40 Under 40: The Rising Stars in New York City Food Policy (Class of 2018)

by Alexina Cather, MPH

The Hunter College New York City Food Policy Center has released its annual class of New York City’s 40 individuals under 40 years old who are working to transform the food system in 2018. The Center’shonorees include policymakers, educators, community advocates, farmers and innovators who are making significant strides to create healthier, more sustainable food environments and to use food to promote community and economic development.

The 40 under 40 roster reflects the Center’s broad perspective around food policy, specifically that food policies are not simply regulations imposed by governmental bodies; we believe that food policy impacts millions of New Yorkers every day, at home and at work, as well as our surrounding environmental, community and economic ecosystems. An event to honor these individuals will take place on June 7th, 2018.

Tamar Adjoian

Age: 34

Grew up in: Northern California (Bay Area)

Job title: Research Scientist, Department of Health and Mental Hygiene

Background and education: I have a BA from UC Davis and an MPH from NYU. I’ve worked at the DOHMH doing research and evaluation for about seven years, primarily focused on food retail and sugary drinks.

One word you would use to describe our food system: Manipulative

Food policy hero: Dr. Robert Lustig

Your breakfast this morning: Hard-boiled egg, avocado, veggies, olive oil, coffee

Favorite food: Fried eggs with avocado and hot sauce

Favorite last meal on Earth: Same as favorite food, plus fresh baked bread, followed by ice cream

Favorite food hangout: The outdoor produce cart near the Queensboro Plaza subway entrance.  It’s my primary source of fruits and vegetables, and I love the vendors.

Social media must follow: None that I’d admit to.

Amaka Anekwe

Age: 31

Grew up in: Connecticut

Job title: Assistant Director of Policy, Bureau of Chronic Disease Prevention and Tobacco Control, Department of Health and Mental Hygiene

Background and education: Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, MS (Columbia University, Teachers College); BA (UPENN); over 10 years of professional experience in food and nutrition in various capacities including policy, clinical, community-based work.

One word you would use to describe our food system: Fixable

Food policy hero: The many unsung heroes working quietly and steadfast to promote food policy changes that promote a healthier population and reduce disparities in health outcomes

Your breakfast this morning: Greek Yogurt and a hard-boiled egg

Favorite food: Do I have to choose?! Ice cream

Favorite last meal on Earth: My Aunt Geraldine’s lasagna

Favorite food hangout: Amarin Cafe in Greenpoint has an unpretentious atmosphere, friendly staff, and consistently delicious and well-priced food.

Social media must follow: Politico morning agriculture

Diana Arias

Age: 38

Grew up in: New York

Job title: Research Scientist, McSilver Institute for Poverty Policy and Research

Background and education: I entered the psychology field because I was fascinated by the human mind and behavior. That evolved to my research focus on the intersection of social identities. While working with a community psychologist I became more interested in social work because it really took into account the person in the environment as opposed to a standalone entity. After some time I made the decision to switch fields. Currently, I am able to combine my interests in research and working with marginalized and vulnerable communities. I have a BS in Psychology from CMSV; MS in Social Psychology from UCSC; and MSW from Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College.

One word you would use to describe our food system: Unjust

Food policy hero: Kathy Goldman

Your breakfast this morning: Egg and cheese on a roll with coffee

Favorite food: Ceviche

Favorite last meal on Earth: Chocolate blackout cake!

Favorite food hangout: My friend’s place – there’s nothing like the comfort of friendship and good food!

Social media must follow: Hunger Free America

Alexa Arnold

Age: 29

Grew up in: Ohio, Alabama, and Kentucky – I’m a solid mix of midwestern and southern.

Job title: School Food Procurement Manager, FoodCorps

Background and education: I’ve worked on food, agriculture, public health, policy, and social justice issues for the entirety of my career. Currently, in my role at FoodCorps, I work in partnership with the Urban School Food Alliance, where I help leverage the buying power of some of our nation’s largest school districts (NYC, LA, Chicago, Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, Orlando, Dallas, Las Vegas, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Boston) to improve the health, quality, sustainability and financial health of school meals. I started working in food and agriculture in Kentucky, where I advocated for state policies that support small-scale family farmers, built networks across the Central Appalachian region that connected schools, institutions, communities, and farmers, and managed urban and rural farmers’ markets. I hold a BA in Political Science and Geography from the University of Kentucky, and am currently a Fellow in the inaugural class of the Food Policy Leadership Program at George Washington University.

One word you would use to describe our food system: Potential

Food policy hero: The often uncelebrated people who grow, harvest, distribute, cook, and serve our nation’s food every day. And also, of course, Kathleen Merrigan and Ricardo Salvador.

Your breakfast this morning: Hard boiled egg, avocado, chopped herbs, hot sauce, and flaky sea salt on toast.

Favorite food: Seasonal fruit, especially strawberries and grapes.

Favorite last meal on Earth: A decadent bowl of mac and cheese.

Favorite food hangout: The Grand Army Plaza farmers’ market, because as the seasons change and new produce shows up, food feels new, exciting, and worth celebrating all over again.

Social media must follow: I’m mainly on Instagram, so my favorites there are: @cookwithwhatyouhave, whose cooking philosophy I aspire to; @southernfoodways, for southern food/ag cultural history; @foodcorps, for cute kids building healthy relationships with food at school; and @turshen, for great recipes and food justice inspiration.

Beth Bainbridge

Age: 31

Grew up in: Dayton, Ohio

Job title: Project Director, Go!Healthy Eat Smart New York Program, Children’s Aid Society

Background and education: I grew up loving food and gardening with my dad in Ohio. I studied nutrition at Ohio State and then moved to the city when I finished, first as an Americorps volunteer and then as a student at NYU, where I completed my MPH in Nutrition and the Dietetic Internship. New York City is where I fell in love with farmers’ markets and local food systems work, finding every opportunity I could to talk to anyone and everyone about cooking and eating fresh fruit and vegetables.

One word you would use to describe our food system: Disrepair

Food policy hero: Marion Nestle

Your breakfast this morning: I missed breakfast this morning because I completed my last big training run for a marathon I’m running with my dear friend in Ohio on my birthday! I enjoyed a lunch of smoked salmon with cucumber, avocado, seaweed, and a big glass of kombucha.

Favorite food: Smoked fish and avocado

Favorite last meal on Earth: Spaghetti carbonara from my Grandma

Favorite food hangout: My grandparents’ house – everything they make is amazing and I love every excuse to spend time with them. OR anywhere in Oaxaca with my partner because every morsel and every human in that place is just spectacular.

Social media must follow: Molly Yeh

Corey Blant

Age: 28

Grew up in: NYC

Job title: Education & Market Manager, Added Value Farms

Background and education: I am first and foremost an educator that has found his home in the food justice/sovereignty movements. I am drawn to any opportunity that lends itself to teaching and learning at the intersection of food, farming, and community. I have a BA from the University of Michigan in Brain Behavior & Cognitive Science.

