Children’s HealthWatch Champion
The Children’s HealthWatch Champion is an annual award given to a champion who advocates for evidence-based policies that help children thrive. We commend and are grateful to the following honorees for their work in upholding the health and well-being of children and families through courage, tenacity and compassion.
CONGRESSWOMAN AYANNA PRESSLEY, U.S. House of Representatives, Massachusetts 7th District
Recipient of the 2020 Children’s HealthWatch Champion Award
The recipient of the 2020 Children’s HealthWatch Champion Award, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley embodies its spirit with her passion for supporting the well-being of children and families through the advancement of evidence-based policies that respond to the harsh realities of hunger, homelessness, and poverty among families in Massachusetts and across the nation.
Congresswoman Pressley has been a stalwart supporter of legislation and policies that lift children and families economically and that dismantle the racism and discrimination embedded in the many institutions that are supposed to help, not hurt, constituents. These policies are even more critical today as families across the country, particularly communities of color, feel the repercussions of an economic crisis precipitated by the COVID-19 pandemic. We share her dedication to robust and informed policies that speak to the intersectionality of her district’s lived experiences – creating environments where all can be healthy and thrive. This focus underscores everything that she does on behalf of countless children and families, and we are so grateful for her commitment to holding us all accountable and ensuring that every choice is an equitable choice, lifting up communities who have so much to give to those around them and the nation at large.
Born in Cincinnati and raised in Chicago, Congresswoman Pressley is the only child of Sandra Pressley, a tenants’ rights organizer who instilled in her the value of civic engagement. She moved to Boston in 1992 to attend Boston University. Working as an aide to Congressman Joseph P. Kennedy II and later Senator John Kerry, her professional life mirrored her commitment to service and lifting the voices of those in her community. In 2009, Congresswoman Pressley launched a historic at-large campaign for Boston City Council and won, becoming the first woman of color elected to the Council in its 100-year history. On the Council, she worked in partnership with residents, advocates, and other elected officials to combat the inequities and disparities facing the community. This is where Children’s HealthWatch got to know her – working with her to highlight the child health impact of food insecurity and housing instability.
Congresswoman Pressley made history again in November 2018 when she was elected to represent Massachusetts’ 7th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives, making her the first woman of color to be elected to Congress from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. She re-elected in 2020. During her tenure, she has introduced legislation–very much aligned with this year’s theme—to help families reach financial stability and decrease the racial wealth gap, such as the STRONG Support for Children Act, Anti-Racism in Public Health Act, American Opportunity Accounts Act, Comprehensive CREDIT Act and Building Our Opportunities to Survive and Thrive, or BOOST, among others.
Congresswoman Pressley believes that policy backed by evidence helps children and families do more than just survive but to thrive. We are immensely grateful for her tireless advocacy and commitment not only to her constituents in the Massachusetts 7th district, but everyone who seeks a better and brighter future for themselves and their loved ones.
DIANE YENTEL, President & CEO, National Low Income Housing Coalition
Recipient of the 2019 Children’s HealthWatch Champion Award
Diane Yentel is the recipient of 2019 Children’s HealthWatch Champion Award, and the President and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC), a membership organization dedicated solely to achieving socially just public policy that ensures people with the lowest incomes in the United States have affordable and decent homes. She is a veteran affordable housing policy expert with nearly two decades of work on affordable housing and community development.
Her steadfast commitment to shining a light on the need for safe and affordable housing for the lowest income people in our country and the impacts of housing instability has on the health of our nation’s children and their families, and her contributions to housing research and social policy that illuminate the challenges that many, especially families living in poverty, contend with daily, are among the many reasons we selected her as a Champion.
Diane has been a leader in highlighting how poverty and housing instability make for a perfect storm of harm in many communities, particularly those of color; advocating for housing that is affordable for the lowest income people in our country; and providing up to date research on the state of housing affordability nationwide and the effects of policies and current trends on housing stability. Through her stewardship of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, she has lifted up the stories of millions who struggle to afford a quality home for themselves and their loved ones, often at the expense of other pressing and equally important needs, such as food, utilities, medicine and childcare.
Before rejoining NLIHC (where she previously worked as a policy analyst), Diane was Vice President of Public Policy and Government Affairs at Enterprise Community Partners, where she led federal, state and local policy, research and advocacy programs. Prior to Enterprise, Diane was the director of the Public Housing Management and Occupancy Division at the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), where she managed a team overseeing the development and implementation of nationwide public housing policies, procedures, and guidelines. She also worked to advance affordable housing policies with Oxfam America and the Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless and served for 3 years as a community development Peace Corps volunteer in Zambia.
As a longtime partner of Children’s HealthWatch in the housing advocacy space, she deeply values the importance of data and research in spurring change and has seen firsthand how our research conveys how negatively unstable housing, hunger and the inability to pay utility bills can affect young children’s health and development and our families’ well-being. NLIHC has utilized our research as we worked with them and our other partners, the National Alliance to End Homelessness and the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities to create, launch and lead the Opportunity Starts at Home campaign, a long-term, multi-sector campaign to meet the rental housing needs of the nation’s lowest-income people. Diane is frequently quoted in major media outlets, and has testified multiple times before Congress. She has a Masters in Social Work from the University of Texas at Austin.
CONGRESSMAN JAMES P. MCGOVERN, U.S. House of Representatives, Massachusetts 2nd District
Recipient of the 2018 Inaugural Children’s HealthWatch Champion Award
The 2018 inaugural recipient of the Children’s HealthWatch Champion Award, Congressman Jim McGovern, personifies the word ‘champion’ with his unwavering commitment to advancing evidence-based policies that respond to the harsh realities of hunger and food insecurity among people in Massachusetts and across the nation. He has been a leader in so many ways – from issues affecting human rights to immigrant communities and tax policy. We are so grateful for his resolve to end hunger –– never losing sight of the facts and evidence and the ways in which their opportunities for healthy, productive lives are impacted by his colleagues’ and his decisions about SNAP and other nutrition programs.
Congressman McGovern was elected to the House of Representatives in 1996, and through his work in Washington and at home in Massachusetts, he has been a voice for the most vulnerable and a strong advocate for working families. In 2001, he was appointed to a seat on the powerful House C Rules Committee, “the traffic cop of Congress” which sets the terms for debate on most legislation.
During his time in Congress, his top priority has always been his constituents back home. He has been an advocate for making college more affordable, and authored a bill to increase Pell Grant funding. To protect open space for future generations to enjoy and enhance recreational community spaces in urban and suburban neighborhoods, Jim successfully fought to defend the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which provides grants to preserve open space.
One of Congressman McGovern’s greatest passions is ending hunger at home and abroad. He is the founder and co-chair of the House Hunger Caucus and Ranking Member on the House Subcommittee on Nutrition, where he advocates tirelessly for funding programs that help working families, children, and the elderly put food on the table when times are tough. He also authored the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program to provide school-based meals for millions of children in some of the world’s poorest countries.
Congressman McGovern’s work on behalf of Massachusetts and the nation has a proven record of success and he is proud to represent Massachusetts’ Second Congressional District in Washington, D.C.