40 Under 40: The Rising Stars in NYC Food Policy (Class of 2021)

by NYC Food Policy Editor

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 and improve the food system. The Center’s Class of 2021 honorees include policymakers, educators, community advocates, 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 work of these impressive individuals has been more necessary than ever as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 40 under 40 roster reflects the Center’s broad perspective around food policy. 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.

Katelyn Andrews

Age: 28

Grew up in: Haddon Heights, New Jersey. A small town in South Jersey, right outside of Philadelphia

Job Title/Organization or Company: Director of Public Policy at LiveOn NY

Background and Education: Master of Public Administration, Bachelor of Arts in Public Policy, and Bachelor of Science in Human Services from the University of Delaware

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

Food policy hero: Home-Delivered Meals Delivery Workers. During COVID-19, older New Yorkers who were unable to leave their homes due to mobility impairments, chronic health conditions, or disability, continued to receive hot meals through the City’s traditional home-delivered meals system that remained viable thanks largely to the dedication of this too often underappreciated non-profit workforce.

Your breakfast this morning: Banana, Coffee, Granola Bar, and a Mandarin Orange

Favorite food: Tacos. You can never go wrong with tacos.

Favorite last meal on Earth: My Mom’s Poppyseed Chicken Recipe

Favorite food hangout (restaurant, bodega, coffee place, friend’s house, etc) and why: Bobwhite Counter on Ave C in the East Village. I consider myself a buffalo chicken sandwich connoisseur and have found none better than that at Bobwhite. Some of my fondest memories in the City have been made here, with my now husband and a plate filled with a buffalo chicken sandwich and a side of mac and cheese.

Social media must follow: Local journalists, a standout being: @RachelHolliday, a reporter at The City, who reminds me daily of the importance of local journalism (as well as blesses my feed with bird and sunset twitter as a bonus)

Alessandra Biaggi

Age: 35

Grew up in: Pelham, New York

Job Title/Organization or Company: New York State Senator for District 34 (Bronx/Westchester)

Background and Education: Graduate from Pelham Memorial High School, New York University, and Fordham Law School. 

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

Food policy hero: Karen Washington

Your breakfast this morning: Anything quick that I can eat on the go – like a granola bar!

Favorite food: Homemade ravioli during Christmas time! A Biaggi family recipe!

Favorite last meal on Earth: Any meal I cook with my family!

Favorite food hangout (restaurant, bodega, coffee place, friend’s house, etc) and why: Pelham Palace because I have been eating there since childhood, and it is family owned! It also fueled me and my campaign team when I was running for office!

Social media must follow: @riseandrootfarm

Danielle Christenson

Age: 29

Grew up in: Massachusetts

Job Title/Organization or Company: Policy & Planning Associate at God’s Love We Deliver

Background and Education: I have my master’s degree in criminal justice with a specific focus on social justice and inequality. I think my education gives me a unique perspective on food, nutrition and healthcare. Prior to God’s Love, I had the pleasure of working for the City of Boston on their Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) program. Outside of work, I serve as Board Chair for Students Active for Ending Rape (SAFER) a nonprofit empowering student movement to combat sexual violence on college campuses.

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

Food policy hero: My late friend and colleague Emily Caras Snyder

Your breakfast this morning: Oatmeal with blueberries and trail mix

Favorite food: Sushi

Favorite last meal on Earth: a very unhealthy chimichanga

Favorite food hangout (restaurant, bodega, coffee place, friend’s house, etc) and why: My family farm house in New Hampshire, sitting around our 100 year-old-table with lots of home-cooked food and a lot of laughs.

Social media must follow: @fimcoalition, @HarvardCHLPI, @ZekeEmanuel

Kim Calichio

Age: 37

Grew up in: Long Island, NY

Job Title/Organization or Company: Co-Founder and Executive Director of The Connected Chef

Background and Education: I have a BA in psychology with a focus on mental health systems and how they relate to our day to day well being. In addition, I have a culinary background as a trained professional chef.

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

Food policy hero: The many migrant farm workers and activists who fight for equity in our food system and bring awareness to the injustice and inhumane practices that control our current system.

Your breakfast this morning: black coffee, omelette and salad

Favorite food: Watermelon

Favorite last meal on Earth: Oysters on the half shell, ceviche and barbacoa tacos

Favorite food hangout (restaurant, bodega, coffee place, friend’s house, etc) and why: The park. There is nothing better to me than hanging out in the park with friends who bring drinks and BBQ food together. The laughter, the music, the play. It’s everything I need in life to feel good.

Social media must follow: @healfoodalliance

Winston Chiu

Age: 34

Grew up in: Brooklyn, NY 

Job Title/Organization or Company: Founder/CEO, Feed Forward 

Background and Education: Born and raised in Brooklyn, I attended college in New York’s CUNY: Bernard Baruch College, receiving my degree in Mathematics/Finance. I started my career as an Actuary in public service and then later as a consultant in a global risk consulting firm. Later pivoting and in pursuit of fulfilling a dream of making an impact through food + community, I obtained a degree from the Institute of Culinary Education. Over the past decade, I’ve been a chef and cofounder of several food businesses/advocacy initiatives before recently launching Feed Forward; Rethink Food (501c3)/ Little Tong Noodle Shop/ Bonbite Catering & Food Incubator. 

One word you would use to describe our food system: Under-utilized 

Food Policy Hero: Founder/CEO Mike Servello Sr. of Compassion Coalition

Your breakfast this morning: Iced Coffee 

Favorite food: Jerk Chicken 

Favorite last meal on Earth: Cacio e Pepe

Favorite food hangout (Restaurant, Bodega, Coffee Place, Friend’s House, etc.) and why: Bo Ky (94 Baxter, New York, NY 10013) – Community advocate and 2nd generation owner Angle Ngo serves the best bowl of Chaozhou Noodles. Angle’s back story as a surviving refugee from Vietnam to his ups and downs journey as small business owner/chef is inspiring, and he does it all with a smile, great food, and with the utmost hospitality. 

Social media must follow: @whoisprakasaka, @goldthread2

Hayley Davis

Age: 27

Grew up in: Buffalo, NY

Job Title/Organization or Company: Senior Development Manager, PowerPlay NYC

Background and Education: I strongly believe I was destined to be a healthy food advocate and to help drive change in the world. My food journey started with my mom bringing me to raw vegan potlucks in Buffalo. I decided to go vegetarian (technically, pescatarian) when I was in 8th grade, then got involved in food and nutrition wherever I could, and ultimately declared Community Health as my major once at SUNY Potsdam. As soon as I moved to NYC in 2015 I started attending local events to get involved, like at the Brooklyn Historical Society, where I felt so activated — and at home — hearing Barbara Turk speak about NYC food policy. I also sought out opportunities to volunteer on different urban farms. I worked at West Side Campaign Against Hunger for about two years and represented the organization as an advocate in Washington, D.C.; have interned with the Brooklyn Borough President’s Office supporting plant-based nutrition initiatives; and most recently, I developed the food policy platform for a very progressive, female NYC Council candidate running in District 11 in The Bronx. No matter what job I had, I have always found ways to advance healthy food access/nutrition education, and this spring, I will be graduating from the CUNY Graduate School of Public Health & Health Policy with my MPH in Nutrition.

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

Food policy hero: Chef Greg Silverman

Your breakfast this morning: MUSH vanilla bean overnight oats and coffee with oat milk

Favorite food: Hard to pick one. Generally anything that’s fully plant-based (ideally whole-food, plant-based) and delicious.

Favorite last meal on Earth: Mostly plants, would include potatoes, and since I’d be on the way out I have to admit, a fresh, organic salmon filet.

Favorite food hangout (restaurant, bodega, coffee place, friend’s house, etc.) and why: My neighborhood, Crown Heights, has lots of vegan food options, especially on or near Franklin ave., so I like hanging out around there, but my all-time favorite food hangout would be Buffalo’s (WNY) Veg Fest, and also Amy’s Place (which is reopening this year with a fully vegetarian/vegan menu!). For me, these places represent both community and a commitment to shared ideals, i.e. proactively supporting the health of each other and our planet.

Social media must follow: @civileats, @physicianscommittee/@pcrm, @plantpoweredmny for events, obviously @nycfoodpolicy 🙂 and @cunyurbanfood, and your local city agencies & elected officials!

