40 Under 40: The Rising Stars in New York City Food Policy (Class of 2017)

by Alexina Cather, MPH

The New York City Food Policy Center at Hunter College has released its annual class of New York City’s 40 individuals under 40 years old who are working to transform the food system. The Food Policy Center’s honorees 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 at the Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute at Hunter College on June 8th, 2017.

Morgan Ames

Age: 27

Grew up in: Baltimore, MD

Job title: Policy Advisor for Food Policy, Office of the Mayor

Background and education: I have a background in public health and working to alleviate food insecurity. Prior to joining the Mayor’s Office, I worked as a Legislative Intern at the Food Research and Action Center in DC while getting my MPH in Health Policy from George Washington University.

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

Food policy hero: Chef Bryant Terry

Your breakfast this morning: Eggs and sausage on whole wheat toast

Favorite food: Too many to choose!

Favorite last meal: Steamed Maryland blue crabs with lots of Old Bay

Favorite foodie hangout: Trader Joe’s

Social media must follow: @Civileats twitter account


Carla Anastasio

Age: 37

Grew up in: Glen Cove, NY

Job title: Director, Division of Nutrition, Cicatelli Associates Inc.

Background and education: Growing up with first-generation Italian immigrants, life revolved around the kitchen where dishes were made from scratch and love. With a background in biology and psychology, dietetics offered me the opportunity to explore the science of food, and the psychology of eating.

While pursuing a Master’s degree in nutrition and public health at Teachers College, Columbia University, I was introduced to the world of food policy. The challenge of creating and implementing large-scale nutrition standards and guidance for the masses captured my attention and continues to drive my work. Through local and state government agencies, my focus lies in addressing diet-related health disparities through education and accessibility.

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

Food policy hero: Michelle Obama (local: Barbara Turk)

Your breakfast this morning: Plain yogurt with strawberries and walnuts

Favorite food: Nonna’s pasta

Favorite last meal: Broccoli small plate at Cheu Noodle Bar in Philadelphia

Favorite foodie hangout: Pennsy

Social media must follow: Food navigatorEater NY, Food PoliticsRudd Center, Civil Eats, Food Tank


Suzanne Babb

Age: 39

Grew up in: Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Job title: Community Partnerships Manager, WhyHunger

Background and education: I have an undergraduate degree in Exercise Science from Concordia and a Master’s degree in Public Health from Columbia University. I am an urban farmer at La Finca del Sur Urban Farm in the South Bronx, a women of color-led farm. I am also a member of Black Urban Growers (BUGS), which organizes the Black Farmers and Urban Gardeners conference.

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

Food policy hero: Karen Washington

Your breakfast this morning: Avocado toast with a fried egg on top

Favorite food: Pesto (of any kind)

Favorite last meal: Pork Belly Eggs Benedict from The Grange Restaurant

Favorite foodie hangout: South Bronx Farmers’ Market

Social media must follow: Michael Twitty (African-american-Jewish culinary historian) @KosherSoul


Andrew Barrett

Age: 40

Grew up in: Hendersonville, TN

Job title: Program Director, Edible Schoolyard NYC

Background and education: My undergraduate study was in Philosophy and Religious Studies, where I became interested in perspectivism and social constructionism, drawn to how humans make place from space and create community. This was particularly interesting to me with respect to inequity and environmental degradation. After college, I served with AmeriCorps, supporting schools with environmental education projects, including lunchroom composting and school gardens. My experience with youth in that setting led me to make food the focus of my career, and after my second year of service went to graduate school for Masters’ degrees in Agroecology and Horticulture. Before joining Edible Schoolyard NYC, I spent more than a decade working both at home and abroad on issues of food, hunger and community development.

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

Food policy hero: Joel Berg, CEO of Hunger Free America. His encyclopedic knowledge of policy and history combined with his sharp delivery and acerbic wit always amaze me.

Your breakfast this morning: Yogurt with fruit and granola

Favorite food: Hard to beat homegrown tomatoes, especially snacking on cherry tomatoes while working in the garden

Favorite last meal: Grilled beef tenderloin with roasted root veggies

Favorite foodie hangout: Taking my toddlers to Ample Hills Creamery

Social media must follow: Perhaps because I’m 40, I’m not very engaged on social media, but FRAC (Food Research and Action Center) is a great way to keep up with hunger research and policy.


Drew Barrett

Age: 33

Grew up in: Austin, TX

Job title: Co-Founder and CEO, FoodWorks

Background and education: I have a Master’s degree and Bachelor’s degree in Finance/Accounting from University of Virginia. I’m a former investment banker turned entrepreneur and have co-founded multiple companies in the food and medical space.

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

Food policy hero: Kristin Richmond, Revolution Foods

Your breakfast this morning: Breakfast burrito

Favorite food: Mom’s chicken broccoli casserole

Favorite last meal: Hearth

Favorite foodie hangout: Brooklyn FoodWorks

Social media must follow: Liza de Guia (@SkeeterNYC and foodcurated)


Olivia Blanchflower      

Age: 27

Grew up in: Central Massachusetts

Job title: Director of Wholesale and Distribution, GrowNYC

Background and education: I have a Bachelor’s degree in Liberal Arts from Sarah Lawrence College, but my education in food came from working with GrowNYC for eight years – loading vans full of produce in busy intersections, visiting the Wholesale Greenmarket at 4am, meeting farmers and farm workers throughout the region, and working with people of all ages and backgrounds all over the city who shared their food stories with me.