One word you would use to describe our food system: Jarring

Food policy hero: Leah Penniman

Your breakfast this morning: Coffee, PB&J, and yogurt.

Favorite food: Any and all soups–Khao Soi has been a winner for me of late.

Favorite last meal on Earth: Anything from La Morada in Mott Haven.

Favorite food hangout: I love my kitchen! Especially when my partner and I are getting down with some delicious Red Hook- / locally-grown produce. Dinner at our house is always a treat, but the big canning projects are probably the most fun (and delicious!)

Social media must follow: Owen Taylor is doing awesome work at True Love Seeds, and he captures it all beautifully with @seedkeeping

Nadirah Blassingame

Age: 32

Grew up in: Thousand Islands, New York

Job title: Assistant Director, Healthy Harlem, Harlem Children’s Zone

Background and education: I have a Master’s degree in Public Administration from NYU Wagner School of Public Service and a Bachelor’s degree in International Studies from Wells College. I started my professional career working as a health educator for a school-based health program in the Bronx and I dabbled a bit in international policy and non-profit work as well.  For the past four years, I’ve been working with the Healthy Harlem program at Harlem Children’s Zone. We provide nutrition education and physical activity programming to over 10,000 youth across 26 after-school sites. Being from a small town, I love feeling connected to my neighbors and being an active member of the community. Living in Harlem, I often run into HCZ students and parents in the neighborhood and it’s inspiring when they share with me how they have adopted a healthier lifestyle. These encounters are small but powerful testaments to the work that we are all doing to make NYC healthier and motivate me to continue contributing to that mission.

One word you would use to describe our food system: Detached

Food policy hero: The Black Panthers who started the free breakfast program. Also, local Harlem shout outs to Carey King (Uptown Grand Central) and Tony Hillery (Harlem Grown)!

Your breakfast this morning: Coffee

Favorite food: Filipino food

Favorite last meal on Earth: I’m lactose intolerant, so my very last meal would be a Caprese salad with a big ball of fresh mozzarella…and a chocolate milkshake for dessert.

Favorite food hangout: My kitchen. I love to cook. I’m always looking for an excuse to host a brunch/dinner/tapas party.

Social media must follow: Smitten Kitchen

Jon Brown

Age: 36

Grew up in: Providence, RI

Job title: Director of Food and Beverage Law Clinic, Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University

Background and education: I have a BA from Penn and a JD from NYU School of Law. I practiced corporate finance law at the firm Milbank in NYC for eight years before moving into the world of clinical teaching and community economic development with a fellowship at Yale Law School. I started the Food and Beverage Law Clinic to give legal support to the small farms, food entrepreneurs and other food revolutionaries working to improve our food system from the ground up.

One word you would use to describe our food system: Unsustainable

Food policy hero: Sounds corny, but everyone brave enough to start their own farm

Your breakfast this morning: Toast with Nutella and a smoothie co-created by my son

Favorite food: Olives, cheese, and bread (all preferably from Venda Ravioli in Providence)

Favorite last meal on Earth: Lots of fresh seafood and wine

Favorite food hangout: Art Cafe in Nyack – neighborhood coffee shop with amazing Israeli food

Social media must follow: The New Food Economy

Jonathan Chin

Age: 33

Grew up in: Queens, NY

Job title: CEO of Share Meals, Adjunct Professor in the CUNY system, Pace University, and Cooper Union

Background and education: I did my BA at Boston University studying computer science and English literature. I later completed an MFA in poetry from Brooklyn College; my thesis focused on the human condition and drew together multiple cultures (Irish, Spanish, Korean, Arab) from multiple time frames (post-WWII, post 9/11, post Arab Spring). Currently, I am completing an MA at New York University, concentrating on the intersection between English education, natural language processing, and machine learning. I hope to develop new software and teaching methodologies that leverage these leading technologies to innovate the fundamental skills of critical reading in argument formation in the modern English classroom.

One word you would use to describe our food system: Hopeful

Food policy hero: Alex Moore from the DC Central Kitchen. I really love all of the leadership at DCCK, but especially Alex. I’ve seen him speak a few times and did a site visit with him; he’s optimistic yet practical, professional yet authentic, constantly working yet he makes out time for things like meeting young entrepreneurs.

Your breakfast this morning: A cup of strong Irish Breakfast tea. I sip it slowly as I work. I believe eating slowly promotes a healthier diet because you psychologically believe that you’re eating more than you actually are, which is important to curb urban obesity. Usually, I’ll have some oatmeal with a dash of whatever’s on hand to accompany it. It’s quick to make and still healthy.

Favorite food: Anything authentically cultural. To share another person’s cuisine is to share so much of their traditions, beliefs, history, and stories. I love eating kitchari every Monday with the Krishna Bhakti club at NYU. Even though I’m not vegan, they share their ayurvedic philosophy and I can appreciate it. I spent the summer in South Africa, eating at braais. Their pap and stew remind me of Chinese fàn and sòng. I even still remember the time a professor shared gulab jamun with me in his office.

Favorite last meal on Earth: Poached sea bass or salmon, veggie stir fry, strong hot black tea, no sugar or milk, custard or flan for dessert

Favorite food hangout: Any place with a great view, hot coffee, and power outlets. My undergrad’s student center had a catwalk over their dining area. The railing even had a handguard just wide enough to fit a cup of coffee and a notebook. I spent so many afternoons and evenings there, sipping on coffee, people watching, and writing poetry. NYU’s Leslie eLab has standing tables and near floor-to-wall corner windows that open out onto Washington Place and Greene Street. I can stand there, sip coffee, people watch, and still get work done.

Social media must follow: I’m most personally active on Facebook: Teachwritekick. I put in much more time working on my start up’s social media: Facebook; Twitter; Youtube; Linkedin

Erica Christensen

Age: 31

Grew up in: Nashville, TN

Job title: Strategic Growth & Operations Manager, Corbin Hill Food Project

Background and education: My education background is focused on environmental policy, but I spent my graduate studies narrowing in on food and agriculture policy within the context of environmental impacts both domestically and internationally. Within food systems though, I’ve worked across the value chain, but really got my start by working with youth in a community garden in Memphis, TN. From there, I continued to work in community and school gardens in Washington, DC. I’ve owned and operated farmers’ markets there and in the South and did some policy work around the Farm Bill. Prior to joining Corbin Hill, I worked with a national nonprofit that worked with food hubs and other food system organizations to provide them with technical assistance and capacity building resources to strengthen the work in their communities. 

One word you would use to describe our food system: Extractive

Food policy hero: Hard to name just one, but Paula Daniels has been pivotal in the creation of Good Food Procurement Policies, which is one of the most exciting local food policies I’ve seen recently.

Your breakfast this morning: Bacon, egg, and cheese with raspberry chili jam that I just picked up in New Mexico

Favorite food: Ramen

Favorite last meal on Earth: Pulled pork nachos with slaw on top from Central BBQ in Memphis, TN

Favorite food hangout: Smorgasburg because it’s this amazing collection of food vendors showcasing different food cultures all wedged into this one delicious place.

