Anti-hunger activist Mallon announces run for City Council, joining likely crowded field
A new candidate for City Council has emerged in Alanna Mallon, founder of the Cambridge Weekend Backpack Program, a program director at the Food for Free nonprofit and former education liaison for the last mayoral term of councillor David Maher.
“I am excited and energized to declare myself as a candidate,” Mallon wrote on Facebook on Tuesday.
Describing her path from public school parent to activist against hunger and now to seek a seat on the nine-member council in November, she said: “Our elected leaders have the power to impact how our funds are spent and where to direct our collective energies. Our city has a great many resources, but many who live here are facing significant challenges and their needs are not being met. We must work to ensure that those resources can be directed to those who may not have a voice in decision-making.”
In addition, “It’s become clear after the national election that much of the important and critical governing work in the coming years will happen at the state and local levels. I also strongly feel that there need to be more women in government at every level, bringing their unique experiences and voices to policy decisions,” Mallon said. “These things, combined with the damaging political rhetoric of the past year, crystallized my decision to seek office.”
Her declaration follows that of Sam Gebru, who said in November that he would run for council, turning his 25th birthday party Nov. 30 into a fundraiser for his campaign. Though sidelined for weeks by a bout of pneumonia, Gebru said the rest of the winter would be used as a listening tour, during which he plans to visit “every neighborhood,” to form a complete agenda to be revealed in April, at a formal kickoff to his ground campaign.
There are at least five other potential council candidates waiting to announce, given their registration of candidacies with the state Office of Campaign and Political Finance: Ronald Benjamin of Harvard Street; Vatsady Sivongxay of Kirkland Street; Theodora Marie Skeadas of Memorial Drive; Olivia D’Ambrosio of Third Street; and the best-known of the bunch, Cardinal Medeiros Avenue resident and Green Cambridge leader Quinton Zondervan.
Given likely runs by perennial candidates and with potentially all current councillors running for reelection minus Maher, who will be quitting to serve as president of the Cambridge Chamber of Commerce, it could be a crowded field in the fall. In 2015, there were 22 candidates.
“As city councillor, I will work tirelessly to ensure that all city residents, including our most at risk, get the representation that they need and deserve at the highest level,” Mallon wrote.
Her complete statement is below:
I was born and raised in Massachusetts, and I moved to Cambridge with my husband in the summer of 2004. We are so proud to call Cambridge home. We have two children, a third- and sixth-grader, both of whom have been enrolled in the Cambridge Public School system since they were in junior kindergarten. In 2013, as an active participant in our school community and civic life as a Cambridge resident, I became aware that food insecurity was a barrier for academic success for many of our students. This realization was a call to action, and I became determined to ensure that my children’s classmates had their basic needs met and could capitalize on the incredible CPS curriculum at every grade level.
I founded the Cambridge Weekend Backpack Program to address the needs of food-insecure students, but also to connect their families to other vital resources that are available in our community. This critical work was so important to me, that I left the private sector to focus on it full time. For the past three years I have passionately dedicated my life to working on issues of food insecurity in Cambridge, and I have had the privilege and pleasure of helping schools, families, the business community and concerned residents form a partnership to help our students succeed.
For the past year, I have been a program director at Food For Free, working closely on issues of food insecurity in Cambridge not just for students, but for various vulnerable populations in Cambridge and Greater Boston. Through this work, I have come to realize that there is a link between the resources and services that these residents need: affordable housing, access to high-quality day care and early education opportunities, mental health and human services, and many more. I am truly energized at the thought of working on these linked issues for our residents and using my skills to build broad coalitions of support to find meaningful solutions to the complex issues and challenges that face our community members.
As Mayor David Maher’s education liaison for two years (2015-16), I observed that dedicated public service combined with strategic public policy can be an effective tool to change our residents’ lives for the better. Our elected leaders have the power to impact how our funds are spent and where to direct our collective energies. Our city has a great many resources, but many who live here are facing significant challenges and their needs are not being met. We must work to ensure that those resources can be directed to those who may not have a voice in decision making.
It’s become clear after the national election that much of the important and critical governing work in the coming years will happen at the state and local levels. I also strongly feel that there need to be more women in government at every level, bringing their unique experiences and voices to policy decisions. These things combined with the damaging political rhetoric of the past year crystallized my decision to seek office in November. Given my experience, knowledge of our governing systems, and relationships with community partners, the time is right for me to bring these unique experiences to the Cambridge City Council. As city councillor, I will work tirelessly to ensure that all city residents, including our most at-risk, get the representation that they need and deserve at the highest level. My experience over the last few years has affirmed that the city of Cambridge is unparalleled in its focus on the needs of our most vulnerable residents, but that there is so much more that we can, and must do.
I love working, living, and raising my children in this city. I am inspired by my friends, neighbors, and colleagues who, through their daily efforts in the neighborhoods of Cambridge, make our city a better place to live and work. There is no place I’d rather be at this moment in history, and it would be a privilege to serve as a city councillor.