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

Food policy hero: Will Allen

Your breakfast this morning: Brown rice, mushrooms, and tea

Favorite food: A tie between giant salads and ice cream

Favorite last meal: A bowl of ramen so rich it makes your lips stick together

Favorite foodie hangout: The Union Square Greenmarket

Social media must follow: US Department of the Interior


Margaret Brown

Age: 30

Grew up in: College Park, MD

Job title: Staff Attorney, Natural Resources Defense Council NY Program

Background and education: I’m a graduate of the University of Wisconsin, Madison and NYU Law School, and have worked on food issues for over five years at NRDC.

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

Food policy hero: Paul Birdsall, Horsepower Farm

Your breakfast this morning: Yogurt with berries, nuts, and maple syrup

Favorite food: Pasta

Favorite last meal: Beyond Burgers with friends!

Favorite foodie hangout: Mekelburg’s in Clinton Hill

Social media must follow: On Instagram… NRDCNY, BK Greenmarkets, and Brigaid


Liz Carollo

Age: 36

Grew up in: Clearwater, FL

Job title: Publicity Manager, Greenmarket, GrowNYC

Background and education: I have a degree in Natural Resource Management from the University of Florida. I also have an MPA-PNP from NYU’s Wagner Graduate School of Public Service. I’ve worked for various environmental non-profit organizations over the years, in Portland, Oregon and Gainesville, Florida. As of last December, I’ve been at Greenmarket for 10 years overseeing our publicity and programming department.

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

Food policy hero: My colleague, June Russell, who runs Greenmarket’s Inspections Department and Regional Grains Project. We’ve worked together for over 10 years and I’ve learned an invaluable amount from her about growing practices, food systems, food history and cooking. The work she has done around reviving regional grain growing in the Northeast is exceptional and will serve as a model for other food revitalization projects in the coming years.

Your breakfast this morning: Maine Grains cracked oats with maple syrup

Favorite food: A big bowl of slow-cooked turnip greens doused in hot pepper vinegar (my family is from Mississippi)

Favorite last meal: Baked flounder from the market with a side of wintered-over broccoli rabe

Favorite foodie hangout: I’m biased, but any New York City Greenmarket is far and wide the best place to find people who love growing, shopping for, preparing, and eating delicious food.


Cara Chard

Age: 36

Grew up in: Connecticut

Job title: Executive Director, City Growers

Background and education: I’ve worked in urban agriculture education in NYC for nine years. My background is in education (MA) and philosophy (BA). I’m also a beekeeper.

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

Food policy hero: Frances Moore Lappe

Your breakfast this morning: Kefir and a banana

Favorite food: Buffalo mozzarella with heirloom tomatoes & basil

Favorite last meal: Leek quiche

Favorite foodie hangout: Brooklyn Grange in LIC on a Saturday

Social media must follow: You should follow us! @CityGrowersNYC #cgbees


Jimmy Chen

Age: 29

Grew up in: Overland Park, KS

Job title: CEO, Propel

Background and education: I was formerly a Product Manager at Facebook, where I ran the Facebook Groups team. Before that, I was a Product Manager at LinkedIn. I have a BS in Symbolic Systems from Stanford.

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

Food policy hero: Ellen Vollinger

Your breakfast this morning: Bagel with scallion cream cheese

Favorite food: Carrots and hummus

Favorite last meal: Burrito from an authentic SF-style taqueria followed by Ample Hills ice cream

Favorite foodie hangout: Jack Stack BBQ in Kansas City

Social media must follow: @FreshEBT, @WhyHunger, @CodeforAmerica


Alice Chiang

Age: 35

Grew up in: San Jose, CA

Job title: Communications Manager, School Food Focus

Background and education: Hearty eater turned school food advocate, I love the challenge of navigating the complexities of our food system and telling compelling stories that inspire positive change for the health of our children and the planet. I hold an MA in Food Studies from New York University and a BA in Molecular and Cell Biology from the University of California, Berkeley.

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

Food policy hero: Toni Liquori, Founder and Executive Director of School Food Focus

Your breakfast this morning: Croissant and coffee

Favorite food: Black Mission figs

Favorite last meal: Anything my mom makes

Favorite foodie hangout: Sacco Pizza in Hell’s Kitchen

Social media must follow: @schoolfoodfocus, of course


Anastasia Cole Plakias

Age: 33

Grew up in: New York City

Job Title: Co-founder, Vice President, and Vegevangelist at Brooklyn Grange Rooftop Farm

Background and education: BA from Vassar College; background in hospitality industry, ran the executive office of Joe Bastianich (restaurateur/winemaker) while volunteering as a Just Food Community Food Organizer. Co-founded Brooklyn Grange in 2010 and a proud member of our “Farmily” ever since.