Social media must follow: Eater, Smitten Kitchen, mreddiehuang, chefjoseandres

Lauren Dinour

Age: 39

Grew up in: New Jersey

Job title: Assistant Professor, Department of Nutrition and Food Studies, Montclair State University

Background and education: I graduated with a BS in Nutrition Sciences from Cornell University and worked as a Registered Dietitian in NYC for a few years before realizing that my patients’ lack of access to healthy and affordable foods was impeding their abilities to manage their health conditions. I returned to school for my Masters in Public Health at Hunter College, and then my Doctorate in Public Health at The Graduate Center. My current research focuses on improving “first food justice” by exploring ways employers and universities can support women who breastfeed after returning to work or school.

One word you would use to describe our food system: Inequitable

Food policy hero: Michael Jacobson

Your breakfast this morning: Coffee first, then oatmeal with almonds, banana, and cinnamon

Favorite food: Dark chocolate

Favorite last meal on Earth: Fried egg and cheese sandwich on a whole wheat everything bagel and a bowl of mixed berries (in season) topped with fresh whipped cream. Oh, and a good hot cup of coffee.

Favorite food hangout: My local farmers’ market-I love the quality and diversity of foods available, the ability to find something new to try each time, and running into neighbors and friends.

Social media must follow: On Twitter: @Bf_USA, @CSPI, @foodtank, @HealthyFoodLaws, @preventioninst  On Instagram: @uglyfruitandveg

Jessica Douglas

Age: 38

Grew up in: Holland, Ohio

Job title: Operations Manager, Greenmarket, GrowNYC

Background and education: I grew up in Ohio and have a BA in English from the Ohio State University. I started my career at a children’s magazine, taught English abroad, worked for a lighting company and then a local bike shop. While the majority of my knowledge about food comes from eating it, my real education in food policy began 11 years ago when I began working for Greenmarket as a Market Manager. I now oversee logistics and operations for all 51 Greenmarkets throughout the five boroughs.

One word you would use to describe our food system: Complex

Food policy hero: Barbara Turk

Your breakfast this morning: Maine Grains oatmeal with yogurt and honey

Favorite food: Rhubarb curd cheesecake

Favorite last meal on Earth: A real nice clambake

Favorite food hangout: Any friend’s backyard with a grill. I’m always happy to supply the pie.

Social media must follow: I’m a big fan of city service agencies’ social media – DSNY and MTA’s Facebook, @nyc_dotart, @mtaartsdesign and of course all of the Greenmarkets on Instagram.

Rafael L Espinal Jr.

Age: 33

Grew up in: Brooklyn

Job title: NYC Council Member

Background and education: I was born and raised in Cypress Hills/East New York, with Dominican immigrant parents and five siblings (I am the middle child). I attended Public Schools all of my life and graduated from Queens College with a Bachelors in English.

One word you would use to describe our food system: Lacking

Food policy hero: Nancy Easton at Wellness in the Schools. Her work to change NYC Public Schools’ food system has been eye-opening and inspiring.

Your breakfast this morning: Organic sourdough toast with almond butter and a fresh cup of coffee

Favorite food: Pizza – all kinds

Favorite last meal on Earth: Did I say pizza? Tough to say. Something farm to table, with a tasty smoked meat, paired with a glass of biodynamic red wine or a cold pilsner.

Favorite food hangout: Roberta’s Pizza in Bushwick, Brooklyn. It was the first place I learned about urban farming and the importance of locally sourced fresh food. They also make some of the best pizza in the city.

Social media must follow: My Instagram feed for sure! @RLEspinal, most importantly Brooklyn Grange @Brooklyngrange, Civil Eats on Twitter.

Stacey Faella

Age: 31

Grew up in: New Jersey

Job title: Executive Director, Woodcock Foundation

Background and education: In 2013, I earned an MPA in nonprofit management and policy administration from NYU’s Wagner School. Since then, I’ve been at the Woodcock Foundation, where I manage both a grants portfolio and program-related investment portfolio in food systems. Woodcock’s focus started with the idea that everyone should have access to healthy food, and it has evolved to include the many intersectional impacts that are tied to our food system, from livelihoods to health to the environment. I’m a member of the Community Food Funders Steering Committee and have been working with other funders and investors to foster more collaborative efforts to improve our food system.

One word you would use to describe our food system: Complex

Food policy hero: Tracie McMillan, because her book was instrumental in furthering my understanding of the labor issues and the pervasive injustice that plague our current food system.

Your breakfast this morning: Two soft-boiled eggs and coffee

Favorite food: Sushi

Favorite last meal on Earth: Sushi

Favorite food hangout: Amali in NYC. We’ve had a couple of Woodcock’s board events there. It serves delicious local seasonal Mediterranean food and is included in the Restaurant Opportunity Center’s Diner’s Guide.

Social media must follow: The Food and Environment Reporting Network and Civil Eats

Erika Freund

Age: 38

Grew up in: Port Murray, New Jersey (a little farm town)

Job title: Mobile Food Pantry Director, West Side Campaign Against Hunger

Background and education: I hold an MSW from NYU and have been working within the program design and development space for almost 15 years in Washington D.C, East Africa, and New York City

One word you would use to describe our food system: Complex

Food policy hero: Karen Washington of Rise and Root Farm & Tony Hillery of Harlem Grown.

Your breakfast this morning: Spinach + Banana smoothie

Favorite food: Crispy Duck Breast

Favorite last meal on Earth: Freshly made pasta, prosciutto, ricotta and a glass of Bordeaux

Favorite food hangout: Union Square Farmers’ Market on Saturdays! I love supporting local agriculture, seeing all the gorgeous in-season produce, and chatting with the vendors.

Social media must follow: @eyeswoon, a culinary storyteller who combines beautiful, delicious food and pretty spaces.

Yadira Garcia

Age: 34

Grew up in: The Bronx

Job title: Educator, Activist, Chef

Background and education: I am a trained natural-foods Chef and certified Integrative Health Coach, who grew up in the South Bronx of New York City. I am now leveraging my education as a community activist, educator, and Chef under Happy Healthy Latina, LLC, helping to address food justice, nutrition education & health inequities in marginalized communities of NYC. I work with several Community Based Organizations, Schools and Bronx/NYC Urban Farms as a culturally relevant nutrition education/food justice workshop curriculum creator & facilitator. I am now focusing on using food justice and food tech to create a workforce program for youth in Harlem and the Bronx, partnering with Children’s Aid Society.

One word you would use to describe our food system: Intersectional

Food policy hero: Tony Hillery, Founder of Harlem Grown

Your breakfast this morning: Avocado toast with chilies.

Favorite food: Thai curry

Favorite last meal on Earth: Pigeon peas and brown rice, sweet plantains, my sweet potato sofrito curry.

Favorite food hangout: Community Urban Farm. It’s the perfect place to restore, support, learn, share, grow and eat and see what’s happening in a neighborhoods food system and access.

