Look Inside: Kim Drew, Research & Policy

Kimberly Drew is Heartland Alliance’s Legislative Advocacy Director and has been a passionate and dedicated part of the team for 11 years. Her passion for her work derives from the love she has for empowering people to discover their own voice, strength and ability to make change for themselves and their communities. She is an ardent supporter in social justice, a lover of travel and will soon be a Chicago Marathon runner. Meet Kim Drew!

What got you into this work?

I graduated from college knowing that I wanted to move to Chicago and do community organizing work because I saw it as a way that I could affect change. I learned a ton. Chicago is a city that teaches you quickly about poverty, inequity and injustice but it is also full of movement builders and change-makers – I found a community of people fighting for a better world. I was drawn to organizing and policy work early on because I have always seen it as an important, effective lever of change.

Why is policy work so important to the communities that we serve?

There are so many ways that policy has perpetuated racial inequities, increased poverty and caused harm to the communities we serve. Policy has to be part of the solution. I think policy change is one tool we have to dismantle and undo the harm but also build a more just and equitable world.

When did you know you were in the place you needed to be?

One of my favorite memories from my early days at Heartland was going down to Springfield for a lobby day with a busload of youth experiencing homelessness. Many of them were program participants of Neon Street. We were heading to the Capitol to talk to legislators about a proposal to get rid of the teen sub-minimum wage. The minimum wage was $8.25 and employers by law could pay teens 50 cents less/per hour. The youth from Neon Street knew better than anyone how unjust that law is, they had experience being paid less for the same work, being on their own and trying to support themselves and sometimes kids or siblings too on unlivable wages. I prepped them to talk to legislators and helped them navigate the Capitol. At the end of the day, I will never forget the reflection of one young woman who joined us that day.: she thanked me and Heartland Alliance for making the day possible and said that she felt powerful and heard for the first time in her life. We didn’t pass the bill that year but a bus load of youth found the power of their voice that day.

What is Your Favorite Part about Your Job?

One of my favorite things about my job is getting to work alongside such an amazing, committed group of people that tirelessly works in the pursuit of justice, equity and opportunity for all each and every day.

How Can People Help Keep Food Support Available for Our Communities?/How Can Others Help in Your Work?

This year, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which provides food for low-income families and many of the people Heartland Alliance serves, has faced an onslaught of federal threats that could result in millions of people losing food assistance and going hungry. SNAP is our nation’s most effective and efficient anti-hunger program – it helps make sure that people who are struggling to make ends meet are able to put food on the table. Cutting the program is wrongheaded and inhumane. People can help by staying up to date with the latest efforts to cut poverty—including ongoing and future fights to protect critical programs like as SNAP! So sign up for our action alerts so you know when to act and explore Heartland Alliance’s latest poverty data to learn more about poverty and hunger throughout Illinois.