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

Food policy hero: Do I really have to pick one? Mary Cleaver has done so much for restaurants and food businesses in NYC: she was sourcing from small farms before it was cool, and is largely responsible for the availability of commercial composting. Eliot Coleman has been crucial to advancing the use of farming practices that restore soils, and Michael Abelman is a pioneer of urban farming–none of us would be where we are today without him! And finally, Lorraine Lewandrowski (@NYFarmer on Twitter) has been working tirelessly to support upstate dairy farmers–a community too often overlooked by downstate consumers–without glory or fanfare, for decades.

Your breakfast this morning: Yogurt and iced coffee

Favorite food: Sorry, vegetables–it’s pasta!

Favorite last meal: East Coast oysters, spaghetti with ramps, and a good steak grilled over a wood fire served on a bed of peppery sylvetta arugula

Favorite foodie hangout: Archestratus Books and Food, a cookbook store and café in Greenpoint, Brooklyn

Social media must follow: My apologies for the shameless self-promotion, but since I’m not the member of our team who manages our social media, I don’t feel too boastful saying that Brooklyn Grange’s Instagram feed (@BrooklynGrange) is amazing.


Rachel Dannefer

Age: 39

Grew up in: Rochester, NY

Job title: Director of Research and Evaluation, Harlem Neighborhood Health Action Centers, Center for Health Equity, NYC DOHMH

Background and education: I have a Master’s degree in Public Health and in International Affairs from Columbia University and a BA from Oberlin; I’ve spent the last several years evaluating programs to improve access to healthy foods and increase fruit and vegetable consumption among low-income New Yorkers.

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

Food policy hero: Cathy Nonas

Your breakfast this morning: Strawberry-rhubarb pie

Favorite food: I love too many different foods to have a favorite…

Favorite last meal: Tamales off the street in East Harlem

Favorite foodie hangout: Any farmers’ market

Social media must follow: Am I allowed to say I don’t use social media?!


Tanya Fields 

Age: 36

Grew up in: Harlem, NY

Job title: Fierce Mama Bear, Founder and Executive Director of the BLK Projek, Food Personality of Mama Tanya Kitchen

Background and education: I have a Bachelor’s in Political Science from Baruch College, and a talent for public speaking, blogging and singing.

Inspired by my experiences as a single working mother living in a marginalized community, I founded the BLK ProjeK in 2009, as a response to sexist institutional policies, structurally reinforced cycles of poverty, and harsh inequities in wealth and access to capital that result in far too many women being unable to rise out of poverty and sustain their families. With a strong following on Facebook and Twitter, I created and star in Mama Tanya’s Kitchen, a web-based cooking and lifestyle show.

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

Food policy hero: Sheryl Sherrod

Your breakfast this morning: Avocado and toast

Favorite food: Macaroni & cheese (my recipe)

Favorite last meal: Beef Stroganoff, a green salad with avocado and homemade dressing and a whole wheat homemade cornbread

Favorite foodie hangout: Mott Haven Bar and Grill formerly Bruckner Bar and Grill

Social media must follow: I’d say myself but that’s too self-aggrandizing. Rep. Maxine Waters is giving me life right now.


Kevin Froner

Age: 39

Grew up in: Queens, NY

Job title: Principal, Manhattan Hunter Science High School

Background and education: I’m a kid from Queens…K-12 public schools, NYU (undergrad), Hunter and Columbia (grad), completing my doctorate CUNY-Graduate Center – Urban Education (All But Dissertation).

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

Food policy hero: Gandhi (cared about the way we treat our animals)

Your breakfast this morning: Berry smoothie

Favorite food: I no longer have favorites but care about how I feel afterward

Your breakfast this morning: Three organic eggs on a gluten-free bun

Favorite last meal: Dessert for every course! Flourless chocolate cake, truffles and brownies  

Favorite foodie hangout: Just Salad

Social media must follow: I abstain from social media.


Henry Gordon-Smith

Age: 30

Grew up in: Born in Hong Kong. Grew up in Hong Kong (0-6), Tokyo (6-9), Hong Kong (9-10), Frankfurt, Germany (10-12), Prague, Czech Republic (12-16), Moscow, Russia (16-18).

Job title: Managing Director, Blue Planet Consulting; Founder, Agritecture.com; Co-Founder, Association for Vertical Farming

Background and education: I am a sustainability strategist focused on urban agriculture, water issues, and emerging technologies. I earned my BA in Political Science from the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, a certificate in Food Security and Urban Agriculture from Ryerson University in Toronto, and an MSc in Sustainability Management from Columbia University. I founded the popular blog Agritecture.com and am a board member at the Association for Vertical Farming (AVF). Two years ago, I launched my company Blue Planet Consulting, a boutique urban agriculture advising firm that helps entrepreneurs with vertical farming feasibility studies, recruiting and systems design.

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

Food policy hero: Steven Ritz (Green Bronx Machine)

Your breakfast this morning: I just arrived from Dubai so…coffee, another coffee, and a beet and apple fresh juice

Favorite food: Fruit dumplings (Ovocny Knedlicky) from my home country Czech Republic 

Favorite last meal: Organic spinach and eggs benedict

Favorite foodie hangout: My office

Social media must follow: Food + Future CoLab


Lindsay Greene

Age: 35

Grew up in: Washington, DC

Job title: Senior Advisor to NYC Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen

Background and education: I currently advise small food co’s, worked previously at The Chia Company (of the Chia Pod) and at FreshDirect, and did six years in finance at Goldman Sachs. I have an MBA from Yale and a BA from Harvard.