Steven Deheeger

Age: 34

Grew up in: My dad’s side of the family is French, and my mom’s side is from Chicago (with Detroit roots and even deeper roots in the shtetls of Lithuania and Romania). I grew up in Paris until I was nine, before our family moved to Chicago where I lived through high school (mostly on Lou Malnati’s deep dish). I’ve been in New York for around fifteen years now (I stopped counting after ten!) and have been in the Bronx for most of it.

Job Title/Organization or Company: As the Senior Advocacy Manager at City Harvest, I lead the organization’s citywide advocacy program and strategy, supporting a citywide network of nearly 400 food pantry and soup kitchen leaders in advocating against hunger and its root causes across New York City and beyond.

Background and Education: Prior to joining City Harvest, I worked at the Northern Manhattan Coalition for Immigrant Rights, Service Employees International Union (SEIU) 32BJ, GrowNYC, the Agricultural Justice Project, and the POINT CDC. I was originally trained as a community organizer by the Community Renewal Society and a union organizer with SEIU, and have since trained with various organizations, including generative somatics, the People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond, the New Organizing Institute, and others. I am currently a core member of the national Closing the Hunger Gap Narrative Change Taskforce and have served on the boards of Just Food and Banana Kelly Community Improvement Association. I earned my Bachelor of Arts in Urban Studies from the New School University; Master of Arts in Labor Studies, with a focus on movements to organize for racial equity within the food system in Detroit in the 1950s, from the CUNY Graduate Center; and am currently pursuing my Master of Arts in wildlife conservation and sustainability from Harvard University.

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

Food policy hero: Corinne Houston. In 1952, Corrine became the first Black supermarket cashier in Detroit and went on to become the first Black supermarket manager in the United States. I came across her story while doing archival research on my family history. In 1907, following decades of state sanctioned violence against Jews, Rubin and Anna Schayowitz fled Romania with their one-year-old son, Solomon, my great-grandfather. They lived in the South Bronx for years before moving to Detroit, where Sol and his little brother Max built upon their father’s Eastern Market pushcart to open Big Bear Markets, which grew to become a successful grocery store chain.

Leading up to the 1950s, a national organization called the National Negro Labor Council, led by the likes of Vicki Garvin (future mentor to Malcom X) and Coleman Young (future first Black mayor of Detroit) among others, had been organizing to pressure white-owned businesses across the country, including Sears, Ford, and General Electric, to hire Black workers. All this during a time that the vast majority of labor unions were complicit at best; in fact, the AFL-CIO and others accused the NNLC of being a divisive “Communist front,” which eventually led to its investigation and ongoing harassment by the House Un-American Activities Committee. After the NNLC and Francis Kornegay of the Detroit Urban League met with Sol and Max, Big Bear Markets went on to hire Corinne Houston, who was grossly overqualified for the position, but the first of nine candidates to pass the written exam. Corinne Houston went on to become a prominent leader of the NAACP’s Detroit chapter, had a street named in her honor, and became known as the “Jackie Robinson of food stores,” a title she rejected.

Also, I really want to highlight the work of Love Wins Food Pantry and The Okra Project. If you don’t know about their work yet, please stop reading this and Google them now!

Your breakfast this morning: Lately it’s been oatmeal (with banana and blueberries) and three eggs (soft-boiled or scrambled if I’m feeling fancy).

Favorite food: Definitely a both/and situation: my paternal grandmother’s pomme de terres sautées (we’d fight over them as kids) and my maternal grandmother’s brisket.

Favorite last meal on Earth: See favorite food. But maybe the dehydrated version so it stays good longer during the trip to wherever we’re headed to from Earth?

Favorite food hangout (restaurant, bodega, coffee place, friend’s house, etc) and why: Around my grandmother’s table in the south of France. Since we were little, she’d feed our entire (huge) family with incredible meals cooked from scratch and love with ingredients from the local farmer’s market, butcher shop, fish market, and bakery. We’d then wrap up with amazing cheese and hours of good conversation and goofing off. And then coffee and chocolate for good measure.

Social media must follow: The Okra Project: “The Okra Project is a collective that seeks to address the global crisis faced by Black Trans people by bringing home cooked, healthy, and culturally specific meals and resources to Black Trans People wherever we can reach them.” Follow and support them here: @theokraproject.

Babbie Florinda Dunnington

Age: 35

Grew up in: Norfolk, Virginia

Job Title/Organization or Company: Project & Design Coordinator/NYC Parks GreenThumb

Background and Education: I grew up a block away from the most polluted river in the country, at the time, and the biggest coal loading facility in the northern hemisphere. I graduated with my BA in World Literature and Modern Languages and taught in different countries which allowed me to learn and see all sorts of approaches to landscape and food systems- enormous fish and farmer markets in South Korea and intricate recycling/compost pick up systems in Italy, for example. I then got a Master of Landscape Architecture degree and want to use design to bring people together to find solutions and confront the epic problems of our time – racism, climate crisis, land theft, poverty, food insecurity, wealth hoarding, ableism, trauma etc. I’ve been lucky enough to work with the amazing community gardens of NYC for the last 4 years in GreenThumb’s community design and group volunteer programs. I try to use my skills to give communities the resources they need to create the incredible neighborhood spaces they dream up. I have also created GreenThumb’s first accessibility guidelines to support universal access for all community gardens. I’m also a community gardener myself at First Quincy Street Community Garden where we, like many other gardens, compost and collect rainwater to water the fruits, vegetables, and pollinator flowers we grow.

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

Food policy hero: Mamá Tingó

Your breakfast this morning: Hash browns & Coffee

Favorite food: Cachapas

Favorite last meal on Earth: Everything on the menu at Uptown Veg in Harlem. 

Favorite food hangout (restaurant, bodega, coffee place, friend’s house, etc) and why: Anywhere my abuela and tias are cooking because they make me delicious vegan Venezuelan food. 

Social media must follow: @nyc_shutitdown, @thelandscapenerd

Daneille Foster-Russell

Age: 37

Grew up in: Palo Seco Settlement, Trinidad and Tobago

Job Title/Organization or Company: Program Manager, GrowNYC’s Emergency Fresh Food Box

Background and Education: I was born and raised in Palo Seco, a rural, seaside village in southern part of Trinidad & Tobago. I emigrated to the US at 17 years old and have been living in Brooklyn since. I have a Bachelors Degree in Broadcast Journalism from the CUNY Baccalaureate Degree Program and a Masters Degree in Environmental Policy and Sustainability Management from Milano School of Policy, Management, and Environment at The New School.

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

Food policy hero: In my small village in Trinidad, local families with even a tiny amount of land grew peppers, okro (aka okra) callaloo bush, plantains, pigeon peas, mangoes – anything that was in season – and sold it in the local market every Saturday. We relied on these neighbors for our weekly supply of vegetables; they all understood how important that hyper local micro-economy was to the community. I didn’t understand the value at the time. In graduate school, I took a Food Policy course with Dennis Derryck, who is also from my country, and from whom I learned to truly appreciate the value of the local food system that served my home village. My heroes are the local men and women who still preserve the markets in my home village and Mr. Derryck for helping me see.

Your breakfast this morning: Goat yogurt, granola, preserved pear

Favorite food: For the last couple of years or so, I’ve found great comfort in a hot bowl of ramen from Tenichi Ramen on Smith Street in Brooklyn. I get their classic pork bone broth bowl named after the restaurant. If I’m having a rough week, I get a table for one, sit in the same spot and let the umami and the noodle do the work.

Favorite last meal on Earth: A combination of my grandma’s channa and potatoes and my mother’s curry chicken next to dahlpuri. A classic meal in Trinidad and Tobago brought to the island in the late 19th century by Indian indentured workers.

Favorite food hangout (restaurant, bodega, coffee place, friend’s house, etc) and why: My girlfriend Noemi’s house because I love how she enjoys cooking; it relaxes me. And there’s nothing better than swapping stories with a friend over a glass of wine.