Social media must follow: JustfoodNYC

Mara Gittleman

Age: 30

Grew up in: South Brunswick, NJ

Job title: Workshops Coordinator, NYC Parks GreenThumb

Background and education: I coordinate the year-round workshop series for GreenThumb, the office of NYC Parks that works with community gardens across the city, as well as the workshops at our annual GreenThumb GrowTogether conference. I have an MA in Geography from Hunter College and a BS in American Studies and Environmental Studies from Tufts University. I’m a former board member of the NYC Community Garden Coalition, and before coming to GreenThumb I was a Farm Educator for six growing seasons at KCC Urban Farm at Kingsborough Community College in Brooklyn. I co-founded and co-direct Farming Concrete, a project to help community-based growers measure the good things growing in their farms and gardens, from food production to compost to volunteer hours. I have co-authored papers on using citizen science to measure food production in community gardens and on stormwater retention in community gardens.

One word you would use to describe our food system: Complicated

Food policy hero: Qiana Mickie, Executive Director of Just Food

Your breakfast this morning: Matzo with butter and herbs, leftover from Passover

Favorite food: Potatoes

Favorite last meal on Earth: Burger and fries, and/or tom yum soup from Dao Palate

Favorite food hangout: A[ny] diner.

Social media must follow: @greenthumbgrows, @nyccgc, @justfood, @ragamickie, @enak.mcpherson, @soulfirefarm, @596acres, @seedkeeping, @theblkprojek, @foodculturist, @anth05, @EquityAtTheTable, @enyfarms, @theyouthfarm, @kccurbanfarm, @communityfarmbx, @riseandrootfarm, @rocksteadyfarm, @leah.koenig, @karwasher, @farmschool_nyc, @linkefligl

Jennifer Goggin

Age: 33

Grew up in: Falmouth, Maine

Job title: Director of Retail, Crave Food Systems

Background and education: I have been an entrepreneur and advisor in the food industry since 2010. My most recent company, Pippin Foods, helped retailers better source and market local products, providing shoppers with information around how, when and where their food was grown in the process. Pippin was acquired by Crave Food Systems in 2017, where I continue to build tools and technology to help businesses provide transparency into their local supply chain. The common thread running through all of my endeavors is helping to grow sales for local food by making it easier to discover, transact and market those products. I am a frequent panelist and moderator for entrepreneurship and food industry events and a former board member of Slow Food NYC. I am a graduate of Columbia University.

One word you would use to describe our food system: Opaque

Food policy hero: Marion Nestle

Your breakfast this morning: Apple and almond butter

Favorite food: Broccoli (seriously)

Favorite last meal on Earth: The full tasting experience at Blue Hill at Stone Barns

Favorite food hangout: Fulton Stall Market in the Seaport. Even though the store is tiny, they carry the widest variety of local food producers around, and share such interesting stories about the people making each item that you are tempted to buy each and every product.

Social media must follow: @ryan_caldbeck (of Circle Up)

Erica Goodman

Age: 33

Grew up in: Fort Ann, NY

Job title: New York State Deputy Director, American Farmland Trust

Background and education: MA in Mass Communications Research, University of Colorado at Boulder; BA in American Civilization and Literature, Middlebury College; Voting Member and Representative At-Large for Urban, Suburban and Rural Non-Farm Interests, NYS Soil & Water Conservation Committee. As the New York State Deputy Director for AFT, I work alongside the New York State Director to develop and lead programs to advance the organization’s mission in the state, including protecting farmland, promoting sound farming practices, and keeping farmers on the land. My primary area of focus is on programs to support beginning farmers in securing access to land and aid senior farmers and landowners in transferring farms to the next generation. A native of New York, I grew up on a dairy farm that was in the family for 160 years. It was there that I saw firsthand the challenges and opportunities of intergenerational relationships and farm transition.

One word you would use to describe our food system: Amnestic

Food policy hero: Debra Eschmeyer

Your breakfast this morning: Fried eggs, on a bed of roasted potatoes and Brussel sprouts

Favorite food: Blackberries from my mom’s garden grown from rootstock she saved from my great grandfather’s garden

Favorite last meal on Earth: The sharpest of cheddar cheeses melted on top of the heartiest of freshly baked bread

Favorite food hangout: My grandmother’s kitchen table. It was the center point of my family’s dairy, for both joyous occasions and difficult discussion. Any visitor to the farm made sure to schedule his/her visit during lunch time to enjoy my grandmother’s food around that table.

Social media must follow: Studs Terkel Radio Archive (@studsarchive)

Harrison Hillier

Age: 30

Grew up in: Derwood MD

Job title: Hydroponics Manager, Teens for Food Justice

Background and education: AA from Montgomery College MD, Bachelors of General Agriculture with a focus in Plant & Soil Sciences from University of Maryland Eastern Shore.

One word you would use to describe our food system: Antiquated

Food policy hero: Will Allen

Your breakfast this morning: Cold Brew coffee & melon

Favorite food: Kitfo with Yebeg wat

Favorite last meal on Earth: Iranian Beluga caviar on toast points with Dom Perignon Rose Gold

Favorite food hangout: New Wonjo on 32nd in K-Town

Social media must follow: IG: teensforfoodjustice; FB @teensforfoodjustice; Twitter: @tffjinitiative

JJ Johnson

Age: 33

Grew up in: Tobyhanna PA- Poconos

Job title: Co-Founder & Chef, Ingrained Hospitality Concepts

Background and education: I am the James Beard-nominated chef best known for cooking food of the African diaspora at the beloved Harlem restaurants, The Cecil and Minton’s, where I most recently served as Executive Chef. My signature style of transforming simple cuisine with bold flavors and unexpected ingredients was inspired by the Caribbean flavors I grew up with, combined with African and Asian tastes acquired from my travels around the world. Now, I have created a new restaurant group, InGrained Hospitality Concepts, and have teamed up with Will Sears on two new restaurant projects, including an upcoming grain and rice concept, ingredients that I have spent the last several years studying alongside Glen Roberts of Anson Mills. During the Fall 2017, I previewed new dishes and flavors from his latest culinary ventures at Chefs Club, a restaurant located in New York City’s NoLiTa neighborhood, where I serve as the first chef in residence. Having cooked a completely sold-out three-night dinner series at Chefs Club’s fast casual concept, Chefs Club Counter, this past summer, I continue to preview dishes from his forthcoming solo venture to New Yorkers. At Chefs Club, I cooked a menu of “Afro-Asian” cuisine, something I feel is tangible evidence of the migration of people, and the creativity that it begets. Dish highlights, inspired by a melting pot borne of the diaspora, include Con’Con – Jollof sticky rice with eggplant curry, coconut and basil, and Short Rib for Two with Carolina gold rice, hoisin and house-made roti. In February 2018, I debuted my first cookbook, “Between Harlem and Heaven.”