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

Food policy hero: All the people who made it possible for organic milk to be SNAP and WIC eligible

Your breakfast this morning: So cliché! Vegan protein and Ronnybrook chocolate milk shake

Favorite food: Shrimp dumplings

Favorite last meal: Spinach lasagna my neighbor made for us right after we came home with our newborn daughter

Favorite foodie hangout: Arthur Ave in the Bronx, to shop like an Italian Grandma

Social media must follow: Don’t have, sadly


Iyeshima Harris

Age: 21

Grew up in: Jamaica, West Indies

Job title: Organizer, Youth Food Justice Network

Background and education: I am a current junior at CUNY- York College where I am double majoring in Political Science and Sociology. 

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

Food policy hero: I do not have a food policy hero. However, I strongly admire the work of Karen Washington and New York City Public Advocate Letitia James for there boldness and commitment to the community in which they serve. 

Your breakfast this morning: A cup of tea with a biscuit

Favorite food: Jamaican rum cake

Favorite last meal: Jerk tofu with baked mixed vegetables and steamed rice

Favorite foodie hangout: Express Yourself Cafe, Bushwick, Brooklyn

Social media must follow: The Youth Food Justice Network on Facebook 


Corey Johnson

Age: 35

Grew up in: Beverly, MA

Job title: New York City Council Member, 3rd District

Background and education: I’m the Former Chair of Community Board 4.

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

Food policy hero: Bishop Andrew St. John and his incredible team at the Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen

Your breakfast this morning: Oatmeal and banana

Favorite food: Italian!

Favorite last meal: A Sicilian slice from L&B Spumoni Gardens

Favorite foodie hangout: I could spend days at a time in Chelsea Market

Social media must follow: @CivilEats on Twitter


James Johnson-Piett

Age: 38

Grew up in: Philadelphia, PA

Job title: Principal and CEO, Urbane Development

Background and education: I am responsible for the overall management of operations and strategic vision for Urbane Development, a community development venture based in New York City. My work focuses on strengthening small businesses operating in underserved communities through market intelligence, technical assistance, and access to capital. I hold a BA in Political Science from Swarthmore College and completed the MIT Center for Real Estate Professional Development Institute.

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

Food policy hero: Malik Yakini, Detroit Black Community Food Security Network

Your breakfast this morning: Special K, raspberries and almond milk

Favorite food: Tacos

Favorite last meal: Shrimp and crab boil with Old Bay and Louisiana hot sauce

Favorite foodie hangout: Chela and Garnacha in Astoria

Social media must follow: Meeting of the Minds – @MeetoftheMinds


Carey King

Age: 40

Grew up in: North Carolina

Job title: 
Director, Uptown Grand Central and New Harlem East Merchants Association

Background and education:
I have a BA in religion & anthropology from Wake Forest University, a Master’s in Education from Harvard Graduate School of Education, and a nearly completed Master’s in Journalism from Columbia Journalism School. I have taught special education pre-kindergarten in rural south Louisiana, worked as a small-town newspaper reporter in the mountains of North Carolina, interned at “Sesame Street” and served as director of education and communication at Corbin Hill Food Project before coming to my present work. In addition to Uptown Grand Central, I also now work with the Fresh Food Box program at GrowNYC.

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

Food policy hero: The 150 community members who buy a Fresh Food Box each week at the community plaza we run at 125th Street & Park Avenue. Not all of them realize it, but they are helping to strengthen our neighborhood and food system one bag of veggies at a time.

Your breakfast this morning: The new Peach Ginger seltzer from Wild Olive Market! The manager, Tenisha, gives me a discount because I buy it by the case.

Favorite food: Gingersnaps

Favorite last meal: Gingersnaps

Favorite foodie hangout: Our pop-up shop at 125th Street & Park Avenue featuring our local East Harlem small businesses! Come see us each and every Thursday and Friday afternoons from 3-6 pm (hours will extend once it’s summertime). We have veggie bakes from Sisters Cuisine, veggie patties from Jahlookova, berry tarts from Sprinkle Splash, bean pie from the Harlem Pie Man, fruit juices from Uptown Veg, and much, much more.

Social media must follow: @uptowngrandcentral, of course! On Instagram, definitely @insideharlem, @harlemtrends and @visitelbarrio, plus all the small businesses who post about our neighborhood.


Megan Lent

Age: 32

Grew up in: Penn Yan, NY

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

Background and education: I studied Human Biology, Health and Society at Cornell University and then completed a fellowship at the Congressional Hunger Center where I got to work on food policy in both Milwaukee, WI and Washington, DC. I later worked in nutrition education and completed my MPH in Nutrition at Hunter College. I’ve been working at the NYC Health Department for about five years.

One word you would use to describe our food system: Vast!

Food policy hero: Dr. Christine Olson, one of my earliest mentors

Your breakfast this morning: Yogurt with fruit & coffee

Favorite food: Toss-up between ice cream and fresh tomatoes – both best in the summertime!