Social media must follow: @embracingblackculture, @fiona758 (watch her show Trying a Ting)

Michael Garcia

Age: 34

Grew up in: Cedar Knolls, NJ

Job Title/Organization or Company: Policy Analyst, NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene

Background and Education: I’m a lifelong food lover raised among two vibrant food cultures thanks to my Italian and Peruvian born parents. I left a career in marketing to take on food policy full time because I believe it’s our best tool to create lasting food system change and builds on the essential community level programs that hold everything together. In 2016, I received a Master of Public Health degree from Yale University. At the DOHMH, I develop food and nutrition policies aiming to improve NYC’s food environment, reduce diet-related chronic diseases and health disparities, and increase food security and equity. I’ve also worked on implementing and updating the NYC Food Standards and grant funded programming to improve food service procurement and menus in local hospitals and colleges.

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

Food policy hero: Susan Mayne and Tom Colicchio

Your breakfast this morning: Two eggs, hot sauce, toast with peanut butter, black coffee

Favorite food: Can’t beat mom’s eggplant parm!

Favorite last meal on Earth: An assorted pizza buffet with a few liters of flavored Polar seltzer water (best bubbles in the business).

Favorite food hangout (restaurant, bodega, coffee place, friend’s house, etc) and why: Any kitchen – this is where food is at its best. Kitchens bring people together to provide comfort and community, creativity, education, and to share cultures…and you can sneak a first taste of something delicious.

Social media must follow: Everyone at Politico @Morning_Ag (especially @hbottemiller), @IndpRestaurants, @Eater/@EaterNY

Ribka Getachew

Age: 31

Grew up in: Born and raised here in New York 

Job Title/Organization or Company: Director of the NYC Good Food Purchasing Program Campaign at Community Food Advocates, a small but mighty organization that harnesses the power of the collective to spark high-impact food policy change

Background and Education: After some years of conducting public health research and community organizing in college, I started my career working on exoneration cases of people who had been convicted of crimes they did not commit. I also co-created ‘Know Your Rights‘ workshops and a grassroots, community-driven alternative-to-arrest pilot program that started in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn. Amidst our creation of the Human Justice Community Council to support the organizing for this pilot, my analysis of the deep interconnectedness of food insecurity, the power of food as medicine, and criminal injustice further crystallized. During this time, I became a food justice educator and social-justice community chef as a response to acknowledging that injustices are never siloed. I also worked on various projects throughout NYC to support the development of local food infrastructure and the protection of community green spaces.

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

Food policy hero: Ruth Beckford (one of the co-founders and coordinators of the Black Panther Party’s Free Breakfast for Children Program) and Fannie Lou Hamer (a skilled organizer and land steward who was rooted in a self-determination politic)

Your breakfast this morning: Ginger and lemon tea to start, eventually followed by a fried egg breakfast taco, topped with slices of mango, avocados, and a homemade garlicky-pepper sauce

Favorite food: Alicha Kik Wot (an Ethiopian wot, or stew, made from split peas), Fosolia (another Ethiopian dish made from carrots and string beans), and my jerk-butternut squash-coconut risotto! 

Favorite food hangout (restaurant, bodega, coffee place, friend’s house, etc) and why: I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Ras Plant-Based, Aunts et Uncles as well as Nûrish. These three Black-owned establishments not only have such tasty food (*chefs kiss*) but embody what it means to intertwine community and food. My own kitchen in my Brooklyn apartment is another favorite! 

Social media must follow: @Blacklandliberation, @BlackFoodJustice, @ctznwell, @growingculture, @healfoodalliance, @mvmnt4blklives, @harrietsapothecary, @plaanted, @soulfirefarm, @universecitynyc

Adah Hill

Age: 25

Grew up in: Bronx, NY 

Job Title/Organization: Central Farms Coordinator; Harlem Grown 

Background/Education: Prior to working at Harlem Grown, I served as an Americorps Member at Green City Force helping push forward a “green city” in social, economic, and environmental justice. There I developed my passion, even more, for sustainability through operating large-scale urban farms environmentally and creating health initiatives in NYCHA public housing and other frontline communities. My intention and determination are to build love, and equity valuing people, passion, and perseverance. With my hard work, involvement, and dedication through this Americorp service I was able to obtain a slot in farm school building my knowledge around agriculture. Finishing my service three months in advance and acquiring top hours; I was connected to Harlem Grown where I have been working for the past four years. Continuing my fight against hunger and building youth in leading healthy and ambitious lives through mentorship and hands-on education in urban farming, sustainability, and nutrition. 

One word you use to describe our food system: Unjust

Food policy hero: Karen Washington

Your breakfast this morning: Eggs, French Toast, Slice of turkey sausage 

Favorite Food: Fruits

Favorite last meal on earth: Fruits; Medium rare skirt steak; asparagus

Favorite Food Hangout and Why: Patron Mexican Grill because it is a wonderful place to sit and chat with my friends and spouse over great fishbowls. Along with their delicious food, my go to is the shrimp fajita or cilantro-steak tacos.

Social media must follow:@harlemgrown

Max Hoffman

Age: 32

Grew up in: New York City

Job Title/Organization or Company: Associate Director, Supply Chain, Procurement and Logistics, City Harvest

Background and Education: Native New Yorker born and raised in Manhattan. My first real experience dealing with the larger food system was working at farmers markets in NYC as a teenager. I went on to work at GrowNYC, managing markets and eventually found my way to City Harvest. Throughout my seven years at City Harvest, I’ve worked to increase the scope of our national food sourcing strategy. This has involved establishing and strengthening our relationships with farmers, major manufacturers and other food banks.

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

Food policy hero: The Black Panthers, specifically for pioneering the free breakfast for children program.

Your breakfast this morning: Banana

Favorite food: Pizza

Favorite last meal on Earth: Falafel over rice from King of Falafel in Astoria 

Favorite food hangout (restaurant, bodega, coffee place, friend’s house, etc) and why: Any NYC Greenmarket for the community building and learning more about local farmers and food providers in general.

Matthew Horgan

Age: 29

Grew up in: Rockaway Beach, Queens

Job Title/Organization or Company: STEM Programming & School Partnership Manager, Teens for Food Justice

Background and Education: I am a passionate environmentalist who graduated from SUNY Binghamton University with a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Environmental Studies and from St. Edward’s University with a Professional Science Master’s degree in Environmental Management and Sustainable Development.

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

Food policy hero: Vandana Shiva

Your breakfast this morning: Banana with peanut butter on toast

Favorite food: Pasta

Favorite last meal on Earth: Penne Alla Vodka

Favorite food hangout (restaurant, bodega, coffee place, friend’s house, etc) and why: Food trucks because I enjoy eating outside any chance I get and encountering the diversity of cuisines available to us on the go.

Social media must follow: Follow my Instagram account @Hydroponics.NYC to see my collection of photos of mini hydroponic systems I’ve built and other urban gardening happening around NYC.

Ora Kemp

Age: 33

Grew up in: A few places, born on a Naval Base in VA, then KS

Job Title/Organization or Company: Director of Nutrition, NY Common Pantry

Background and Education: BS in Nutrition and Food Science, MPH with a concentration in community health education, currently working on my PhD in Food Studies

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

Food policy hero: Marion Nestle and Delores Huerta

Your breakfast this morning: An egg on ezekiel toast, blood orange and coffee with honey and cinnamon

Favorite food: Chilaquilles and/or English Peas

Favorite last meal on Earth: Noodles, all the noodles. If I had to pick just one it would probably be duck ragu pappardelle

Favorite food hangout (restaurant, bodega, coffee place, friend’s house, etc) and why: Mottley Kitchen’s Rooftop Garden, it’s my local coffee shop with phenomenal food and really great coffee, plus I have an affinity for Bronx-based woman owned small businesses. It’s also a really great spot to connect with others from the community.

Social media must follow: FoodPrint, such a wealth of information and provides so many easily accessible resources.

Shaun Kennedy

Age: 39

Grew up in: Jersey!

Job Title/Organization or Company: Program Director at the East Harlem/Yorkville food-justice centered nonprofit, the Urban Outreach Center.

Background and Education: After a short stint in a dark (and people-less) lab as a Biophysics graduate student, I decided to set out on more social macroscopic adventures. 

I’ve explored issues of health on an individual through documentary film and photography, community service, nutrition and yoga, and as a workshop facilitator of healthy living leading cooking demos at a local CSA hosted by the cafe I managed in New Jersey. I first developed an interest in community and public health while working on a documentary about the crisis of uninsured Americans.

