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CPJ issues reports on regional impacts of COVID-19 pandemic

The Center for Public Justice

Academic research finds several ways government and civil society can help families affected by the COVID-19 pandemic

WASHINGTON — Today the Center for Public Justice (CPJ) released new academic research conducted by three undergraduate student-faculty pairs—who were awarded The Hatfield Prize.

The 2021 awardees are three student-and-faculty pairs from Council for Christian Colleges & Universities (CCCU) institutions: Seth Billingsley and Daniel Bennett, Ph.D. (John Brown University); Chenyu Lin and Julie Woodman, Ph.D. (Colorado Christian University); and Matthew Strong and Mark Moland, DPA (LeTourneau University).

This year’s Hatfield Prize reports explore the pandemic’s impact on food insecurity, children’s health, and the foster care system in specific regions of the United States.

Students, with their faculty advisor’s support, articulate the normative principles that should guide society’s response to issues, such as maintaining a strong social safety net. While writing from a distinctly Christian perspective, the authors offer practical recommendations on ways government and civil society organizations can promote human flourishing in their local communities. 

“As COVID-19 continues to impact our communities, the 2021 Hatfield Prize reports explore the pandemic’s impact on food insecurity, children’s health, and the foster care system,” Katie Thompson, program director for Shared Justice, an initiative of CPJ, said. “The authors’ make vital and timely contributions to current policy discussions and offer practical recommendations for government and civil society organizations.”

The year’s reports examine how extensively the COVID-19 pandemic has affected U.S. families and children, as well as how faith-based organizations have served these populations during this crucial time.

Seth Billingsley (John Brown University ’21) — “Relief and Recovery: Addressing COVID-19’s Impact on Food Insecurity” focused on food insecurity in Northwest Arkansas. The report examines how faith-based organizations and houses of worship, often alongside public programs, marshalled resources to serve their community. Seth Billingsley graduated from John Brown University in 2021 with a B.A. in international business and political science. He completed his research for The Hatfield Prize during his senior year. John Brown University Associate Professor of Political Science Daniel Bennett, Ph.D. is the advisor on this report.

Chenyu Lin (Colorado Christian University ‘23) “Children’s Health and Well-Being: Recommendations for a Post-Pandemic World.” Lin is a junior nursing major at Colorado Christian University and intends to pursue her doctorate in nursing practice upon her graduation in 2023. She completed her research for The Hatfield Prize during her sophomore year with her advisor Colorado Christian University Assistant Professor of Biology Julie Woodman, Ph.D., on how COVID-19 increased child health disparities in Denver, Colo. The report recommends several ways the Children’s Health Insurance Program could benefit more children within the state.

Matthew Strong (LeTourneau University ‘23) — “Towards a Stronger Child Welfare System: The Pandemic’s Impact on Foster Families” investigated the pandemic’s impact on the foster care system in Longview, Texas. The report identifies several innovations governments and civil society institutions can use to increase the number of foster parents and provide holistic supports. Matthew Strong is a junior Physics Engineering major at LeTourneau University. He completed his research for The Hatfield Prize during his sophomore year. Strong worked with the guidance of Letourneau University Assistant Professor of Political Science and Criminal Justice Mark G. Moland, DPA. 

CPJ is a Christian civic education and public policy research organization based in Washington, D.C. The Hatfield Prize honors the late Senator Mark O. Hatfield, a U.S. Senator from Oregon known for integrating his Christian faith and his commitment to public policy.

The Hatfield Prize is made possible by support from the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust and the Annie E. Casey Foundation. However, the findings and conclusions presented in The Hatfield Prize reports are those of the authors alone and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of these foundations.

This year the reports are available online here. Students and faculty advisors are available for interviews regarding their research findings.  


Shared Justice is the Center for Public Justice’s initiative for college students and young adults exploring the intersection of faith, politics, and public justice. Shared Justice provides Christian young adults with access to mentorship, a learning community, and a platform for practicing citizenship.

Jennifer P. Gore
The Center for Public Justice
[email protected]

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Religion News Service or Religion News Foundation.