Favorite last meal: My mom’s mac & cheese

Favorite foodie hangout: My neighborhood farmers’ market

Social media must follow: UConn Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity’s Facebook page


Mac Levine

Age: 1979

Grew up in: Orlando, FL

Job title: Executive Director, Concrete Safaris

Background and education: My organization grows 2,000-4,000 pounds of food with about 3,000 children, youth and volunteers per year in Jefferson and Washington Houses in East Harlem. I have an MPH from Mailman School of Public Health through the Urbanism & The Built Environment Track.

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

Food policy hero: Michelle Obama, Karen Washington

Your breakfast this morning: Oatmeal, an entire cantaloupe, 2 bananas with an avocado, 2 handfuls of chocolate chunks, maple syrup in zig zags, a quarter bag of dried cranberries, and 2 dollops of almond butter, 1 thermos of hot cranberry spice hibiscus tea, and 1 liter of water 

Favorite food: Baby watermelon

Favorite last meal: Hot oatmeal in a JetBoil portable stove in the woods

Favorite foodie hangout: On top of a mountain or on my paddleboard

Social media must follow: City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito


Kimberly Libman

Age: 37

Grew up in: Queens, NY and Metuchen, NJ

Job title: Director for Prevention and Community Development, Center for Health Policy and Programs, New York Academy of Medicine

Background and education: I earned a BA in Science, Technology and Society from Eugene Lang College in 2001.  I then worked at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden, where I led a gardening and environmental education program serving public schools in low-income areas of Brooklyn. I received a Master’s in Public Health from Hunter College in 2008 and then completed a PhD in Environmental Psychology in 2012 at the CUNY Graduate Center. I have published numerous articles and reports on children’s gardening, urban food policy and chronic disease prevention. Before joining NYAM, I served as an adjunct faculty at several CUNY colleges and in the Food Studies program at New School for Public Engagement. I am a member of the the Farm-to-Institution New York State leadership team and currently think a lot about how and why hospitals invest in community food systems.

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

Food policy hero: Corinna Hawkes

Your breakfast this morning: Blueberry smoothie with nuts and fatty supplements  

Favorite food: Eggs

Favorite last meal: Pernil (roast pork) with lots of skin

Favorite foodie hangout: Park Slope Food Coop

Social media must follow: I like @juliamoskin’s Instagram. Her pictures show a nice mix of foods that range from healthy to indulgent, and the homemade to the technically aspirational.


Jenna Michelle Liut

Age: 34

Grew up in: Bloomfield Hills, MI

Job title: Food Consultant & Host of Eating Matters on Heritage Radio Network

Background and education: I am an external affairs and marketing specialist with deep expertise in food policy, consumer behavior and industry trends informed by both public and private sector experience. Currently, I work with food startups and nonprofits, designing and implementing strategic partnership, communications, and marketing campaigns. I also the host and produce Eating Matters, a weekly food policy podcast, and interview today’s leading thought-leaders, academics, authors, startup founders, and journalists about today’s most pressing food issues. Previously, I was a consultant at a boutique public affairs firm serving Mars, Incorporated as my primary client. Before that, I spent over five years working for the Bloomberg Administration, first in the NYC Department of Health & Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) and then in the Mayor’s Office of Food Policy. I have a Master in Public Administration degree from New York University and culinary training from the International Culinary Center (formerly, the French Culinary Institute).

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

Food policy hero: Kim Kessler (who is now the Assistant Commissioner in the Bureau of Chronic Disease Prevention at the NYC DOHMH)

Your breakfast this morning: Coffee

Favorite food: Roasted broccoli (and, pizza)

Favorite last meal: Dinner at Missy Robbin’s restaurant, Lilia. Everything about the dining experience was perfect.

Favorite foodie hangout: I can usually be found cooking at The Hideaway in the South Street Seaport (my side hustle), or planning my next episode on the patio behind Robertas, where Heritage Radio broadcasts.

Social media must follow: Helena Bottemiller Evich (@hbottemiller)


Bill LoSasso

Age: 39

Grew up in: Youngstown, OH

Job title: Director, NYC Parks GreenThumb

Background and education:  My background is pretty diverse, with experience in planning, policy, real estate, community development and operations.  I earned a Master’s in city planning and a law degree while trying to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up.

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

Food policy hero:  GreenThumb’s urban farmers who are getting it done every single day

Your breakfast this morning:  Weak coffee, an apple and politico.com

Favorite food: Taco night!

Favorite last meal: Lentil shepherd’s pie with cauliflower mash

Favorite foodie hangout: Sun in Bloom (Park Slope)

Social media must follow: @greenthumbgrows


Carlos Martinez

Age: 38

Grew up in: Pereira, Colombia

Job title: Deputy Director, NYC Parks GreenThumb

Background and education: I was the Director of Programs at Green Map System, a community-led movement that promotes inclusive participation in sustainable community development worldwide through mapmaking. Thereafter, I worked with Partnerships for Park’s Catalyst Program where I supported community development initiatives in historically underserved waterfront parks. I co-founded Hibridos Collective, an interdisciplinary collaborative working to re-envision spaces through community-based art practices in sidewalks, parks, plazas and other unexpected spaces. Currently, I am the Deputy Director of NYC Parks GreenThumb, the largest community gardening program in the nation where I oversee programming, operations, and technical assistance provided to nearly 600 community gardens throughout New York City. I hold a BS from the Universidad Tecnológica de Pereira, Colombia in environmental administration and am pursuing a Master’s degree in urban planning at Hunter College.