In 2016, I graduated with a Master’s in Public Health from San Francisco State University with a focus on community health education, health equity and social justice. It was during this program and as an adjunct professor in Health & Social Justice that I became passionate about advocating for systemic change in health policy at every level of government. 

In my current position, I aim to leverage my experience in community outreach and education to bolster the voices of folks served at the food pantry to ensure their needs are met, and that we (as a society) are moving the lever toward a more inclusive and just food system both in NYC and Nationally. 

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

Food policy hero: Locally, the coalition of NYC food advocates that formed in response to COVID. Initiated by Equity Advocates, City Harvest Policy & Government Relations and Food Bank, it’s an inspiring group of anti-hunger advocates from across the city with varied expertise coming together to create a more just food system. I learn something new about community, advocacy and food justice work every time we meet! 

On a national level, I’d say Janie Simms Hipp. I was deeply affected by her presentation “We are Not Something Else” at the annual FRAC food policy conference in DC. She spoke of the importance of giving voice to the voiceless, having reverence for our food, and practicing seeing our connections to each other and impact on the earth. She ended by saying “Nothing more important you can do with your life than to feed people. If that is your passion, embrace it fully.” And I will. 

Your breakfast this morning: Smoothie with celery, avocado, ginger and lime and an over easy egg over arugula. Yum! 

Favorite food: Thai food. Or pizza. Or a locally sourced salad. I never really did like picking favorites….

Last meal on Earth: Colombian empanadas prepared by my best friend’s mom

Favorite food hangout (restaurant, bodega, coffee place, friend’s house, etc) and why: Farmers Markets and Potlucks! Markets for the community, bright colors & vibrant energy – I love being outside and connected to the source of what nourishes me. And potlucks for the variety of food, connection to friends and the magic of abundance. There is always more than enough to go around!

Social media must follow: @UptownGrandCentral

Jazmin Johnson

Age: 30

Grew up in: New York City

Job Title/Organization or Company: Chef and Community Organizer

Background and Education: I am a native New Yorker and Community Organizer who co-founded The Barrio Fridge, a free community fridge in East Harlem in June 2020. Since then, I have pivoted to rescuing food for community fridges in Upper Manhattan and the Bronx in partnership with Community Fridge 120 MMM. I am the Executive Chef at Culikid and a Wellness in the Schools chef instructor. There, I teach students and faculty alike about the benefits of not only fueling, but healing their bodies through nourishing foods. Prior to the pandemic, I worked at Michelin-starred Bouley at Home and volunteered my free time to raise funds for various organizations. As a career transitioner, I graduated from the School of Culinary Arts at the Institute of Culinary Education in 2018 after spending a decade in the Fashion, Agency and Social Impact creative space. 

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

Food policy hero: Karen Washington

Your breakfast this morning: Fresh pressed orange juice

Favorite food: Pizza

Favorite last meal on Earth: An omakase

Favorite food hangout (restaurant, bodega, coffee place, friend’s house, etc) and why: I love supporting small local businesses and have memorized the menu of my neighborhood Italian restaurant, Uva. Their food is consistently delicious, they serve my favorite riesling and it’s walking distance from home. For all of these reasons, I have gathered there countless times with loved ones.

Social media must follow: @communityfridge120mmm, @wellnessintheschools, @jameshemingsorg, @culinaryhistoriansny, @unsqgreenmarket, @blackfoodfolks, @brigaid, @mofad, @educatorsforjustice

Devon Klatell

Age: 38

Grew up in: Newton, Massachusetts & NYC

Job Title/Organization or Company: Managing Director, Food at The Rockefeller Foundation

Background and Education: Growing up, I watched cooking shows on public access television and took culinary classes in my spare time. After studying cognitive psychology at Harvard, I spent years in the private sector before pivoting to focus on food systems full-time and earning a master’s degree from NYU in food systems. After graduation, I joined The Rockefeller Foundation where I currently work with our fantastic U.S. partners on issues including food waste, food is medicine, good food purchasing and food policy.

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

Food policy hero: All of the innovative, resourceful and dedicated local food policy council members, school food professionals, food bank leaders, farmers, advocates and community organizers that navigated the challenges of 2020 to deliver food and support to their communities, in spite of shifting regulations, supply chain disruptions and historic need. Truly humbling and incredible to see what these heroes have accomplished (and much to learn from as we move ahead).

Your breakfast this morning: yogurt, strawberries and granola and an iced coffee

Favorite food: coffee ice cream

Favorite last meal on Earth: A big spread with good bread, great cheese, fig jam and all the tasty fixings; ideally eaten outside with friends, family and a beautiful view

Favorite food hangout (restaurant, bodega, coffee place, friend’s house, etc.) and why: My mom’s garden in the Hudson Valley, with my five year old son proudly showing off the tomatoes, cucumbers and potatoes he’s growing (and asking me why the avocado pit he planted last summer hasn’t started producing avocados yet…). I love to see his interest in food and how it’s grown – he’s got quite the green thumb!

Social media must follow: I have really appreciated the excellent food journalism that has been coming out over the last couple of years, so I’d highlight @civileats, @thecounter, @whetstone_mag, @leahjdouglas, @hbottemiller, as well as @altusda, and of course, @RockefellerFdn

Josephine Ledda

Age: 30

Grew up in: Manhattan, NYC

Job Title/Organization or Company: Meals on Wheels Director, Riseboro Community Partnership

Background and Education: I am a community based dietitian who has worked with every part of the life cycle. Born and raised New Yorker, Filipino and Jewish. I am currently in the CUNY SPH Master’s program for Public Health and Policy. My undergraduate degree was at NYU for nutrition. I have worked at Harlem Children’s Zone, WIC, Ryan White Programs and now Meals on Wheels!

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

Food policy hero: Alissa Wassung! Alissa is the Policy Director at God’s Love We Deliver (and a former 40 under 40 honoree). She is someone I always wish I saw more often and someone who always inspires me to do better.

Your breakfast this morning: Two cups of tea with oat milk, toast with eggs and homemade kimchi!

Favorite food: Filipino Adobo. I have been perfecting my recipe during the pandemic and it involves marinating chicken for two days.

Favorite last meal on Earth: Kreung Cambodia meals. Char, a Cambodian chef, makes amazing spiced crabs, lobster and Bawbaw. I would follow her food to the ends of the earth.

Favorite food hangout (restaurant, bodega, coffee place, friend’s house, etc) and why: Jeepney! A Filipino restaurant in the East Village. One of the first places to have Kamayan in the city- a meal spread out on banana leaves where you share with family and friends. I look forward to going back and sharing in the meal with everyone I love once we’re all vaccinated!

Social media must follow: @Wussymag on Instagram. Wussy Magazine is a queer & pop culture publication based out of Atlanta that never fails to make me laugh. 

Winnifred Lee

Age: 35

Grew up in: Brooklyn, NY

Job Title/Organization or Company: Regional Coordinator, Greenmarket, GrowNYC

Background and Education: I’m Chinese American and grew up in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn with the subway rumbling behind my home. I learned a lot from my public school education and graduated from Baruch College in 2007 with a B.A. in History. As I learned more about and advocated for policies around climate change, I wanted to develop a life skill that would help me survive in the long run so I learned how to farm. I learned at Farm & Wilderness in Vermont, Wassaic Community Farm in Dutchess County, NY, Garden of Eve in Long Island, NY and finally I came back to NYC and worked at the Randall’s Island Urban Farm. Six years ago, I started working at GrowNYC and love the people I work with. 

