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Food Insecurity Webinar Series

June 17–24, 2015 Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas

The Dallas Fed and Feeding Texas will host a two-part webinar series on food insecurity—a common symptom of income insecurity.


  • Celia Cole, Chief Executive Director, Feeding Texas
  • J.C. Dwyer, Senior Director of Policy and Communications, Feeding Texas
  • John Cook, PhD, Co-principal Investigator, Children’s Health Watch
  • Ray Tsai, MD, Senior VP Children’s Health, Medical Director or Network Development and President and Chief Medical Officer, Children’s Health Pediatric Group

Part II
Wednesday, June 24, 1 p.m. CT

This session addressed the following topics:

  • The link between food security, income security and asset building
  • Findings from an economic research study on how financial management skills impact hunger (research was conducted by the North Texas Food Bank and Southern Methodist University)
  • Feeding Texas’ VISTA program, which promotes food security through employment and access to health care

Moderator: Elizabeth Sobel Blum, Senior Advisor, Community Development, Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas


  • Emily DeMaria, Senior Director of Programs, Capital Area Food Bank and RAISE Texas board member
  • Richard Amory, Director of Research, North Texas Food Bank
  • Katie Malaspina, VISTA Program Coordinator, Feeding Texas

Recommended Reading

Websites and Resources

Speaker Bios

Richard Amory
Director of Research
North Texas Food Bank

As director of research for the North Texas Food Bank (NTFB), Amory is developing The Hunger Center of North Texas, a collaborative research initiative that helps guide the NTFB’s strategy, programming and communications.

Prior to assuming this role, Armory managed the NTFB’s grant solicitation and foundation relationships, as well as the strategic planning process that produced the ReThink Hunger campaign.

In addition to his work with the NTFB, Richard serves as a trainer and data coach to other Dallas-area nonprofit organizations through the Data-Driven Decision Making (D3) Institute, a project of Communities Foundation of Texas.

Celia Cole
Chief Executive Officer
Feeding Texas

Cole is chief executive officer of Feeding Texas and is an expert in food and nutrition policy with experience at the state and federal level.

Prior to Feeding Texas, Cole was a senior policy analyst with the Center for Public Policy Priorities (CPPP) for 14 years, where she covered food and nutrition, welfare and family economic security issues. She also has worked in a policy capacity with the Texas Department of Human Services and for Laurel Consulting Group, a private consulting firm in Washington, D.C. Cole serves on the advisory committees of the Partnership for a Healthy Texas and the Texas Food Policy Roundtable.

Cole holds a bachelor's degree in art history from Columbia University and a master's degree from the Institute of Latin American Studies at the University of Texas at Austin.

John Cook
Co-principal Investigator
Children’s HealthWatch

Cook is a co-principal investigator at Children’s HealthWatch. His research interests include examining the effects of hunger, food security and energy security on children’s health and well-being and ways to increase access to affordable, healthy food. He is currently researching the effects of food insecurity at its lowest levels of severity, including “marginal food security.”

Prior to joining Children’s HealthWatch, Cook was the research director at the Center on Hunger, Poverty and Nutrition Policy at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University. He is currently an associate professor in the Department of Pediatrics at the Boston University School of Medicine.

Cook received his BA in mathematics and Spanish from the University of Alabama and his MAEd in educational psychology from Arizona State University. He received his PhD in planning for developing areas with concentrations in demography and population studies and economics from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Emily DeMaria
Senior Director of Programs
Capital Area Food Bank

DeMaria joined the Capital Area Food Bank in August 2011 and is senior director of programs. She directs programs and services that reach Central Texans in need and that allow the food bank to tackle the hunger issue on three fronts—food distribution, income support and nutrition education.

Prior to her current role, DeMaria spent 10 years with United Way at the national and local levels, most notably as vice president, Community Impact Development for United Way Worldwide (UWW). In this position, she led the development of UWW’s national initiative—the United Way Financial Stability Partnership™—which promotes community-change strategies to help low-income families meet their basic needs while building long-term financial stability. She has spent her career directing a diverse range of national and local programs and building strategic partnerships and innovative initiatives that provide measurable results on important community issues.

DeMaria was a 2009 recipient of the FDIC’s Pioneer Award for her work helping low-income Central Texans access affordable financial services. She is a board member of RAISE Texas and has served as board member of Literacy Texas, the Central Texas Emergency Food and Shelter Board and the Austin Achievement Zone.

DeMaria holds a bachelor of arts degree in economics and government from the University of Texas at Austin and a master’s degree in public affairs from the LBJ School of Public Affairs.

J.C. Dwyer
Senior Director of Policy and Communications
Feeding Texas

Dwyer provides advocacy, research, communications and public policy expertise in his role as senior director of Policy and Communications at Feeding Texas.

Prior to working with food banks, Dwyer was director of Programs and National Service for the New York City Coalition Against Hunger, as well as an adjunct professor of social welfare policy at Hunter College in New York. He has worked with anti-hunger groups in three states.

Dwyer holds a bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of Pennsylvania and a master's degree in applied social research from Hunter College.

Katie Malaspina
VISTA Program Coordinator
Feeding Texas

Malaspina is responsible for designing, implementing and monitoring Feeding Texas' statewide VISTA Client Empowerment Initiative. She has a passion for national and community service and served as an AmeriCorps member for two years.

Malaspina holds a master's in social work from the University of Texas at Austin. She is a licensed social worker in the state of Texas and a member of the National Association of Social Workers.

Elizabeth Sobel Blum
Senior Community Development Advisor
Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas

Sobel Blum leads the Dallas Fed’s work in “healthy communities”—those in which individuals and their communities are vibrant, thrive and show resilience.

Through research, publications, events and coalition-building, Sobel Blum helps advance discussion about creating and supporting healthy opportunities for all so that healthy becomes the norm. Sobel Blum’s areas of focus include health, housing, workforce development, small business and entrepreneurship and community development finance.

Sobel Blum serves on the board of directors of ChangeLab Solutions and the Community Advisory Board of the University of North Texas Health Science Center’s (UNTHSC) Center for Community Health. In May 2014 she completed the STAR Fellowship Program; the Steps Toward Academic Research (STAR) Fellowship Program is run by the UNTHSC’s Texas Center for Health Disparities, a National Institutes of Health-designated Center for Excellence. She earned a BA from Northwestern University, an MA from American University and an MBA from the University of Texas at Dallas.

Ray Tsai
Senior Vice President
Children’s Health
Medical Director of Network Development and President and Chief Medical Officer
Children’s Health Pediatric Group

Tsai is the president and chief medical officer of Children’s Health Pediatric Group, a subsidiary of Children’s Health. He also serves as the medical director for the Children’s Medical Center Health Plan.

His areas of expertise include health care delivery for underserved populations, clinical information technology and quality improvement methods in primary care settings.

He has been responsible for expanding Children’s Health Pediatric Group from one office to a network of 18 practices with plans for continued expansion.

Tsai holds a BA in environmental sciences from Northwestern University, a Doctor of Medicine from the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and an MBA from the Wharton School, the University of Pennsylvania. He completed his residency in pediatrics at Georgetown University Hospital.