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Witnesses to Hunger Exhibition Spotlights Plight of Poverty-Stricken Women in Philadelphia

December 10 2008

Forty women. Forty cameras. One purpose: to end child hunger. This is the theme of a powerful new project at the Drexel University School of Public Health that provided an opportunity for 40 mothers in Philadelphia living in poverty to show the dire circumstances they face each and every day.

The project is called “Witnesses to Hunger,” and the photographs from the women show a desolate collage of run-down homes, and kitchens in disrepair. They also show family life, beautiful children, and hope for a better future. An exhibit featuring the photographs by the Philadelphia women who are working to create better lives for their children opens December 11, 2008 from 6:30 pm – 8:30 pm, including a discussion at 7:15 pm, at Drexel University’s Bossone Center, 3128 Market Street, Philadelphia, PA.

The exhibit will be on display December 12 – 18, 2008 from 9:00 am – 5:00 pm on weekdays and 12:00 pm – 6:00 pm on Saturday and Sunday. The exhibition is free and open to the public.

The project was led by Dr. Mariana Chilton, a faculty member and anthropologist at the Drexel University School of Public Health. Chilton’s goal was to have the women tell their story directly to policymakers, and to show how the daily hurt of poverty and hunger in their lives impacts their children.

“These women are the real experts,” said Chilton. “They each have something to teach the world, and are not ashamed of what they have to say. They are fighting each day to provide for their children, and this was a way that we could give them a microphone to the world.”

The exhibition opening will feature comments from the women themselves. Dr. Don Schwarz, Deputy Mayor for Health and Opportunity, City of Philadelphia, and Estelle Richman, Secretary, Department of Public Welfare, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, are expected to attend the exhibit’s opening to comment and listen to the women. Deborah Weinstein of the Washington, D.C.-based Coalition on Human Needs is also expected to make remarks at the opening. In addition, the evening includes an opportunity for guests to have a dialogue with the women who participated in the study.

Chilton also directs The Philadelphia GROW Project, which is a hunger and nutrition program for babies and toddlers. Directed by the School of Public Health, the project is a participant in a national research program on child hunger and also includes a clinic at St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children.

“For ten years, our research has been documenting the health and wellbeing of children in relation to hunger and poverty alleviation programs. Unfortunately, there have been no significant changes in national and local hunger rates for more than a decade. It was time for a new frame of reference. It was time to change the conversation about poverty and hunger in the United States,” said Chilton. “We think that listening to the voices, experiences and wisdom of mothers who are the true experts can truly inspire the public and policy makers to make decisive changes in policies for low income families.”

The photographs included in the “Witnesses to Hunger” project can be found online by going to and clicking on the “Witnesses to Hunger” link. The Drexel University School of Public Health also provides a link to a recent profile on the “Witnesses to Hunger” project and exhibit.

The Drexel University School of Public Health promotes the health of communities through education, research, service and practice. As the only school of public health in the greater Philadelphia region, the school’s innovative academic programs integrate real world experience with classroom learning in one of the most diverse and culturally rich communities in the United States. The School of Public Health is built on a foundation of understanding that health and human rights are inextricably entwined. This unique, community-collaborative approach fosters leadership and provides students with the critically necessary hands-on experience to meet today’s public health demands.