Samuel Chu is a nationally recognized organizer for social change. He currently directs the state advocacy and organizing for MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger. In this role, he oversees over 900 synagogue partners and organizes a growing political constituency that has achieved numerous legislative and policy victories at the state and national level. These wins have resulted in: $8 million in new state funding to provide free school lunch to 62,000 additional low-income students in Minnesota; universal breakfasts for over 4,000,000 students across 1,000 public school campuses in Texas; and improved access to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly known as "food stamps") for thousands of families, seniors, veterans, college students and homeless minors in Pennsylvania, Maryland and California.
While at MAZON, Samuel organized the nation’s first successful state legislative effort that exposed and banned “lunch shaming” in Minnesota. This is the practice whereby a student is denied a healthy, nutritious meal by school staff and worker because of their inability to pay or because of previously accrued debts. Students in these circumstances may be given an alternative meal (like half a cheese sandwich), or be turned away, or even have their food taken and dumped in the trash. The campaign led to the expansion of free school meals for 62,000 additional low-income students in Minnesota and led to the nation's first statewide ban on all shaming practices by schools.
Samuel is also a Fellow at the Center for Religion and Civic Culture at the University of Southern California where he engages in research, writing and teaching around community organizing, public leadership, and the role of religious institutions in social change.
From 2016 to 2017, Samuel served as the Director of the Civic Engagement Program for Murmuration - a 16-school pilot program in Los Angeles County designed to increase voter engagement and parent leadership by combining community organizing, voting data, and civic tech. The program resulted in a voting bloc of over 6,000 voters across partnering schools, registered over 2,000 new voters within the 16 school communities, and boosted voter turnout among pilot schools to consistently outpace the state, county, city and district turnout over 5 consecutive elections. In his role with Murmuration Samuel also organized one of the largest parent -led public actions in May 2017 to protect immigrant families with 300 parent leaders, California Senate President pro Tempore Kevin de León, Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and Los Angeles Police Department.
Samuel was the founding board chair and president of OneLA-Industrial Areas Foundation, one of the nation's largest and most diverse community organizing networks. As president, he helped to create successful projects including the largest community-based enrollment program for the Affordable Care Act in California, and the nation's first publicly funded mortgage principal reduction plan during the Great Recession. In 2013, he was recognized by the Los Angeles City Council for his work on foreclosure prevention which resulted in the Los Angeles Mortgage Modification Program, and for his work on city finance regulations which resulted in the Los Angeles Responsible Banking Ordinance, one of the toughest in the nation.
Samuel previously pastored at Immanuel Presbyterian Church in Koreatown in Los Angeles from 2002 to 2009, where he served a community of recent immigrants and a diverse congregation with members from 70 different nationalities.
From 2008 to 2011, Samuel served as the executive director of California Faith for Equality and California Faith for Equality Action Fund, and was the first straight person to head a statewide lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender supportive organization. Under his leadership, CFE filed some of the largest and most cited amicus briefs to the courts in support of marriage equality at both the state and federal levels. In 2011, Chu was recognized by the City of Los Angeles with the LGBT Pride Award for his leadership in promoting and organizing religious support for LGBT civil rights and marriage equality.
From 2007 to 2014, Samuel was board president of 1010 Development Corporation, a non-profit affordable housing developer in downtown Los Angeles rooted in the United Methodist tradition. He has advised and directed efforts for a variety of nationally recognized groups, including Peace First, Consumer Watchdog, IKAR, American Muslim Civic Leadership Institute, as well as numerous local agencies and organizations in Southern California.
A first-generation immigrant from Hong Kong, Samuel is the son of Rev. Chu Yiu-ming, a retired Southern Baptist minister who co-founded Occupy Central with Love and Peace and was one of the leaders of the Umbrella Movement in Hong Kong in 2014. Samuel came to America in 1990 when he was twelve years old, and completed an undergraduate degree in political science from the University of California, San Diego and a master’s degree in theology from Fuller Theological Seminary.