One word you would use to describe our food system: Imbalanced

Food policy hero: Michel Nischan

Your breakfast this morning: Oats and Flaxseeds

Favorite food: Pizza

Favorite last meal on Earth: A grandmother’s meal

Favorite food hangout: A friend’s house because no one is judged on what they eat

Social media must follow: NYC food bank

Corey King

Age: 30

Grew up in: Lyme, Connecticut

Job title: Program Manager for Go!Chefs and Gardens, Children’s Aid Society

Background and education: I grew up with a mother who worked in restaurants and have held various food service jobs since I was sixteen years old – dishwasher, barista, line chef, and server. When I wasn’t working with food, I was always fascinated by understanding how the natural world works. This led me to earn a BS in Biology and to briefly work at a genetic research lab extracting DNA from chameleon feet. I eventually decided that studying Nutrition would combine my love of food and science. I earned my MS in Nutrition and became a licensed Registered Dietitian in 2014. I began my RD career in a clinical setting, and it was the patients and families I met during that time which cemented my desire to work in prevention. I began my pivot by working as a part-time educator in various community education and intervention jobs and I loved every minute of it. I am fortunate that in my current work with Children’s Aid I get to spread excitement and build skills around health and wellness through nutrition education, gardening, cooking, events, etc. with ages ranging from pre-K through adults within multiple New York City communities.

One word you would use to describe our food system: Resilient

Food policy hero: Marion Nestle, I remember reading What To Eat in my Community Nutrition class during the first week of my Master’s program and just having my mind blown.

Your breakfast this morning: Sprouted grain toast with really good butter, a handful of almonds and lots of coffee

Favorite food: Staples since childhood: peak season tomatoes (a garden), macaroni and cheese (8th street wine cellar), ice cream (Salem Valley Ice Cream Farm)

Favorite last meal on Earth: Some of my New York Favorites: soup dumplings and bok choy, the duck flambé from Beatrice Inn and for dessert the Dacquoise cake from Tartine.

Favorite food hangout: Antonio’s Trattoria in Little Italy in the Bronx. I worked there all through undergrad and grad school and it is my home away from home. The regular customers, my coworkers, and the food all sort of blended themselves together to make this really important and wonderful support system for me. It is the kind of magical place where, even if you don’t work there, you can spend hours in what feels like minutes; it’s a place where you walk in as a hungry stranger and leave full and happy with a community of people to know and to return to as often as you please. I am very lucky to have it in my life.

Social media must follow: I don’t know if podcasts count, but, I enjoy Ted Talks, NPR, Hidden Brain and the NYT daily. On Instagram I love getting food inspiration from Food 52.

Robert Lee

Age: 27

Grew up in: Flushing, Queens, New York

Job title: Co-founder & CEO, Rescuing Leftover Cuisine

Background and education: Native New Yorker born and raised in Queens, I attended the Stern School of Business at NYU and worked at JPMorgan in Asset Management before working on Rescuing Leftover Cuisine full-time.

One word you would use to describe our food system: Inefficient

Food policy hero: Doug Rauch

Your breakfast this morning: Oatmeal

Favorite food: Kimchi Stew

Favorite last meal on Earth: Pepperoni Pizza

Favorite food hangout: Dig Inn. I always take my meetings at a Dig Inn location because they’re always great places with awesome stores and great staff. We also work with them for food donations!

Social media must follow: @UglyFruitAndVeg by Jordan Figueiredo – it’s amazing!

Jordyn Lexton

Age: 32

Grew up in: Manhattan

Job title: CEO, Drive Change

Background and education: My 6-word bio is: Not Cut Out For The Sidelines. I am the Founder and CEO of Drive Change, a social enterprise that uses the food truck/hospitality industry to hire, teach, and empower formerly incarcerated youth, raise awareness about injustice, and build community. Prior to launching Drive Change in 2014, I spent three years teaching English on Riker’s Island and witnessing the traumatic effects of adult jail on youth. I entered the re-entry field to work at organizations including CASES and the Center for Employment Opportunities, as well as for Governor Cuomo’s Work for Success program. I also spent seven months working as a manager on the Kimchi Taco Truck to learn the food truck business. I hold a Bachelor’s of Arts in English Literature from Wesleyan University and a Master’s in Education from Pace University. I am a 2015 Echoing Green Fellow.

One word you would use to describe our food system: Unjust

Food policy hero: Leah Penniman (Soul Fire Farm); Barbara Turk (Mayor’s Office of Food Policy)

Your breakfast this morning: Fresh Fruit

Favorite food: Farm Tomatoes

Favorite last meal on Earth: Grandma Selma’s Matzoh Ball Soup

Favorite food hangout: My (and my wife’s) house – there is no greater joy than cooking for family and chosen family

Social media must follow: @drivechangenyc / @equityatthetable

Gil Lopez

Age: 39

Grew up in: Hattiesburg, Mississippi

Job titles: Co-founder & President, Smiling Hogshead Ranch; Project Coordinator, NYC Compost Project Hosted by Big Reuse; Logistics Manager, Reclaimed Organics; Freelance Environmental Educator

Background and education: I grew up around food in my mom’s bakery, albeit not the healthiest. While in landscape architecture school I was introduced to permaculture design concepts. As a landscape professional, I became obsessed with “productive landscapes.” I moved to NYC in 2010 and established Smiling Hogshead Ranch in 2011 while installing green roofs and exploring the slow food and urban ag scene in the city. I’m still learning from my colleagues and fellow gardeners while “reclaiming the commons and cultivating community.”

One word you would use to describe our food system: Nascent

Food policy heroes: Food Not Bombs, a loose-knit group of independent collectives, democratizing food policy by sharing free vegetarian food; The Diggers, England 1649; Leah Penniman, Soul Fire Farm; Ron Finley, LA’s Gangsta Gardener

Your breakfast this morning: Homemade yogurt with granola & freegan fruit

Favorite food: Pudding (all sorts, savory or sweet!)

Favorite last meal on Earth: Crawfish étouffée, potato salad (made with sweet chow-chow), roasted veggies and blueberry/cream cheese King Cake for dessert

Favorite food hangout: Smiling Hogshead Ranch, while we grow lots of great food, the potlucks there can be epic with homemade ferments and beverages, seasonal dishes and an eye-popping variety of specialty ethnics foods & treats our members bring. It’s always a delicious cultural experience with friends and visitors.

Social media must follow: Foodfirstorg and Adbusters

Rishma Lucknauth

Age: 32

Grew up in: Cove & John, Guyana, South America

Job title: Publicity & Volunteer Coordinator, Greenmarket, GrowNYC

Background and education: I have a BA in Journalism from the University of Toronto. Prior to joining the publicity team at Greenmarket, I spent three years working in the classroom and directing a preschool in the Bronx. I’ve always gravitated towards the non-profit sector, so I took on a communications role during this time with the Bronx River Alliance so that I can be connected to a local cause. I left my preschool job to chase my passion for food and started volunteering with GrowNYC’s Fresh Food Box program, and within a month I was a youth coordinator for one of our Youthmarkets in East Harlem. I’ve been with Greenmarket for a little over three years and I have never felt more fulfilled in the work that I do.

