Tuesday, March 08, 2022

In the March 8th, 2022 installment of the Food Justice Series, the panel discussed the history of social welfare programs in the United States and explored how institutionalized racism and stereotyping of marginalized communities have shaped public policy and economic opportunity for communities of color.

The conversation also explored how better investments in our social and economic opportunity programs can advance racial justice and create thriving, equitable communities.

Studies show that social safety net programs help reduce poverty for Americans. Yet social safety net programs are rooted in racial bias. As far back as the Social Security Act of 1935 many Black Americans could not benefit from this program due to discrimination in employment.

As panelist Parker Gilkesson discussed, “Untrue stereotypes have continued to set the tone for harmful myths that contributed to the deliberate exclusion of Black people from the New Deal era policies, which have created the modern benefits programs today.” We need to start considering how these counterproductive policies deter ownership and economic mobility. Systemic racism and the challenges of people accessing benefits, such as concerns around immigration, or a lack of a streamlined way of enrolling in benefits, deters people from receiving the support, only perpetuating poverty.

COVID-19 has been a time of rapid innovation in the social safety net program. The Families First Coronavirus Response Act and the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act provided economic relief to millions of families. While these acts were not perfect, they did aid families and exposed the lack of social support in the US. We need to continue to advocate for these support systems, so we do not unlearn the need to modernize.


  • Parker Gilkesson Senior Policy Analyst, Center for Law and Social Policy, Inc.

    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. She has been quoted in TIME Magazine, New York Times, National Public Radio, The Hill, and many more.

  • Yolanda M. Gordon Manager of Expansion and Advocacy, RESULTS Educational Fund

    Yolanda M. Gordon is the mother of three children. Yolanda 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. She is also a leader with her work on anti-oppression, intersectionality, and poverty, and its effects on individuals and families. She has used her experience to lobby Congressional leaders of South Carolina on the needs of families in the state to ensure that their voices are heard. Yolanda is a Moth Trained storyteller, TEDx speaker, and has spoken at many conferences from Missouri State University to George Washington University. She currently lives in Fort Mill, South Carolina.

  • Gabriel R. Sanchez Professor, University of New Mexico

    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 Rober Wood Johnson Foundation Endowed Chair in Health Policy at the University of New Mexico. Dr. Danchez is also the director of the UNM Center for Social Policy, and a founding member of the UNM Native American Budget and Policy Institute. Sanchez is also a Principal at Latino Decisions, the nation’s leading survey firm focused on the Latino electorate. A leading expert on Latino and New Mexico politics and policy, he regularly provides commentary to several state, national, and international media outlets including the New York Times, CNN, Los Angeles Times, and The Economist. Professor Sanchez is a nationally recognized expert in survey research and the utilization of rigorous research to inform public policy decisions at the federal, state, and local levels. Dr. Sanchez is leading several research projects focused on the impact of COVID-19 on the Latino and Native American communities, including multiple surveys of parents aimed at understanding how the pandemic is impacting their financial security, including food insecurity. Sanchez has published more than sixty scholarly articles, chapters, and books focused on minority public opinion, electoral behavior, and racial and ethnic politics in the United States. He is the co-author of the recent book Latinos and the 2016 Election: Latino Resistance and the Election of Donald Trump, and co-author of the leading textbook of Latino politics (with John A. Garcia) Latino Politics in America: Community, Culture, and Interests.

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