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

Food policy hero: Everyday people growing food in their local community garden

Your breakfast this morning: Homemade amaranth pancakes drizzled with locally harvested honey, fresh fruit and Colombian coffee

Favorite food: All things vegetarian!

Favorite last meal: Pad Kee Mao (drunken noodles)

Favorite foodie hangout: My neighborhood: Jackson Heights

Social media must follow: GreenThumb’s social media channels: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr


Kris Moon 

Age: 36

Grew up in: Shawnee, KS

Job title: Vice President, James Beard Foundation (JBF)

Background and Education: I have a Bachelor of Music, Boston University; worked in restaurants in New York City and fell in love with the food industry; and studied at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition during my time at JBF.

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

Food policy hero: Michel Nischan

Your breakfast this morning: Steel cut oats with almonds and blueberries

Favorite food: Avocado

Favorite last meal: The collaborative dinner cooked by our 16 participating chefs at our recent JBF Chefs Boot Camp for Policy and Change

Favorite foodie hangout: The James Beard House

Social media must follow: Naomi Starkman (@naomistarkman), Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Civil Eats (@civileats)


Saara Nafici

Age: 37

Grew up in: Virginia

Job title: Executive Director, Added Value / Red Hook Community Farms

Background and education: I have over fifteen years of experience in inquiry-based, outdoor environmental education with youth. I have a BS in Conservation and Resources Studies from the University of California, Berkeley and a Master’s in City Planning from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. I’m a long-time activist, feminist, bicyclist, botanist and youth educator.

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

Food policy hero: Vandana Shiva

Your breakfast this morning: Black tea, my kid’s leftover oatmeal

Favorite food: Sour yogurt with salty potato chips

Favorite last meal: Tahchin

Favorite foodie hangout: The Red Hook Community Farm

Social media must follow: Jamilah King (Senior Staff Writer at Mic), Shaun King (NY Daily News), WomenWhoFarm (Instagram), Undocumedia (Instagram), CultureStrike (Instagram)


Margot J. Pollans

Age: 34

Grew up in: Boston, MA

Job title: Assistant Professor, Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University, and Faculty Director, Pace-NRDC Food Law Initiative

Background and education:  I have a BA in History & Environmental Science, Columbia University; JD, NYU School of Law; and LLM in Advocacy, Georgetown University Law Center. Before joining the Pace faculty, I was an academic fellow first at Georgetown and then at UCLA. My background prior to law school is in teaching. I have studied agriculture and food systems since my first internship in high school with the South End Lower Roxbury Open Space Land Trust in Boston.

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

Food policy hero: Wes Jackson

Your breakfast this morning: Yogurt and granola

Favorite food: Caramelized onions

Favorite last meal: Roasted vegetables, watercress, avocado and a soft boiled egg with a slice of toasted semolina bread, dark chocolate almond milk pudding

Favorite foodie hangout: The dinner table with family

Social media must follow: On Instagram @smittenkitchen; on Twitter @ungaggedEPA


Herman Pontzer

Age: 39

Grew up in: Kersey, PA

Job title: Associate Professor of Anthropology, Hunter College

Background and education: I grew up in rural Pennsylvania and went to Penn State University for college. There, I became fascinated by human evolution – how our bodies evolved, and how they work today. I went to Harvard University for my PhD, and worked as a professor at Washington University in St Louis before moving to Hunter College in New York in 2011. The past 10 years, my research has focused on how our bodies evolved to burn energy. I’ve collected the first measurements of energy expenditure among living hunter-gatherers (the Hadza of northern Tanzania), and have also collected the first measurements of energy expenditure among our closest relative, the great apes. Today, I’m working to expand what we know about health and energetics in traditional human populations and apply these insights to improving public health.

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

Food policy hero: Michelle Obama

Your breakfast this morning: Coffee! 1/3 of a pear (my kids ate the rest) and a slice of toast with butter and jam

Favorite food: Pretzels

Favorite last meal: Grilled salmon, cucumber salad with fresh tomatoes and balsamic vinagrette, corn on the cob, and a cold beer

Favorite foodie hangout: Common Lot in Milburn, NJ

Social media must follow: Steven Raichlen


Kristin Reynolds

Age: 39

Grew up in: Minnesota

Job titles: Lecturer, Environmental Studies and Food Studies programs, The New School; Lecturer, Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies

Background and education: I am a critical food geographer based in New York City. My scholarship and activism focus on understanding the roots of inequities in the food system and helping to make it more just. My recent co-authored book Beyond the Kale: Urban Agriculture and Social Justice Activism in New York City focuses on the work of people of color and women using city farming and gardening to advance social justice. I have a PhD in Geography and a MS in International Agricultural Development from the University of California, Davis, and a BS in International Soil and Crop Sciences and a BA in French Language and Literature from Colorado State University.