One word you would use to describe our food system: Resilient

Food policy hero: Michael Pollan, and all of my colleagues at Greenmarket who continue to inspire me each and every day to keep fighting the good fight, and keep our local food system strong and just.

Your breakfast this morning: Greek yogurt and a pear

Favorite food: Seafood of all kinds. I’m a huge fan of local black sea bass, but always whole and never filet—I prefer to do my own fish butchery!

Favorite last meal on Earth: Guyanese-style chicken curry with dhal and rice, and lots of pepper sauce.

Favorite food hangout: The Union Square Greenmarket—particularly the fish stands. I’ve always wanted to be a fisherman, but my seasickness wouldn’t allow that dream to manifest. Instead, I support our local fishermen (and women) who brave the high seas to bring fresh seafood to Greenmarket every week—they’re better at it than I could ever be.

Social media must follow: I eat vicariously through my Instagram feed: @unsqgreenmarket @food52 @uglyproduceisbeautiful @dennistheprescott @halfbakedharvest @queenseats @foodandwine

Rosa Marruffo

Age: 29

Grew up in: Tulsa, Oklahoma

Job title: PS 7 Program Manager, Edible Schoolyard NYC

Background and education: BA in Anthropology/Studio Art from Mount Holyoke College, MPH from CUNY School of Public Health and Health Policy. As a public health professional, my mission is to address the unfair access to fresh, affordable healthy foods in order to give everyone a chance to live a healthier life. In my work, I support school communities to challenge society not to let people fall through the cracks. Health is a basic human right and I want to ensure that healthy choices are universally accessible.

One word you would use to describe our food system: Inequitable

Food policy hero: Camara Phyllis Jones

Your breakfast this morning: Yogurt and granola

Favorite food: Salsas! (Mango Black-Bean is my favorite)

Favorite last meal on Earth: My abuela’s fideo con nopales

Favorite foodie hangout: Sunset Park CSA

Social media must follow: @esynyc, of course! On Twitter, @AMReese07 and @fractweets

Bryan Moran 

Age: 31
Grew up in: Bloomfield, Michigan
Job Title: Client Adoption Lead, Plentiful
Background and Education: I grew up in the metro Detroit area with a love for technology. After I built my first computer at 10, I developed a passion for using tech to solve real world problems and make peoples lives easier. I moved to New York City to work for Coalition for the Homeless’s Grand Central Food Program via the Jesuit Volunteer Corps. After my time at CFTH I returned to school to earn my MS in Non-profit Management from The New School. For the past year and a half I’ve been leading Plentiful’s development and rollout in NYC. I’m currently working towards bringing Plentiful to a wider audience after it’s success in NYC.
One word you would use to describe our food system: Massive
Food policy hero: Honestly, the staff and volunteers of all the pantries I work with.
Your breakfast this morning: Coffee and an everything bagel
Favorite food: I’m always on the hunt for the perfect Ruben
Favorite last meal on Earth: My fiancés enchiladas
Favorite food hangout: My families kitchen, I grew up with a mother who loved to cook and the kitchen is the center of our home.
Social media must follow: I’m a techie at heart so I follow Tech Crunch, The Verge, Arstechnica, and Wired

Caity Moseman Wadler

Age: 31

Grew up in: South Berwick, Maine

Job title: Executive Director, Heritage Radio Network

Background and education: I’ve always been interested in the ways food systems affect public health. I have a BA in Molecular Biology/Biochemistry from Middlebury College and an MA in Food Studies from New York University. At NYU, my Master’s research examined the impact of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, or food stamps, on farms operating community supported agriculture programs (CSAs) in New York State. In between my undergrad and graduate studies, I worked in antibody engineering at Adimab, a New Hampshire-based biotech startup, and spent a year traveling the world before settling in New York City.

One word you would use to describe our food system: Interdisciplinary

Food policy hero: Marion Nestle. She’s done so much to educate people about how food policy and food environments are formed and influenced, while advancing food studies as an academic discipline. Plus, she started the graduate program that made my career possible!

Your breakfast this morning: Soft scrambled eggs with truffle pecorino cheese, sourdough toast, Darjeeling tea

Favorite food: My mom’s wood-grilled pizzas

Favorite last meal on Earth: This is a tough one! There’s definitely an enormous cheese plate involved, and multiple courses of vegetable-forward pastas, grain salads, and grilled things. For dessert, some not-too-sweet custard with raspberries, and dark chocolate cake.

Favorite food hangout: Any NYC greenmarket, then back to my kitchen to cook with friends and family- sharing great food is my all-time favorite way to spend time.

Social media must follow: @heritage_radio (the best way to tap into our 35+ weekly shows, plus food news and the great work of people all across the food world!)

Jerome Nathaniel

Age: 28

Grew up in: East New York, Brooklyn

Job title: Community Engagement Manager, NWQ, City Harvest

Background and education: My involvement in food justice is not by choice, but as a product of growing up in East New York in the 90s and personally experiencing the health consequences of food apartheid and redlining. I started volunteering at pantries when I was in grade school with the Association for Negro Business and Professional Women’s Brooklyn Youth Club. I went on to receive my BA in Religion from the University of Rochester in 2007. During my time there, I started a series of service projects and panels on social justice issues like mass incarceration, hunger and homelessness with the Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence. Upon graduating, I worked with the American Friends Service Committee’s Campaign to End the New Jim Crow and served on the planning team for Attica’s 40th anniversary at the Riverside Church. I finally gained professional experience in the food justice world when I worked for Foodlink in Rochester as their SNAP Outreach Coordinator. It was during those three years that my passion for food justice was solidified. From operating the mobile farm truck, the Curbside Market, to enrolling over 2,300 families of drastically different backgrounds and walks of life in Western NY, I rediscovered a burning fire to do more for my own home, the stomping grounds of the concrete jungle.

One word you would use to describe our food system: Detained

Food policy hero: Leah Penniman

Your breakfast this morning: Oatmeal, yogurt with lime juice and whole wheat toast with peanut butter

Favorite food: Most fish I catch (especially striped bass) with lemon pepper seasoning

Favorite last meal on Earth: Sweet potato fries, my grandma’s banana pudding, my mom’s sweet potato pie, my sister’s bread pudding with bourbon sauce, my girlfriend’s Irish brown bread and my Great aunt’s rum balls for “dessert.” Essentially, everything that I’m never allowed to eat during marathon training in one sitting.

Favorite food hangout: Fort Greene Park Greenmarket

Social media must follow: I would just say my friends, since I repost from friends more than I follow organizations. But most of my reposts are from City Limits.

