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Using Philanthropy to Spark Government Innovation in Food Access, Education, and Guaranteed Income

Whitehead Institute presents
Director’s Dialogues with Ruth Lehmann 

Using Philanthropy to Spark Government Innovation in Food Access, Education, and Guaranteed Income


Jill Shah
President, Shah Family Foundation

Tuesday, January 18, 2022
7:00 pm ET – Discussion

Register Here

Jill Shah is the President of the Shah Family Foundation, which supports transformative work at the intersection of education, healthcare, and community. The foundation focuses on demonstrating how private and philanthropic funding can be used to test and accelerate innovation in government programs. In particular, the foundation’s work in school food has shown that with small capital investments, and the transformation of operations, the USDA school meals program can be used to serve delicious, nutritious, culturally preferred meals to students, while increasing participation, and creating new jobs. A documentary film, called Eat Up, follows Jill and her team during their collaboration with Boston Public Schools and the City of Boston to roll out a deeply impactful new school food program called My Way Café.

The Shah Foundation has extended their school food work during the pandemic through partnerships with the YMCAs across the State of Massachusetts and local restaurants, to tackle both the issues of unemployment and student food access using the federal USDA subsidy. The foundation is also funding a Guaranteed Income program in the City of Chelsea which aims to help its most vulnerable residents fight the unrelenting impact of Covid-19.

Additionally, Jill and her team lead deep research into Covid-19 testing for K-12 students in collaboration with the State of Massachusetts, which has resulted in a comprehensive testing program for schools. No other state in the country has a program that is this comprehensive. Jill hosts the national podcast Catalysts for Change and co-hosts the hyper-local Boston podcast Last Night at School Committee. She is also currently producing a documentary film about Guaranteed Income.

Jill’s interests include optimized access to fresh and healthy food, improving food access in high-needs neighborhoods, rigorous and successful public schools for all kids, and a deeper collaboration between education and healthcare around issues of physical, mental, emotional, and social health.

Jill is a graduate of Providence College where she earned a B.A. in English. Before launching the foundation, Jill was an entrepreneur in Boston and New York, involved in internet start-ups. She also served on the executive team during the turn-around and sale of Mercator Software. She sold her last company, Jill’s List, which focused on the collaboration of traditional and integrative medicine modalities to MINDBODY in 2013.

Jill is currently serving as a Co-chair of the Commonwealth’s Covid-19 Command Center Food Access Task Force. She is a recent recipient of the Boston Chamber of Commerce Distinguished Bostonian award and the Playworks Game Changer award. She was cited as one of Boston’s 100 most influential Bostonians in Boston Magazine, and she serves on the boards of the Red Sox Foundation, the Overseers of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, the Overseers of the Museum of Fine Arts, the Belmont Hill School and the Winsor School.  Jill and her husband, Niraj, reside in Boston with their two children.