Food Security

Conversations on Food Justice, Session 10: Race, Poverty, and the Barriers to Accessing Social Benefit Programs

March 9, 2022  • Food and Society Program & Conversations on Food Justice

View Summary Action Report

Throughout our nation’s history, race and welfare have been linked in public discourse, with perceptions of race and poverty shaping who gets to benefit from social and economic policy and who gets left behind. In this session, we will examine the history of social welfare programs in the United States and explore how institutionalized racism and stereotyping of marginalized communities has shaped public policy and economic opportunity for communities of color. We’ll also explore how better investments in our social and economic opportunity programs can advance racial justice and create thriving, equitable communities. 

Session Goals

To explore how racism has shaped economic and social policy in the United States—from housing policy, to the Trump Era public charge rule, to the exclusion of returning citizens. 

To unpack how systemic racism and stereotyping inform the way we think about the social safety net in the U.S., and to challenge assumptions about who uses these vital programs and why

To put forward solutions that create economic opportunity for all communities. 

Meet Our Panelists

Parker Gilkesson is a senior policy analyst with CLASP’s Income and Work Supports team. She specializes in work support programs for people with low incomes and focuses on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Parker is a subject matter expert in social policy, benefit eligibility, human services delivery, racial equity, community partnership, and state and local policy regarding SNAP, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), and Medicaid.

Yolanda M. Gordon started her advocacy journey in the disability advocacy arena after her younger children were diagnosed on the Autism Spectrum. She learned how to advocate for her children’s educational needs. Yolanda is a former safety net program recipient. She currently works at RESULTS Educational Fund as the Manager of Expansion and Advocacy. Her role includes being the coordinator for the RESULTS Organizing and Advocacy Fellowship which teaches young leaders, ages 20-35, how to speak to their members of Congress about ending poverty, making tax credits permanent, investment in global education, global nutrition, and affordable housing.

Gabriel R. Sanchez, Ph.D., is a David M. Rubenstein Fellow in Governance Studies at The Brookings Institution. He also serves as a Professor of Political Science and the Founding Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Endowed Chair in Health Policy at the University of New Mexico. Dr. Sanchez is also the Director of the UNM Center for Social Policy, and a founding member of the UNM Native American Budget and Policy Institute

Moderated by Alexis Fernández Garcia is Senior Director of Social Safety Net and is responsible for leading Code for America’s social safety net portfolio. Previously, Alexis was the CalFresh and Nutrition Branch Chief at the California Department of Social Services where she was responsible for the largest SNAP program in the country and led several initiatives to improve program access, streamline benefit delivery, expand work opportunities, and increase CalFresh participation.