Rachael Nemeth

Age: 31

Grew up in: Kansas City, Kansas

Job title: CEO & Founder, ESL Works

Background and education: Undergrad – College of Charleston; TESOL certificate – The New School; Grad – The New School (candidate)

One word you would use to describe our food system: Resilient

Food policy hero: Devita Davison

Your breakfast this morning: Black coffee and a book

Favorite food: Anything cooked in good company

Favorite last meal on Earth: Anyone who knows me well wouldn’t be surprised to read that my last meal on Earth would be traded for waterproof matches and a gallon of clean water. Let’s hope it never comes to that. But in case you were wondering, I would have traded away grilled cheese and tomato soup.

Favorite food hangout: My brother’s house. I’m not much of a regular in places, mostly because prefer trying new spots all the time. The one place that brings me back to center is my brother’s house. We usually put on good music, cook, and goof off. It’s perfectly memorable every time.

Social media must follow: @ACLU – especially TX, y’all; @ellevest: because financial feminism will shift the future of work, of access, and of power; @cwpencilenterprise: because they make pencils look like the best part of your day

Christa Marie Perfit

Age: 39

Grew up in: Northern Indiana and Southern California

Job title: Senior Manager, Healthy Retail, City Harvest

Background and education: I have my BA in International Development Studies with a minor in Latin American Studies from UCLA, as well as my MA in Development Management and Public Policy from Georgetown University (includes coursework at the Universidad Nacional de San Martín in Buenos Aires and Fundação Getulio Vargas in Rio de Janeiro). After grad school, I moved to New York dreaming of a career in international development. While on the job hunt, I volunteered at City Harvest where I felt the magic of working on food security at the local level. I was hooked. My family struggled to put food on the table when I was young so I was extremely grateful for the opportunity to give back. Now as a member of the Healthy Retail team, I work to help local stores thrive while maintaining affordable, healthy offerings to the community. I like to say I get to spend my days helping NYC food retailers be healthy, inside and out!

One word you would use to describe our food system: Humbling

Food policy hero: Sally Cooper, Michel Nischan

Your breakfast this morning: Orange juice and a banana at home, a bowl of corn flakes and coffee at the office

Favorite food: Melted cheese. Avocado. Chocolate. Popcorn. In no particular order.

Favorite last meal on Earth: In a vacuum of consequences, it would be a curated feast of bubbles, grilled proveleta, Taco Mesa nachos, a Jan’s salad, coconut fish stew with pao de queijo, a beef rib from Izzy’s Smokehouse, a splash of Nonino Amaro, and a Mister Softee butterscotch sundae.

Favorite food hangout: My Aunt Carolyn’s Kitchen, where the only rivals to the love and laughter are the food and drink.

Social media must follow: Rene Redzepi

Bernard Pollack

Age: 37

Grew up in: Montreal, Canada

Job title: Co-Founder & Chairman of the Board, Food Tank

Background and education: I serve as Food Tank’s Co-Founder, Chairman of the Board, and Communications Director. I am an expert at non-profit and union campaigning and communications. I have spent more than ten years organizing state and national campaigns for the National AFL-CIO that has resulted in the election of dozens major pro-worker candidates and laws in California, Kentucky, Minnesota, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and nearly a dozen other states. I have developed communication programs for union organizing all over the U.S. and have worked extensively with media reporting on workers’ issues. I also served as Communications Director at the Worldwatch Institute and have built Food Tank’s social media reach to over a million combined followers. I hold an MA in political management from The George Washington University School of Political Management and a BA from the Elliot School of International Affairs at The George Washington University.

One word you would use to describe our food system: Changing (thanks to this incredible, inspiring and ever-expanding food movement)

Food policy hero: Saru Jayaraman who is co-founder of the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United. She is truly an inspiration in how we bridge movements together with shared values and win (in this case the labor and food movements).

Your breakfast this morning: A pot of coffee with toasted sourdough, tofu scramble, vegan sausage, avocado and spinach

Favorite food: A black bean and sweet potato burrito with corn, lettuce, and hot salsa

Favorite last meal on Earth: Anything made by Jose Andres

Favorite food hangout: By Chloe. It’s always fantastic, fresh, delicious, and friendly.

Social media must follow: Twitter: Modern Farmer or Slow Food USA. Facebook: NowThis Food or the UN FAO. Instagram: Dan Barber or Kimbal Musk

Viraj Puri

Age: 36

Grew up in: New York and Chicago

Job title: Co-founder & CEO of Gotham Greens

Background and education: Developed and managed start-up enterprises in New York, India, and Africa focusing on sustainable agriculture, green building, renewable energy, and environmental design. I received my BA from Colgate University and am a LEED® certified professional.

One word you would use to describe our food system: Fixable

Food policy hero: Wendell Berry, Vandana Shiva, Paul Hawken, Bill McKibben, and Norman Borlaug are all heroes in my book.

Your breakfast this morning: Oatmeal, bacon and a banana

Favorite food: Italian style, thin crust pizza piled high with basil

Favorite last meal on Earth: Dinner at Gramercy Tavern. Chef Mike Anthony has been a longtime friend of Gotham Greens and is one of the most talented chefs I’ve come across. I’d go for a burger and table full of his fresh pasta and a salad made with Gotham Greens produce.

Favorite food hangout: Two Boots pizza and good ramen joints

Social media must follow: @attndotcom

Michaela Ritz

Age: 23

Grew up in: Bronx, New York – in my Dad’s classroom

Job title: Farm Manager, Food For Others Garden & Sous Chef Dig Inn

Background and education: National Merit Scholar from Bronx High School of Science graduate and Geosciences/Environmental Studies graduate from Skidmore College graduate. Additionally, a two-year Doris Duke Conservation Scholar and a featured Young Futurist – Top 25 African American Freshman via The Root (2014).

One word you would use to describe our food system: Resilient

Food policy hero: My dad (Stephen Ritz)! And Michael Pollan and Marion Nestle

Your breakfast this morning: Freshly baked bread with Bronx heirloom tomatoes grown directly in the classroom!

Favorite food: Onions

Favorite last meal on Earth: A locally grown salad with pasta

Favorite food hangout: Whole Foods. All of the offerings are fresh, vibrant, and regionally sourced, not to mention delicious.

Social media must follow: Beyond all things Green Bronx Machine, Nasa and NYC Food Policy Center

Catarina Rivera

Age: 32

Grew up in: Bowie, Maryland

Job title: Community Engagement Manager, Washington Heights & Inwood, City Harvest

Background and education: After growing up in suburban Maryland and attending Duke University, I wanted to experience the big city life. Moved to New York City and specifically to Washington Heights, which had a vibrant Latino community that appealed to me as a Cuban/Puerto Rican person. Started out my career as an NYC public school teacher through Teach for America. Earned an MSEd in Dual Language/Bilingual Education. Stumbled upon an interest in health and food through observing my students’ lunches. Became a holistic health coach through Institute for Integrative Nutrition. Quit teaching to launch a community program called Healthy Kids in the Heights. After a year and a half, went back to work at a nonprofit in Harlem to deepen my learning. Was a health coordinator for three years and earned my MPH degree at night from the CUNY School of Public Health. Currently work for City Harvest to build food security in my community of Washington Heights and Inwood through community engagement, partnerships, and special projects. Organizer of the Washington Heights/Inwood Food Council.