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

Food policy hero: Tanya Fields 

Your breakfast this morning: Dal makhani with chapati 

Favorite food: Tongue tacos

Favorite last meal on Earth: Shanghainese soup dumplings, Hwa Yuan’s Peking Duck and lots of roasted veggies

Favorite food hangout (restaurant, bodega, coffee place, friend’s house, etc) and why: Abyssinia (in Harlem) because the staff is amazingly sweet, like the honey wine, and I have happy memories of eating delicious food with friends in a communal setting

Social media must follow: @seriouseats, @UptownGrandCentral, @NYPL, @thewoksoflife

Gisselle Madariaga

Age: 36

Grew up in: Union City, NJ

Job Title/Organization or Company: Program Operations Manager & Chef / Wellness in the Schools

Background and Education: BA in Political Science & English Literature / AAS in Culinary Arts. Working in food justice was a happy accident. After deciding to switch career paths and return to school to study culinary arts, I took a part time job as a kitchen assistant for recreational cooking classes. Before long I found myself graduated from culinary school, juggling working full time as a pastry cook in an award winning bakery and teaching recreational cooking classes in my own right. I loved teaching cooking as it energized my passion for cooking. But the longer I taught cooking, the more I was confronted with the lack of basic cooking knowledge of the general public. I realized my own first generation privilege of being raised by parents, whose knowledge and practice of scratch cooking came from necessity and survival. I felt compelled to share their knowledge and the knowledge I gained as a chef to educate and therefore empower people to make healthier choices for themselves. This is how I found Wellness in the Schools. We teach communities how to make better choices in approachable and achievable ways whether at home, in the recess yard, or on the cafeteria line.

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

Food policy hero: Every single person who came out during this pandemic to provide food to people who need it. They are my heroes because they inspire me with their efforts, both big and small.

Your breakfast this morning: Whatever gifted or homemade granola I have on hand, easy to peel fruit, and of course Cafe con Leche.

Favorite food: Cheese. I always have too much cheese on hand.

Favorite last meal on Earth: My mother’s harina con picadillo with an over easy egg on top. Everything’s better with an over easy egg on top.

Favorite food hangout (restaurant, bodega, coffee place, friend’s house, etc) and why: Doing what I do, that would be the street fruit vendor. If you hang out at the fruit vendor’s stand long enough with a chef coat, you will engage someone on their way to or from school, work, or home. It is a great way to point out an oftentimes overlooked source of fresh and affordable produce, especially in communities where options can be limited.

Social media must follow: @HappyHealthyLatina and @wellnessintheschools

Photo by Emily Schnindler

Camilla Marcus

Age: 36

Grew up in: Los Angeles, California

Job Title/Organization or Company: Chef/Founder, west~bourne / Founding Member, IRC / Co-Founder, ROAR

Background and Education: Prior to west~bourne, I was the Director of Business Development for Union Square Hospitality Group. I have also worked in real estate investing for Colony Capital and CIM Group, and trained in both business and law at the Wharton School and New York University (from which I hold a joint JD/MBA). I hold a culinary degree from the International Culinary Center and have worked at some of New York City’s most celebrated restaurants, including dell’anima, Riverpark and Union Square Café. I am also an active angel investor and the co-founder of TechTable, a hospitality technology thought leadership platform.

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

Food policy hero: Ron Finley

Your breakfast this morning: Chia pudding with west~bourne coconut almond crumble

Favorite food: Strawberries

Favorite last meal on Earth: Sushi, preferably in Japan.

Favorite food hangout (restaurant, bodega, coffee place, friend’s house, etc) and why:  Nothing is more enriching than a home cooked meal outdoors at a friend’s house, where everyone is contributing in some way.

Social media must-follow: @futureearth

Photo by Anna and Jordan Rathkopf

Fabiola Mendieta-Cuapio

Age: 38

Grew up in: Tlaxcala, México

Job Title/Organization or Company: Founder & Manager of Advocacy at BICS

Background and Education: Experienced community organizer and skilled advocate, proud single mom of a 6-year-old boy with a special mind. I am a Mexican Indigenous Woman of the Nahua Nation. I currently work for The Office of the Public Advocate Jumaane D. Williams as a Community Organizer and Immigrant Justice Advocate for Civic and Community Empowerment. I always turn my pain into actions. I founded BICS at the beginning of the pandemic in 2020. We have fed our indigenous community with dignity and my team was a big part of the 2020 CENSUS. My main goal is to empower the most vulnerable who do not have representation in New York City.

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

Food policy hero: Difficult question to answer 

Your breakfast this morning: Huevos Rancheros with Arugula, Avocado and extra onions on the side

Favorite food: Mole (mom’s recipe) Arugula Salad with quinoa and mango (brother’s recipe)

Favorite last meal on Earth: Mole Enchiladas with extra avocado

Favorite food hangout (restaurant, bodega, coffee place, friend’s house, etc) and why:

  • My brother Steven’s house because it’s like having a personal chef, a big menu and the food is out of this world.
  • Tacos el Bronco Sunset Park the best tacos in NYC.
  • Avenue Bagels best bacon, egg and cheese
  • Farmers Market at Union Square

Tamara Mizhquiri

Age: 28

Grew up in: Croton-On-Hudson, NY

Job Title/Organization or Company: Program Director, USDA National Hunger Clearinghouse at Hunger Free America

Background and Education: I was born in Ecuador and grew up in the United States. My own experience growing up on SNAP inspired me to seek ways to help others access the same resources and benefits that have helped me. In college I found my calling volunteering for Health Leads where I used my education and language skills to help people access a variety of food and financial assistance programs at Woodhull Medical Center. After graduating from NYU with a B.A. in French and minors in Anthropology and Media, Culture, and Communication, I joined Health Leads as a Program Fellow where I continued to address social determinants of health at various NYC Health + Hospital sites. Afterwards, I worked for the NYU Langone School of Medicine as a Research Associate and in 2017 I joined Hunger Free America as a Program Associate on the USDA National Hunger Hotline.

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

Food policy hero: Tambra Raye Stevenson

Your breakfast this morning: Coffee with a lot of milk and yogurt topped with granola and blueberries.

Favorite food: My mom’s shrimp ceviche.

Favorite last meal on Earth: My mom’s ceviche, rice, guata, and a Tropical.

Favorite food hangout (restaurant, bodega, coffee place, friend’s house, etc) and why: My mom’s house because she’s the best cook I know and makes everything with love. 

Social media must follow:@wetheurban, @foodheaven, @blackandembodied, @usdahunger

Amy Mohedano

Age: 30

Grew up in: Bronx,New York

Job Title/Organization or Company: Director of Social Services, West Side Campaign Against Hunger

Background and Education: I grew up in the Bronx, New York in a primary Spanish speaking neighborhood. My childhood consisted of serving as a translator for my neighbors and helping them fill out paperwork to apply or recertify for their public benefit cases, so I knew early on that I wanted to pursue a career that would allow me to serve my community. I graduated from Niagara University with a degree in Sociology. I have spent the last 9 years working in the non-profit sector assisting fellow New Yorkers with access to food and NYS public benefits and referrals. I am thankful for the amazing opportunities I have been giving to work for prominent agencies such as, Food Bank for NYC and Part of the Solution. In my current role, I lead the Social Services department at the West Side Campaign Against Hunger. Our goal is to ensure that all New Yorkers are receiving all essential benefits eligible to them that can support them in their pathway towards self-sufficiency. WSCAH’s mission and work has inspire me to continue to look for ways to further service the needs of our community which resulted in the implementation of our home delivery program. This delivery method has gone on to support families with at home learning barriers and older/disabled adults who are unable to travel. This program benefited hundreds of families and vulnerable individuals during the height of the COVID-19 Pandemic. I look forward to continuing to serve my community in accessing crucial resources and benefits available to them.

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

Food policy hero: Dolores Huerta and all of our hard working farm workers.

Your breakfast this morning: Egg sandwich with a chocolate Almond milk Espresso

Favorite food: Tacos Al Pastor

Favorite last meal on Earth: My grandmother’s red chilaquiles.

Favorite food hangout (restaurant, bodega, coffee place, friend’s house, etc) and why: The Tacoshop, whenever I am feeling stressed a nice plate of tacos and a margarita cheers me up!

Social media must follow:@MaketheRoadNY, @NYCFoodPolicy, best places to keep up to date with information and resources for our community and partners. @HumansofNY, inspiring stories of fellow New Yorkers that serve as motivation.

Stephanie Moshier

Age: 35

Grew up in: Indianapolis, IN

Job Title/Organization or Company: Director or Mobile Market Programs at West Side Campaign Against Hunger

Background and Education: I graduated from George Washington University with a BA in Anthropology and minor in Spanish Language and Literature. I participated in AmeriCorps after graduating and worked at DC Central Kitchen, where I saw the power of food as a tool in action.

