“Excluded,” “Food for Hope” win our Social Justice Book Prizes

Covers of Excluded and Food for Hope with logos of the social justice book prizes

Books about two pressing issues facing low-income New Yorkers—housing and hunger—have claimed our 2023 book prizes.

Food for Hope: How John van Hengel Invented Food Banks for the Hungry by Jeff Gottesfeld [Creston Books] won the Goddard Riverside CBC Youth Book Prize for Social Justice, while Excluded: How Snob Zoning, NIMBYism, and Class Bias Build the Walls We Don’t See by Richard D. Kahlenberg [PublicAffairs/Hachette] was awarded the Goddard Riverside Stephan Russo Book Prize for Social Justice.

Excluded rose to the top because of the universal nature of the zoning issue and how it influences poverty in New York City and elsewhere,” wrote the Russo prize judges. “While some might find zoning and its impact a dry issue, Kahlenberg does a great (and thorough) analysis of making clear why it is a topic that no one can ignore, as it goes to the very heart of whether equity can exist in any kind of community – be it urban, suburban or rural.”

Food for Hope tells the riches-to-rags story of John van Hengel, who launched the nation’s first food bank after an impoverished young mom showed him how much perfectly good food she could salvage from grocery store dumpsters. Kirkus Reviews called the book an “inspiring profile warmed by its (not undeserved) sentimental glow.”

Its author, Jeff Gottesfeld, joined us for our annual Social Justice Never Sleeps Bash, where the prizes were awarded.

“John van Hengel would say you can’t eat off a trophy. And he’s right!” he said, holding the Tiffany crystal statuette presented to him by Goddard Riverside President Rod Jones. “But I’m incredibly proud of this one. Thank you so much.”

Goddard launched the Russo prize in 2017 to honor outgoing Executive Director Stephan Russo, a lifelong admirer of the power of books to change the conversation on major social issues. We added the CBC prize in 2020 to acknowledge the important role of books in helping young people develop empathy and a commitment to a just society.

This year’s shortlisted books were:

Goddard Riverside Stephan Russo Book Prize for Social Justice

  • Children of the State: Stories of Survival and Hope in the Juvenile Justice System by Jeff Hobbs [Scribner]. A book that challenges any preconceived perceptions about how the juvenile justice system works—and demonstrates that no one so young should ever be considered irredeemable.
  • Poverty, By America by Matthew Desmond [Crown/Penguin Random House]. The Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Evicted reimagines the debate on poverty, making a “provocative and compelling” (NPR) argument about why it persists in America: because the rest of us benefit from it.
  • The People’s Hospital: Hope and Peril in American Medicine by Ricardo Nuila [Scribner]. This “compelling mixture of health care policy and gripping stories from the frontlines of medicine” (The Guardian) explores the question: where does an uninsured person go when turned away by hospitals, clinics, and doctors?
  • The Measure of our Age: Navigating Care, Safety, Money, and Meaning Later in Life by M. T. Connolly [PublicAffairs/Hachette]. An expert on elder justice maps the challenges of aging, how things go wrong, and presents powerful tools we can use to forge better long lives for ourselves, our families, and our communities.
  • Excluded: How Snob Zoning, NIMBYism, and Class Bias Build the Walls We Don’t See by Richard D. Kahlenberg [PublicAffairs/Hachette]. An indictment of America’s housing policy that reveals the social engineering underlying our segregation by economic class, the social and political fallout that result, and what we can do about it.

Goddard Riverside CBC Youth Book Prize for Social Justice

  • Food for Hope: How John van Hengel Invented Food Banks for the Hungry by Jeff Gottesfeld [Creston Books]. This true story of how one ordinary person did something extraordinary shows how everyone can do something to make a difference.
  • Jane Jacobs: Champion of Cities, Champion of People by Rebecca Pitts [Triangle Square Books]. The first biography of Jane Jacobs for young people, the visionary activist, urbanist, and thinker who transformed the way we inhabit and develop our cities.
  • The Mother of a Movement: Jeanne Manford–Ally, Activist, and Founder of PFLAG by Rob Sanders [Magination Press]. A true story of parental support and unconditional love — about Jeanne Manford, the founder of PFLAG (Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays)
  • Holding Her Own: The Exceptional Life of Jackie Ormes by Traci N. Todd [Orchard Books]. An evocative picture book biography about the prolific life of Jackie Ormes, whose groundbreaking cartoons became some of the first empowering depictions of Black women in America!