Jamaica Plain resident Concetta Paul is one of the inaugural members Project Bread’s new Council of Experts with Lived Experience, which is designed to engage people who have experiences with food insecurity in conversations to shape the resources and policies that directly impact them.
Project Bread is a leading statewide food security organization, and Paul will be part of the 8-person council who will bring their expertise and co-create programs and policies that make it easier for others living in Massachusetts to access and afford food with dignity, according to a press release.
“This experience on the council will help me learn more about legislative priorities and programs that regulate and affect food security,” said Paul via press release. “All of Project Bread's legislative priorities have influenced my life and continue to do so. Without the welcome social policies and programs in Massachusetts, my family could not have flourished. However, participating in these types of programs can carry a stigma, especially when affordability becomes an issue. Structural changes are important, and I’m ready for the opportunity to participate in local, state and national efforts to mitigate food insecurity as part of the inaugural cohort.”
Through the inaugural 10-month program, council members will work on strategy development, planning, and decision-making that will strengthen their leadership skills, build their expertise as a community leader and advocate, and provide significant value in co-creating impactful and effective solutions to food insecurity.
Paul knows first hand about food insecurity. When she arrived in Boston with just $20 and is grateful for the food and other assistance she received as a new immigrant. She first got involved in food equity advocacy after suffering a dislocated ankle in 2021. While not able to cook and had to be dependent on home delivered meals, she saw how easy it is to become food insecure. Paul also volunteers at a Boston food pantry.
Paul is a social advocate from issues ranging from voter participation, affordable housing, and food insecurity. She believes in the power of data to change outcomes, particularly when data is highlighted by personal stories.
She will be working closely with Project Bread’s Research & Evaluation team on various projects this year.
“We firmly believe that hunger can be resolved when we collectively share our strategies, and we work together towards solutions informed by the experiences of the people we aim to serve,” said Project Bread Vice President of Engagement Catalina López-Ospina, a Colombian immigrant who’s seen food insecurity in her own family. “Our vision is for Massachusetts to become the first hunger-free state in the nation. The Council of Experts will play a vital role in helping us to achieve our vision.”
The Council of Experts with Lived Experience was curated through a self-nomination system. Individuals who speak English, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Vietnamese, and Haitian Creole were encouraged to apply. Council members are serving from October 2023 through July 2024, and committed to 10 hours of engagement per month.