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

Food policy hero: So many, but here are a few: Karen Washington, Mary Cleaver, Robert Egger, Jose Andres, Dolores Huerta

Your breakfast this morning: Banana, spinach, and berry smoothie plus two cups of coffee

Favorite food: Cheese of all kinds (I moonlight as a cheesemonger!)

Favorite last meal on Earth: Wild boar ragu with fresh pasta

Favorite food hangout (restaurant, bodega, coffee place, friend’s house, etc) and why: Anywhere with friends enjoying a meal

Social media must follow: @happyhealthylatina, @justfoodnyc, @cherrybombe

Christina Nieves

Age: 33 

Grew up in: Staten Island, NY

Job Title/Organization or Company: Community Research and Evaluation Specialist at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene 

Background and Education: I am the Community Research and Evaluation Specialist at the Harlem Bureau of Neighborhood Health at the NYC Health Department. In my role, I conduct research and evaluation on place-based approaches to reducing health inequities. I am the evaluator of our nutrition and health promotion program, Eat Healthy, Live Life. For the past few years, our research has focused on food insecurity in East Harlem and trying to better understand the nuances of experiencing food insecurity when there is ample physical access to food. Through our research, we hope to elevate concerns of community members about food insecurity and injustices in the food system. I have a master’s degree in Epidemiology from the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health and a bachelor’s from Amherst College. I am currently working on a PhD in Epidemiology from the CUNY School of Public Health and Health policy. 

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

Food policy hero: The essential workers, whether they be grocery store workers, pantry volunteers, or farmers, who kept people fed during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Your breakfast this morning: Oatmeal with peanut butter and banana. 

Favorite food: Pizza- both the classic NY slice and fancy brick oven 

Favorite last meal on Earth: My momma’s cooking, which usually includes rice, beans, and plantains. And a glass of chilled white wine.

Favorite food hangout (restaurant, bodega, coffee place, friend’s house, etc) and why: My kitchen table. I had a baby last summer, so most of my meals have been at home this past year. One of the greatest joys has been cooking for her and introducing her to different foods. She’s an adventurous eater and really enjoys trying new things. It’s redefined our family meals in a great way.

Social media must follow: @elbarriobikes, @eastharlemwalks, NYT Cooking

Ann Pedtke

Age: 33

Grew up in: As a kid I lived in a series of small towns in upstate New York, West Virginia, Michigan, Virginia, and Pennsylvania – but my roots are now firmly in Queens!

Job Title/Organization or Company: Director of Volunteer Engagement, Food Bank For New York City

Background and Education: I have worked to mobilize volunteers in food systems and sustainability in New York City for the past 12 years. After college, I served as an SCA AmeriCorps Member, and I was hooked – both on New York City and on the nonprofit world. Since then, I’ve had the privilege of managing environmental and food access programs for organizations including the Student Conservation Association, Horticultural Society of New York, Queens Botanical Garden, and Phipps Community Development. In my current role at Food Bank For New York City, I oversee service programs activating more than 20,000 volunteers annually to fight food insecurity. I earned my bachelor’s degree in English from Kenyon College, and my graduate certificate in nonprofit development from the NYU Heyman Center for Philanthropy. 

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

Food policy hero: Anyone can be a food policy hero! In my role I strive to empower every volunteer to become an advocate in this space, and Food Bank’s volunteers inspire me every day – whether it’s the senior who helps prep meals at our Community Kitchen, the family who comes out together on Saturdays to repack food donations at our Warehouse, or the teen who spreads the word on emergency food resources as a Food Bank Social Media Ambassador.

Your breakfast this morning: Peanut butter banana smoothie

Favorite food: Anything with peanut butter

Favorite last meal on Earth: My mom’s homemade pizza

Favorite food hangout (restaurant, bodega, coffee place, friend’s house, etc.) and why: Food (like most things!) is better outdoors! One of the few bright spots of the pandemic has been seeing streets in my neighborhood of Woodside converted to new gathering places for outdoor dining – I hope this is here to stay as a priority for our city!

Social media must follow: Writers like @MichaelPollan, @NeilTyson, @TempestWilliams, and @DavidQuammen always energize me by making science and sustainability relevant and accessible to all. I’m also inspired by following the amazing orgs where I volunteer my time, including @the_SCA, @nyc_h2o, @EarthMatterNY, @TheDream_US, and @BikeNewYork.

Juliana Pereira

Age: 26

Grew up in: Hastings-on-Hudson, NY

Job Title/Organization or Company: Child Nutrition Outreach and Policy Associate, Hunger Free America

Background and Education: While earning my MPA at Binghamton University, I interned with the Food Systems department at Cornell University Cooperative Extension in Broome County. Located in a high poverty area, my work with their farmers’ market introduced me to the ways that federal nutrition assistance programs can uplift rural, agrarian communities through programs like SNAP and WIC. I was inspired by incentive programs like Health Bucks that increase people’s purchasing power while directing federal dollars to our farmers. It changed the way I thought about food policy. After I completed my degree, I continued my work with farmers’ markets for two years, overseeing nutrition education programming in low-income neighborhoods in NYC with Harvest Home Farmers’ Markets. Since then, I joined Hunger Free America’s Advocacy, Research & Policy team, where I continue to advocate for an expansion of the federal safety net and improved child nutrition programs and policies.

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

Food policy hero: Michael Pollan – I think his writing has allowed many people to understand and connect with the issues in our complicated food system. 

Your breakfast this morning: Cheese blintzes

Favorite food: Soup

Favorite last meal on Earth: My mom’s make-your-own temaki (hand roll) dinner. The dinner table is covered in dishes with assorted vegetables, tsukemono (pickles), and sashimi along with a bowl of hot seasoned rice and a plate of cut squares of nori (seaweed). The possibilities are endless.

Favorite food hangout (restaurant, bodega, coffee place, friend’s house, etc) and why: Sharing a sandwich on the beach

Social media must follow: @workingclasshistory, @depthsofwikipedia

Kori Petrovic

Age: 38

Grew up in: Born in Rijeka (Croatia), spent most of the childhood with grandparents in a small mountain village of Moravice (Croatia)

Job Title/Organization or Company: GrowNYC’s Farmstand Program Coordinator

Background and Education: Masters in Public Health. During my childhood in Croatia, I’d spent weekends and summers at my grandparents’ house in the mountains. They had, what we would today call a farm, but then we didn’t consider it as such and the farm was used for family purposes only. There was always something to do, from planting potato fields in the spring, to raking hay manually in the summer to harvesting apples, plums and cherries to canning and making jam in the fall. Nothing could beat my grandma’s warm bread with the best homemade rose hip or plum jam for breakfast. She ingrained in me the love for gardening from a very early age. I first got involved with GrowNY through “Learn It Grow It Eat It” program, a program that works with high school teenagers in the South Bronx, teaching them how to grow and maintain organic fruits and vegetables in community gardens, how to cook with fresh produce, and conduct simple nutrition workshops in schools and health centers. Part of their weekly job was to run a Farmstand, a program which I took over few years later.

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

Food policy hero: Vandana Shiva

Your breakfast this morning: oats, nuts, honey and banana

Favorite food: homemade pasta

Favorite last meal on Earth: Pita falafel

Favorite food hangout (restaurant, bodega, coffee place, friend’s house, etc) and why: GrowNYC’s lunch room (food, colleagues and world’s fair exchange!)

Social media must follow: No time to follow social media with 2 toddlers at home

Elizabeth Richards

Age: 33

Grew up in: London and New York City

Job Title/Organization or Company: Refettorio Harlem Culinary Manager

Background and Education: I am a Professional Chef with a passion for food justice. I attended The New School and am an International Culinary Center graduate. I was the former Culinary Program Director and Director of Food at West Side Campaign Against Hunger and am currently working as the Culinary Manager of Refettorio Harlem with Food for Soul overseeing the rescue and transformation of surplus food before it becomes wasted. The rescued food is used to produce 600 healthful meals that are distributed weekly to those facing food insecurity in Harlem.

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

Food policy hero: Dolores Huerta. We cannot talk about the sustainability of the food system without taking into consideration the exploitation and rights of agricultural workers.

Your breakfast this morning: Pandebono and espresso.

Favorite food: Tacos Al Pastor.

Favorite last meal on Earth: Cheeses, charcuterie, crusty bread, whole grain mustard, cornichons, really good honey.