One word you would use to describe our food system: Complex

Food policy hero: Devita Davison of FoodLab Detroit

Your breakfast this morning: Oatmeal with blueberries, peanut butter, hemp seeds, and cinnamon

Favorite food: So hard to pick, but it would probably have to be guacamole

Favorite last meal on Earth: Taco plate with pulled jackfruit tacos and huitlacoche tacos, guacamole with freshly made chips, yellow rice and black beans

Favorite food hangout: My favorite food hangout would have to be my parents’ house because it’s the only place where I can request all the special meals I want but not have to cook them or pay for them! Also, my parents are both great cooks. I really love the healthy soups and stews my mom makes.

Social media must follow: @whinfoodcouncil, happyhealthylatina, @saludtoday

Emma Rodgers

Age: 36

Grew up in: Maryland

Job title: Senior Program Manager, Bronx Health REACH Coalition led by the Institute for Family Health

Background and education: Master of Science in Public Health from the Harvard School of Public Health and a bachelor’s degree from Smith College. Prior to working for the Institute, I was the Bronx Borough Organizer for NYC Smoke Free, implementing education and advocacy strategies to gain support for citywide tobacco control policy priorities, and the Associate Director of Planning at Buying at HN Media and Marketing, managing online, outdoor and print media buys for the NYC and NY State Departments of Health. I learned most of what I know about food policy from my colleagues and coalition partners at Bronx Health REACH.

One word you would use to describe our food system: Inequitable

Food policy hero: Frank Pimental, owner of two Fine Fare Supermarkets in the South Bronx

Your breakfast this morning: Zucchini, apple and carrot muffins, oatmeal and lots of water. I’m a nursing mom!

Favorite food: Noodle soups and The Bronx Salad

Favorite last meal on Earth: A 10-course Chinese banquet – what we served at our wedding!

Favorite food hangout: The Inwood farmers’ market. Great food year-round and great conversations. I always run into friends and enjoy speaking with the farmers. The market is a real gem in our community.

Social media must follow: Bronx Health REACH and our coalition partners!

Irbania Tavares

Age: 37

Grew up in: The Dominican Republic, moved to the USA in my late teens.

Job title: Chef & Culinary Instructor, Wellness in the Schools

Background and education: I’m devoted to be of service to communities and to support, rebuilt, and create healthy ones. The foods we consume affect our lives in all levels, this is why I’m an active advocate about the importance of eating healthy foods and making it accessible to everyone.

My education: Culinary Arts and Health diploma from the Natural Gourmet Institute; BA in Liberal Arts, Major Political Science from Hunter College; AAS in Liberal Arts from New York City College of Technology. I have also completed many continuing education courses.

One word you would use to describe our food system: Improving

Food policy hero: Wellness in the Schools. Every day students across the nation are being positively impacted by this organization – school lunches have become healthier and it continues to improve.

Your breakfast this morning: A large glass of water, mushrooms and leeks frittata with small black coffee

Favorite food: Mixed greens salad, rice, beans, and stewed chicken.

Favorite last meal on Earth: Homemade chicken soup

Favorite food hangout: My mother’s house. I love to eat homemade foods seated at the table with my family and talking about fun memories. It’s always a priceless “hangout” experience.

Social media must follow: Brian Johnson’s Optimal Living @brianthephilosopher and Max Lugavere @MaxLugavere

Kimberly Vallejo

Age: 36

Grew up in: Upstate NY. Born & raised in Liverpool, just outside of Syracuse

Job title: Director of Outreach, NYS Dept. of Agriculture & Markets

Background and education: After studying political science and public policy/administration (at Hobart William Smith & Cornell), I was a social justice advocate working in education. That path, which started at the Boys & Girls Club, led me to teaching and eventually to the West Coast, to work for an international NGO. All along the way, I was working in food to pay my bills (and feed my soul) and learning ever more about the social, environmental and economic injustices that plague our food system. After a while, it was clear I needed a career change. When I moved back to NY, I jumped at the chance to join the incredible team at Hot Bread Kitchen as manager of the incubator program there. Since then, my move to the State means I get to continue to support and advocate on behalf of good food entrepreneurs with a much larger scope, including farmers and food justice initiatives here in NYC and across the state.

One word you would use to describe our food system: Jodido

Food policy hero: Naomi Starkman, Paula Crossfield and the entire team at Civil Eats. They cover such a range of issues in our food system, and their appeal to the general public helps a broader audience to better understand the complexity and range of issues food policy makers grapple with. The public won’t read white papers, but if we can distill into shareable news clips why the average person should care about the Farm Bill, for example, we have a better chance of informing the public and igniting action to change our food system. Civil Eats is doing just that, totally appreciate their work.

Your breakfast this morning: Gallo pinto, fried plantains, queso fresco, Nicaraguan taco & black coffee

Favorite food: Salteñas!

Favorite last meal on Earth: A fresh loaf of sourdough, giant charcuterie plate and a bottle of Barolo.

Favorite food hangout: Alto Cinco in Syracuse, NY. My hometown is not exactly a place giving birth new food trends, but this spot was maybe one of the first to get me excited about what was on my plate. There’s something really special about a place willing to do vegan Mexican food and carry organic wine in an otherwise grey & gritty rust belt town. I’ve shared a lot of memorable moments in my life here and every time I go home, it’s still the first place I go to meet up with friends and family and grab a meal. Perhaps even more of a testament to how special this place is, they’re not only still around, but have continued to expand over the years, perhaps a perfect nod to the power and ability of good food to connect people and create community, even in the most unlikely of places.

Social media must follow: I’m not much into social media, I really only use Instagram. One of my favorites is @experimentalfarmnetwork, they are sourcing, starting and selling all sorts of seeds and plant varieties I’ve never grown plus sharing a lot of nerdy-science stuff and plant origin stories. Nothing gets me more excited to get gardening!

Arlen Zamula

Age: 37

Grew up in: Jersey Shore (Lavallette, NJ)

Job title: Director of Nutrition and Physical Activity, East Harlem Neighborhood Health Action Center (DOHMH)

Background and education: I have a BS in Mass Media Communications from NYU and an MPH in Nutrition from Hunter. I have spent more than 10 years focused on reducing childhood obesity rates in Northern Manhattan through improving food and physical activity in schools and the community. This work has spanned nonprofits, like CHALK and Asphalt Green, corporate, and now government.

One word you would use to describe our food system: Inequitable

Food policy hero: Marion Nestle

Your breakfast this morning: Tea and toast

Favorite food: Tie between avocados and green chocolate chip mint ice cream

Favorite last meal on Earth: Mussels in white wine sauce and a dirty vodka martini

Favorite food hangout: The Inn at Pound Ridge by Jean-Georges. My husband is the pastry chef and makes the best desserts!

Social media must follow: IG: Feed the Planet, Oceanic Preservation Society, Harlem EatUp!

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