State Engagement & Innovation Lead
Job Details
Full Time
4 Year Degree
Nonprofit - Social Services

General Description: Nearly 500,000 children across Illinois continue to cope with poverty and hunger, which can impede their cognitive, social, and emotional development. The ambition of ending childhood hunger requires a new public policy roadmap: big shifts, bold goals, and unprecedented leadership from both the public and private sector.


One of the Food Depository’s most important collaborations to reduce poverty and hunger is through our partnership with the State of Illinois. To that end, the State Engagement & Innovation Lead will, on behalf of the Food Depository as well as the broader community, partner with the Illinois Governor’s Office and state agencies to develop and advance new policy innovations and programmatic efficiencies to better connect families to nutrition and income support programs. This role will collaborate with key state agencies including the Illinois Department of Human Services (DHS), the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE), and the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services (HFS). Through engagement with state agencies, this role seeks to improve children’s and families’ participation in key programs, including but not limited to child nutrition programs (NSLP, SBP, SFSP, CACFP), SNAP, WIC, Medicaid, and other stabilizing income supports. Although the role is based at the Food Depository, the position will spend time operating out of DHS and other state agencies in parts of Cook County and Springfield.


Key Responsibilities and Essential Functions:

  • Lead and facilitate the work of the Illinois Commission to End Hunger through the creation of a multi-year plan to realize a State of Illinois-wide vision to reduce childhood hunger and poverty and improve overall family well-being. This multi-year plan will be known as the Illinois Roadmap to End Childhood Hunger.
  • Drive interagency input, alignment, accountability, and delivery of the plan, while serving as the liaison between the Governor’s Office, key state agencies, the Food Depository, and the broader community of stakeholders committed to improving public policies that impact family well-being.
  • Inform the plan through national best practices from other states that have successfully introduced new innovations and efficiencies to help remove barriers in how families connect to nutrition programs.
  • Leverage national thought leaders including but not limited to the Center on Budget & Policy Priorities, Feeding America, and Share Our Strength to help shape innovation opportunities.
  • Serve as the primary project manager on the creation and advancement of policies and administrative innovations that will increase access to nutrition, health, safety net, and other benefit programs.
  • Establish annual goals, performance metrics, plans, timelines, and assessment and reporting mechanisms to ensure execution and impact measurement of new policies and innovations in partnership with the Governor’s Office and state agencies.
  • Maximize Illinois resident enrollment in federal programs including child nutrition programs (NSLP, SBP, SFSP, CACFP) as well as SNAP, WIC, Medicaid, and other stabilizing income supports.
  • Prepare fact sheets, research briefs, policy papers, reports, talking points, statements, and other written materials as needed.
  • Build strong, effective collaborations with internal Food Depository programmatic colleagues working to implement nutrition, health, safety net and other benefit programs.
  • Other duties as assigned.


  • Bachelors degree required; Masters Degree preferred.
  • Minimum of 10 years of work experience with a proven track record in public policy, state government administration, and/or program management.
  • Understand State of Illinois operations and government agency relations, including how policy solutions are advanced, preferably direct experience working in State of Illinois government
  • Bring a community-level understanding of the barriers families face in connecting to programs.
  • Strategic understanding of the landscape of public, nonprofit, and private partners needed to inform and advance new policy and programmatic innovations related to child hunger and poverty and family well-being.
  • Demonstrable experience in developing and implementing strategic plans in the private, government, or nonprofit sectors, preferably related to the areas of child hunger and family well-being
  • Understanding of the complexities and intersectionality of poverty, hunger, and social determinants of family well-being.
  • Entrepreneurial leader with significant creative capacity and flexibility who can be highly successful with minimal supervision.
  • Superior strategist, with robust analytical/problem solving skills, organizational agility, political savvy, strong interpersonal judgment and the ability to manage high levels of ambiguity.
  • Excellent interpersonal and communication skills (both verbal and written), including strong presentation skills and emotional intelligence.
  • Outstanding record of generating buy-in from internal and external stakeholders.
  • Ability to effectively and efficiently manage complex projects and work with limited supervision.
  • Flexibility to regularly travel to Springfield and to state government offices across Cook County.
  • Proficiency in MS Office-Word, Excel, Access, PowerPoint, Outlook.
  • Office located at the Food Depository with additional office space at DHS


  • Normal office environment; some warehouse environment
  • Significant out of office meetings
  • Primary interactions with the Governor’s Office and state agencies (e.g. DHS, ISBE, HFS); nonprofit, private sector, and community leaders