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

Food policy hero: Ricardo Salvador

Your breakfast this morning: Homemade yogurt, toast with local maple syrup and butter, coffee with local/raw milk

Favorite food: Sourdough bread

Favorite last meal: Spanikopita

Favorite foodie hangout: Arizmendi Cooperative Bakery, Oakland, CA

Social media must follow: @raceforward


Amy Richards

Age: 28

Grew up in: Kings Park, NY

Job title: Health Projects Coordinator, Make the Road NY and Grove St. Farm Manager

Background and education: With the support of so many volunteers, I manage food access projects and Grove St. Farm at Make the Road NY, a community organization that builds power with Latino immigrant communities. I’ve worked as a farmer-gardener in the U.S. and throughout Latin America, and first got my hands dirty doing know-your-rights outreach with undocumented apple-pickers, a time when I was also introduced to the Farm Bill, free trade agreements and all those policies that changes what we eat, how we get it and if we get to eat at all!

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

Food policy hero: Dolores Huerta, Si Se Puede!

Your breakfast this morning: Huevos pericos con tortillas (eggs scrambled with stewed onion and tomato + tortillas)

Favorite food: Any fish my dad catches, baked with lemon + butter!

Favorite last meal: Like if I knew I was going to die right after? Mac n’ cheese. Plain and simple.

Favorite foodie hangout: Make the Road NY’s cocina (in Bushwick)…rice, beans and a side of gossip!

Social media must follow: Oo I’m not much of a millennial, I don’t have insta, twitter or snapchat!

Rosanna Campitiello Robbins

Age: 37

Grew up in: Patchogue, NY (Long Island)

Job title: Director of Retail Partnerships, City Harvest

Background and education: Prior to managing the Healthy Retail program at City Harvest, I was the Associate Director of Nutrition Education at City Harvest where I managed cooking and nutrition courses, cooking demonstrations and shopping tours. I formerly worked at FoodChange (now part of the Food Bank for NYC) where I collaborated with the New York City Department of Education to promote the inclusion of plant-based recipes as part of school meals. I earned a Master’s of Science in Human Nutrition from Columbia University, a Master’s of Education in Community Nutrition from Teachers College, and completed the dietetic internship program at Teachers College to become a Registered Dietitian.

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

Food policy hero: Toni Liquori has done some groundbreaking work to improve the school food environment in NYC. Toni was one of my professors at TC and I had the pleasure of working for her at FoodChange. I really respect her thoughtfulness, creativity and commitment to slow and steady change.

Your breakfast this morning: Plain instant oatmeal with a banana, shredded coconut, sliced almonds, honey and cinnamon (I keep a pretty elaborate stash of groceries at my desk)

Favorite food: Coconut, just about anything with coconut!

Favorite last meal: I made a pasta primavera for dinner last night and it turned out pretty well. I roasted lots of veggies and mixed them with chopped spinach (so my husband wouldn’t realize he was eating spinach), basil and parsley.

Favorite foodie hangout: I love the brunch at Cookshop – the menu changes seasonally and they have the best Bloody Mary

Social media must follow: I had a baby a year ago so lately it’s been local parenting groups. It’s pretty amazing, you can get a recommendation for just about anything.


Annette Slonim

Age: 28

Grew up in: Seattle, WA

Job title: Program Manager, Edible Schoolyard NYC

Background and education: I have a BA from McGill University in Environmental Studies and Latin American & Caribbean Studies.

One word you would use to describe our food system: Ripe-for-change

Food policy hero: Ricardo Salvador

Your breakfast this morning: Yogurt, banana, spinach, peanut butter, oatmeal smoothie

Favorite food: Salted caramel ice cream

Favorite last meal: Pasta with sautéed mushrooms, turnip greens and pea shoots

Favorite foodie hangout: Farmers’ market

Social media must follow: Heritage Radio Network


Sam Slover

Age: 32

Grew up in: Atlanta, GA

Job title: Founder and CEO, the Sage Project

Background and education: I am the founder and CEO of the Sage Project, a food and nutrition platform with the mission of making food information more transparent, open and personalized. I previously co-founded Learn It Live, an online learning website that connects people to health and wellness experts in live video sessions. I was also a founding partner of First Round Capital’s Dorm Room Fund, where I invested in NYC student-run companies. I previously worked on social entrepreneur initiatives with communities in Honduras and India, and launched a seed capital program at a micro-finance firm in Bolivia. I am a graduate of New York University’s Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP) where I am an adjunct professor and was formerly in residence.

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

Food policy hero: John Mackey

Your breakfast this morning: Baby carrots and a hard-boiled Eegg

Favorite food: Salmon

Favorite last meal: My mom’s grilled salmon, roasted potatoes, salad and asparagus

Favorite foodie hangout: Chinatown in Flushing, NY

Social media must follow: @bittman


Jennifer Tirado

Age: 30

Grew up in: Bronx, NY

Job title: Director of Urban Agriculture Initiative and Land Improvement, Green City Force

Background and education: I have a BS in Sustainable Living at Maharishi University.

