Women Combating Childhood Hunger in Chicago

When Laura Guerrero, a community health worker at RUSH University System for Health, stepped in to support a family during a medical emergency, the critical role of women in healthcare advocacy became evident.

A young boy, battling a serious congenital condition, was fighting for his life, struggling even to breathe. Guerrero advised the mother to rush her son to the hospital. She then accompanied them as they went to seek the medical attention they needed.

At the hospital, the situation worsened. Not fully grasping the boy's medical condition, staff mistakenly accused the mother of neglect. They claimed that the boy’s health was at risk due to poor care and nutrition.

But Guerrero didn't back down. She explained the family's situation to the hospital staff, including their recent arrival to the US. Her persistent advocacy cleared up the misunderstanding, securing the necessary care for the boy and access to food assistance for the whole family.

Guerrero's intervention not only saved a young life but also spotlighted a widespread crisis: childhood hunger. The reality is that 1 in 5 kids in the US live with hunger.

Nurse helping kids

Acknowledging the connection between healthcare and hunger, a school-based health center (SBHC) run by RUSH at Orr Academy and KIPP One in Chicago has teamed up with No Kid Hungry to offer an opportunity for change.

Offering comprehensive health and wellness services within schools, SBHCs received a boost in February 2022. Recognizing the opportunity these clinics provide to address hunger, No Kid Hungry, in partnership with the School-Based Health Alliance, launched the SBHC Food Security Learning Network. The initiative aims to integrate food access with healthcare and has supported over 5,000 kids and their households across 12 states over the course of the one-year grant period. 

At the heart of these efforts are women who have been leading the fight against childhood hunger throughout history. Initiatives dating back to the early 20th century continue to set the stage today. 

This Women’s History Month, we're spotlighting the leadership of Guerrero and other women, such as Kateri Evans, a nurse program manager, in the continued efforts in combating childhood hunger. Women's leadership is pivotal in such initiatives, offering diverse perspectives and solutions.

The compassion, resilience, and dedication of women in leadership roles challenge the status quo as we try to build a world where no child goes hungry. Specifically, the work of Guerrero and Evans within vulnerable communities has already impacted more than 1,000 kids. 

Family receiving meals

Guerrero goes beyond her duties to create meaningful connections with students and their families, many of whom face barriers due to their immigration status: 

"The only thing I say to them is, 'welcome here. This is your home now.,” she shared, talking about her approach of warmth and inclusivity towards them.

Evans leads a comprehensive health program addressing not just medical needs but also hunger. Advocating for holistic healthcare as a basic right, she affirmed “All of our school-based health center health services are free and available to all students.” Her strategic vision fosters services that heal and empower communities.

Their partnership with No Kid Hungry has been key in meeting families’ unique needs. Along with grant funding, the connection with the Network has given them a community where they can exchange ideas, best practices and an understanding of how to connect with SBHCs.

Despite obstacles like cost and stigma, the collaborative effort’s dedication to understanding community needs by getting families involved and using technology for efficient referrals to food assistance programs has marked significant strides in mitigating childhood hunger.

Guerrero is thankful for the donors’ support, saying, "I'm very, very grateful that donors have such a big heart because they are touching a lot of families and making a difference in their lives."

From healthcare to education and beyond, women have made significant impacts across various sectors. The leadership of Guerrero and Evans is a testament to this. Their achievements showcase the potential reached when women are in leadership positions, paving the way for equity and justice in every community.

As we celebrate their accomplishments, let's also recognize the ongoing need for support, training and resources to keep pushing this vital work forward. There is much still to be done.

Join us in this life-changing mission today. Your support can turn the tide against childhood hunger, lighting the way for communities to flourish. 

Together, let's embrace the spirit of compassion and innovation championed by Guerrero, Evans and countless other women to craft a future where ending hunger is not a hope, but a reality for every child.

Ways You Can Help:

 

Donate:1 dollar can help provide 10 meals for kids in need. Your support will help us fund meal programs all over the country and help us advocate for policies that will help kids get the meals they need.

Speak up for kids: 1 in 5 kids in the United States is affected by hunger. Tell your lawmaker to protect SNAP and other federal nutrition programs that feed kids.