Library

For Education

  • Election Resources

    One of the best times to raise the issues of hunger and poverty is during election campaigns. Engage candidates in your state/district on hunger and poverty using our elections resources.
  • U.S. Hunger and Poverty State Fact Sheets

    These fact sheets provide a snapshot of hunger and poverty in the United States and in each state plus Washington, D.C. 

  • Conflict and Fragility Are Hunger Issues

    Conflict is a main driver of the recent increase in hunger around the world and of forced migration. Hunger also contributes to conflict.

For Faith

  • The Bible on Health as a Hunger Issue

    “As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him and established in faith.” These words from Colossians 2:6 remind us of the faith that is active in love for our neighbors.

    The Bible on...

  • Unity Declaration on Racism and Poverty

    A diverse body of Christian leaders calls on the churches and Congress to focus on the integral connection.

    Dear Members of Congress,

    As the president and Congress are preparing their plans for this year, almost 100 church leaders—from all the families of U.S. Christianity—are...

  • In Times Like These … A Pan-African Christian Devotional for Public Policy Engagement

    This devotional guide invites deepened relationship with and among Pan-Af­rican people and elected leaders in the mission to end hunger and poverty.

For Advocacy


African at Heart

November 22, 2019


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