Favorite food hangout (restaurant, bodega, coffee place, friend’s house, etc) and why: Pabade bakery in East Harlem. They are a family owned business and make such good coffee and baked goods.

Social media must follow: @rivercottagehq, I love their approach to sustainability, and @sophia_roe

Carlina Rivera

Age: 37

Grew up in: Lower East Side

Job Title/Organization or Company: New York City Council Member, District 2

Background and Education: Carlina was born and raised in the 2nd District of Lower Manhattan by a single mother who emigrated from Puerto Rico. She began her career in afterschool programming, working with children at some of New York City’s highest-needs schools. She went on to serve her local community, creating and organizing initiatives for seniors and homeless New Yorkers as Director of Programs and Services at Good Old Lower East Side (GOLES), a local non-profit focused on social justice. She was elected to City Council in 2017 and has since pursued legislation to address small business assistance, food waste, and improved rights for delivery workers. Carlina lives with her husband, pug, and turtle. She graduated from Marist College with a B.A. in Journalism, after attending local district schools her entire life.

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

Food policy hero: Nas Jaber and Dan Dorado, founders of The Migrant Kitchen

Your breakfast this morning: Froot Loops!

Favorite food: NYC pizza, of course! Stromboli’s and Scarr’s Pizza in the LES are the classics.

Favorite last meal on Earth: A perfect NYC bagel with cream cheese and lox, or anything from Adela’s on Avenue C.

Favorite food hangout (restaurant, bodega, coffee place, friend’s house, etc) and why: Donnybrook on Clinton. It’s my friend Meghan’s pub and it always feels like home. She brings in food pop-ups and has local snacks on the menu.

Social media must follow: Workers Justice Project: @workersjusticeproject on Instagram and @workersjusticep on Twitter. They do incredible organizing and advocacy work, and I’m proud to call them a partner. 

Joshua Rivera

Everyone calls me J.O Rivera!

Age: 34 

Grew up in: The Bronx 

Job Title/Organization or Company: Benefits Access Program Manager – Hunger Free NYC 

Background and Education: Served in AmeriCorps for three terms working on various projects from anti-Hunger to early child-hood literacy. Currently I am a program manager at Hunger Free NYC, where I work with a team dedicated individuals to help connect New Yorkers to benefits such as SNAP and WIC. Before all of this I thought I was going to be an IT professional. However after joining AmeriCorps and working with Hunger Free NYC, you see that people need help. So I chose to help in any way I can. It would be great to live in a world where food insecurity does not exist and then I could be an IT professional. Until then this is where I am at. 

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

Food policy hero: Cesar Chavez

Your breakfast this morning: Toast and Jam

Favorite food: NYC push cart hot dog

Favorite last meal on Earth: hot dogs from Nathans

Favorite food hangout (restaurant, bodega, coffee place, friend’s house, etc) and why: Pretty much any diner. Just feels like a sincere place to be, and the food is great. No one is too good to eat at a diner.

Social media must follow: @HungerFreeUSA

Hannah Roucher

Age: 28 

Grew up in: Milwaukee, WI/Kfar Saba, Israel 

Job Title/Organization or Company: Sous Chef at Lenox Hill Neighborhood House 

Background and Education: I hold an AS in Culinary Arts from Johnson & Wales (Providence), a BA in Psychology from Tel Aviv University, and am currently working towards an MPH with a concentration in Community Health Sciences from University of Illinois-Chicago. 

I have always had a passion for cooking and social justice, going back to the summers I attended, and then worked as a Kitchen Manager and Head Chef at, Habonim Dror Camp Tavor, a Jewish camp with a strong focus on social justice. A summer spent as a Summer Cooks in Training Program Intern at Brainfood, in Washington, D.C., was my first introduction to food as part of a larger social justice project and further focused my interest in doing community food work with young people. 

Before starting as Sous Chef at Lenox Hill Neighborhood House, I spent a year as the Community Partnerships and Wellness Fellow in The Teaching Kitchen at Lenox Hill Neighborhood House, our farm-to-institution training and technical assistance program. 

I am now working in my MPH to better understand social determinants of health and the complex forces that lead specific communities to have poor health outcomes, how racism and social structures have set up some communities for failure, and how to move forward. 

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

Food policy hero: Michael Twitty 

Your breakfast this morning: Lenox Hill Neighborhood House’s homemade whole wheat bread with avocado and eggs 

Favorite food: An extra saucy sandwich or anything Korean 

Favorite last meal on Earth: One of everything on the menu from Azura, an Iraqi restaurant tucked away in the side alleys of the Machaneh Yehudah Market in Jerusalem… and mint chip ice cream 

Favorite food hangout (restaurant, bodega, coffee place, friend’s house, etc) and why: Anywhere with friends, family, fresh air, and cheese 

Social media must follow: @soulfirefarm

Yajaira Saavedra

Age: 33

Grew up in: Washington Heights/ South Bronx

Job Title/Organization or Company: Manager of the Mutual Aid Kitchen at La Morada Restaurant

Background and Education: I am an indigenous activist and organizer fighting for the rights of undocumented immigrants and marginalized communities in the United States. Originally from San Miguel Ahuehuetitlán, Oaxaca, Mexico, I have been living in the United States with my family for more than 20 years. As a DACA recipient, I have been involved in the undocumented youth movement along with my brother, Marco, focusing on the need for comprehensive migration policy changes and prison abolition. Together with my family, I run La Morada restaurant in The Bronx. More than a restaurant, La Morada is a space of resistance, a sanctuary, a space of accompaniment and mutual aid. During the pandemic, I led the efforts to make this one of the first sites to respond to food scarcity in New York City. My family turned the restaurant into a soup kitchen and we have been cooking and delivering food nonstop throughout the pandemic with an average of 5000 meals per week. Through all my work, I underscore the ways in which migration is itself a form of resistance, and center the maintenance of cultural traditions and language as a form of activism.

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

Food policy hero: Black Panthers

Your breakfast this morning: Scrambled eggs with cactus and tortillas

Favorite food: Oaxaca Mole

Favorite last meal on Earth: Consome de pollo (chicken soup)

Favorite food hangout (restaurant, bodega, coffee place, friend’s house, etc) and why: In front of any Community Fridge, it’s free and sustained by the community for the community.

Social media must follow: @Takebackthebronx

Jonathan Saturay

Age: 32

Grew up in: Seattle, WA

Job Title/Organization or Company: Director of Operations at The Beecher’s Foundation

Background and Education: My earliest food memory was growing up in our South Seattle apartment complex, my parents grilling on our 2nd floor porch, a 5-year-old version of me waiting on the ground floor as they dropped down bundles of filipino bbq skewers wrapped in aluminum foil and delivering the warm delicious gifts to our neighbors. Looking back at it now, taking care of and serving my community has been something my parents have ingrained in me ever since I was a young child. After juggling many different jobs, I found my place at The Beecher’s Foundation where I had the opportunity to move to New York City and launch the Pure Food Kids Workshop. Since 2014, I’ve had the pleasure of hiring and building a dynamic team of instructors, partnering with 130 schools, providing our free program in over 1,500 classrooms, and transforming 31,000 New York City students into ‘Food Detectives so they can make informed, healthy food choices. Outside of my work in youth food education, I am a community organizer with the New York Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines, volunteer as the Staff Coordinator for the Seattle All-City Marching Band and play alto sax with the Lesbian Gay Big Apple Corp’s ‘Spectrum Saxophone Quartet’.

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

Food policy hero: Kristin Hyde, the powerful young folks at Rockaway Youth Task Force, and farmers across the world!

Your breakfast this morning: Blueberry peanut butter smoothie

Favorite food: Phở

Favorite last meal on Earth: My mom’s homemade Filipino comfort foods – adobo (meat braised in soy sauce & vinegar), pancit (pan fried noodles), and kare kare w/ bagoong (peanut butter oxtail stew w/ fermented shrimp paste)

Favorite food hangout (restaurant, bodega, coffee place, friend’s house, etc) and why: Sunset potlucks with chosen family on my (treacherous) apartment rooftop in Astoria, Queens.