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

Food policy hero: Tony Hillary, Saara Nafici, Brenda Duchene, David Vigil, Ron Finley

Your breakfast this morning: Toast and fruit

Favorite food: Eggplant, lentils 

Favorite last meal: Veggie soup

Favorite foodie hangout: Uptown Juice Bar – soulful vegan

Social media must follow: Gateway Greens, BK Rot, Drive Change, Youth Farm, Women who farm



Shulamit Warren Puder

Age: 36

Grew up in: Hampton, VA

Job title: Director of Policy and Special Projects, Office of Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer

Background and education: I have a BA from the University of Virginia (Foreign Affairs and Middle East Studies). From 2003-2013, I held positions with then-Council Member Gale A. Brewer as Scheduler, Legislative Director and Chief of Staff. I worked towards the passage of the City’s Paid Sick Leave law and helped launch Brewer’s Grow Green Age Well Initiative, as part of the West Side Age Friendly District. As Policy Director in the office of Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, Shula oversees an incredibly talented team of five policy analysts, with a focus on older adults and food issues as well as the Borough President’s legislative portfolio. Projects include expanding Fresh Food for Seniors program with Council Members Rosenthal and Johnson, GrowNYC, Corbin Hill, senior centers and Naturally Occurring Retirement Communites throughout the Upper West Side to Northern Manhattan, Hell’s Kitchen, West Village and Roosevelt Island (still for $8/bag!); boosting summer meal outreach and participation; Fresh Taste Manhattan; studying the borough’s supermarkets; co-sponsoring a yearlong 1 Centre Street Fresh Food Box program with GrowNYC and Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS); and launching a diaper drive with Foodbank NYC for distribution at Manhattan food pantries.

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

Food policy hero: Kathy Goldman

Your breakfast this morning: Banana apple cranberry baked oatmeal and coffee

Favorite food: Medjool dates

Favorite last meal: Yemenite beef soup with kubaneh at Grill 212

Favorite foodie hangout: Manhattan’s Chinatown (produce vendors and Chinese, Japanese and Vietnamese markets especially 88 Natural Food, Vegetarian Dim Sum House, fishmongers, and bakeries!)

Social media must follow: Smitten Kitchen, NPR Science Blog ‘The Salt’


Alissa Wassung

Age: 35

Grew up in: CT, though I was born in IN. I moved to NYC when I was 16 to become a professional ballet dancer with American Ballet Theatre. With ABT, I toured the world, and I haven’t stopped. I love to travel and the world is a pretty big classroom.

Job title: Director of Policy and Planning, God’s Love We Deliver

Background and education: I’m a ballet dancer turned policy geek for food and nutrition as a health intervention. I was home-schooled because of my dance schedule. After my ballet career and a fashion degree from FIT, I went back to school at Yale to pursue my interest in policy/social justice. I was humbled through the study of bioethics and end-of-life care. That became the catalyst for working toward food justice for those who are very ill.

One word you would use to describe our food system: Because I choose hope over despair, I will say “potential,” but I might also say “rootless,” or “misaligned.”

Food policy hero: My mother. Policy begins with practice – at home. My mom was the first wave of people diagnosed with serious gluten and yeast allergies. We were raised on amaranth pancakes and carob zucchini bread before it was “trendy.” What we couldn’t find, we grew. Food saved her life and I believe it can save others’.

Your breakfast this morning: Organic banana, sprouted bread with sunflower seed butter. It sounds crunchy I know, but good food is good! And, I won’t say no to a doughnut at breakfast.

Favorite food: Cheese. Sheep and goat preferred. Corn – anything corn: tortillas, corn on the cob…and chocolate, of course!

Favorite last meal: Favorite last meal I had: a polenta bowl with roast chicken and avocados. Favorite last meal ever? Definitely something with fresh seafood.

Favorite foodie hangout: It used to be Angelica’s Kitchen, but my favorite could easily be home. Life happens around the table. Teaching children to love good food and love to cook is a major joy for me. I especially enjoy impromptu community potlucks with my daughter and other families from her school.

Social media must follow: Health policy is food policy. I pick @HarvardCHLPI. I also love Leanne Brown (@leelb). She is the author of Good and Cheap and I think her philosophy of simple, affordable, nutritious (and delicious!) cooking is just what we all need.


Ariel Lauren Wilson

Age: 28

Grew up in: Bakersville, NC

Job title: Editor, Edible Manhattan and Edible Brooklyn

Background and education: I grew up on my family’s farm in western North Carolina. I attended UNC-Chapel Hill where I created and completed the university’s first Food Studies major. Before moving to Brooklyn, I lived in Dijon, France and covered food and agriculture policy. I’m now a member of the Slow Food NYC board, a volunteer with the Billion Oyster Project and am planning an orchard and hard cider project back on my family’s farm in NC.

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

Food policy hero: Ricardo Salvador

Your breakfast this morning: Colina Cuervo‘s granola and yogurt bowl

Favorite food: Cheese, pretty much all kinds

Favorite last meal: My mom’s cornbread with green beans, corn and tomatoes from our family garden

Favorite foodie hangout: The Food Sermon

Social media must follow: Brooklyn baker @sarah_c_owens on Instagram

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