Social media must follow: INSTAGRAM – Pure Food Kids (@purefoodkids), Janelle Quibuyen (@phatlip) for art, design, and Filipino culture, NYCHRP & NY4PHRA (@nychrp, @ny4phra) to learn more about the Philippine Human Rights Act. SUBSTACK – “Food is Stupid” by Dennis Lee. It’s genius. It’s hilarious. It’s absurd.… and it’s my favorite weekly read!

Andrea L. Sharkey

Age: 33

Grew up in: Monmouth County, NJ

Job Title/Organization or Company: Project Manager, New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene

Background and Education: I coordinate the National Salt and Sugar Reduction Initiative (NSSRI), an initiative that is currently promoting voluntary and gradual reductions in sugar content in packaged foods and beverages. While led by NYC, the NSSRI includes a partnership of over 100 organizations from across the country who have come together to encourage the food and beverage industry to make changes to our packaged food supply. I also support a variety of programs and policies within the Healthy Eating Unit aimed at reducing the burden of diet-related chronic disease. I have an MPH from New York University and a BA from the University of Pennsylvania.

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

Food policy hero: Marion Nestle

Your breakfast this morning: Avocado Toast with Sriracha and Cherry Tomatoes, and coffee

Favorite food: Peak summer produce – I look forward to local, in-season blueberries, corn, peaches, and tomatoes

Favorite last meal on Earth: A really good cheese plate

Favorite food hangout (restaurant, bodega, coffee place, friend’s house, etc) and why: The farmers market. Partial to the ones in NYC, but I like to visit the farmers market in any city and country I visit. I think you can learn a lot about a place’s culture by seeing its food, the people who grow/make it, and the shoppers.

Social media must follow: Hard to pick just one… @Eater_NY (for food/restaurant news), @solidstarts (if you have a young eater at home), and @adamgrant (everything he shares makes me think critically about how I approach both work and life)

Ciara Sidell

a.k.a. Farmer C

Age: 28

Grew up in: Queens, NY

Job Title/Organization or Company: Farm Manager, Randall’s Island Park Alliance

Background and Education: I am a lifelong New Yorker, committed to growing food in educational spaces in NYC. In undergrad at Wheaton College (MA), I pursued an independent major in Environmental Studies, concentrating on food culture & food systems. I’ve farmed at the Queens County Farm Museum, taught on the Brooklyn Grange rooftop farms with City Growers, managed Harlem Grown’s network of growing spaces, and currently work with the Randall’s Island Park Alliance, managing our Urban Farm — an educational farm, designed completely with teaching and learning in mind. I’m endlessly interested in engaging folks in learning and discussion around the intersections of farming, justice, community, and our urban landscape. In line with my professional work, I’m engaged in conversation with growers across the city around building our capacity for a sharing economy rooted in collaboration and community. This past year’s heightened awareness around food access, social justice, and racial inequity points urgently at the need to continue to share knowledge, skills and to more readily share physical resources. Shameless plug — growers interested in participating in this conversation (and many other exciting farmy chats), can get involved on slack in The Urban Farmer to Farmer Space (TUFFS).

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

Food policy hero: all the growers in NYC sharing food with their communities; shoutout specifically to Ms. Assanah at Harlem Grown who has an unwavering commitment to creating & holding space for youth and young farmers to learn & grow. And she’ll never let those chickens go hungry! 

Your breakfast this morning: toast with an avocado, egg, and greens topped with tahini; side of cucumber & tomato salad 

Favorite food: anything doused in tahini

Favorite last meal on Earth: Eggplant parm 

Favorite food hangout (restaurant, bodega, coffee place, friend’s house, etc) and why: gathering with friends in my apartment to cook and share food is my absolute favorite. Gathering in the coziness of someone else’s home is a runner up! 

Social media must follow: far too many accounts to name, but lately I’ve been hooked/inspired/called to action by @notourfarm & @agrowingculture

Katy Tomaino Fraser

Age: 33

Grew up in: Oceanport, New Jersey (The Garden State! In case you didn’t know!)

Job Title/Organization or Company: Director of Evaluation / CUNY Urban Food Policy Institute

Background and Education: My background is in nutrition, food, and health research – and over the last 15 years I’ve worked on a range of studies including clinical studies of vitamin D and bone health in post-menopausal women, community intervention studies to promote health in Native North American communities and assessments of dietary exposures among adolescents in peri-urban Lima, Peru. In 2014 I began applying my research skill set to evaluation work, and I have been supporting non-profit community organizations in measuring and communicating their impact ever since. At the Institute, my evaluation work focuses on the intersection of food access, food security, food policy, nutrition and health equity. Above all, I’m a data enthusiast, and I love to use good data to tell stories.

I’m a Registered Dietitian, with a Bachelors in Nutritional Sciences from Rutgers University and a Masters of Science in Public Health from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

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

Food policy hero: I work with some brilliant and wonderful people at the CUNY Urban Food Policy Institute – I’m grateful for every day I get to learn from them. I need to also shout out Malik Yakini – I heard him speak in 2013 and I’m sure that the talk changed the trajectory of my education and career. And! Finally – the youth leaders and staff at the Grow Dat Youth Farm in New Orleans. A truly impressive program – check them out!

Your breakfast this morning: Do two bites of my toddler’s waffles count? No..? Okay well then – two eggs over easy on a kale salad with sweet potatoes. And coffee!

Favorite food: An almond croissant

Favorite last meal on Earth: Cheese Pizza slice from Little Italy Pizza at Broadway / 92nd street

Favorite food hangout (restaurant, bodega, coffee place, friend’s house, etc) and why: The Selkirk pub in London. A good British pub is like heaven on earth.

Social media must follow: on Twitter: @cadwego, @RBReich, @LeifScience and on Instagram @morganames.co, @mysoulfullnutrition, and, not food related but @celestebarber is everything!!

Eloísa Trinidad

Age: 38

Grew up in: New York

Job Title/Organization or Company: Executive at Director Chilis On Wheels New York, Cofounder at Vegan Activist Alliance

Background and Education: I came into this path through ancestral knowledge, the teachings of my community, and mutual aid. Being raised by centennials that lived off the land, taught me to be self-sustainable and passed down much ancestral knowledge shaped my views and path towards becoming a lifelong activist and organizer. As an educator and activist, I approach food sovereignty with an anti-colonial framework to raise awareness of how Western colonization changed our food systems and our relationship with each other and to the natural world. I am passionate about teaching this to students through my Food and Race class at the Coalition for Healthy School Food. With this I seek to empower them in the fight for food sovereignty and provide them with actionable steps to advocate and make change. In my Executive Director role at Chilis on Wheels New York along with our amazing team of volunteers, I make veganism accessible to communities in need through meal shares, grocery and fresh produce distribution, food demos, clothing drives, and mentorship. We provide a network of support and build strong empowered communities within the areas that we serve, as we work with groups offering food to the community, to transition their offerings to plant-based meals. I work with various organizations and coalitions, including Hip Hop is Green, Coalition for Healthy School Food, 50 by 40 School Food Working Group, and Bronx Impact Food Access Alliance to develop community-driven strategies to transcend poverty and make food that grows from the ground accessible to everyone by advocating for policy change on a federal and state level. Within this, I have worked on food justice issues, including submitting recommendations on food policy to amplify effective solutions to food insecurity and to address the inequities in the contributing systems. 

In March 2020 with the amazing team at Chilis on Wheels, I started pandemic relief efforts that continue to feed students and families in New York City’s most impoverished neighborhoods, serving thousands of individuals to date, and in February 2021 co-founded the first plant-based/vegan community fridge in New York where not only healthy plant-based food is provided, but also free literature and free education on how to transition to plant-based nutrition for the benefit of all Beings, our health and the planet. The fridge provides plant-based cooked meals, groceries, clothing, and personal care items to over 500 food and housing insecure individuals on a weekly basis.

I previously worked on The Economist’s Feeding the Future campaign which aims to get consumers thinking more about environmentally sustainable approaches to food production and consumption by educating them on plant-based foods, reduction of plastic use, and reduction of food waste. 

Food, water, and soil unite all species. It is my greatest wish for all of us to come together as a global community to find common ground and work together towards liberation for all. I will continue to forge relationships across the arts and across social justice movements to build alliances in hopes of bridging the gap that keeps us working so separately, for all Beings and the planet. 

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

Food policy hero: All Indigenous, Afrodescendant, and peasant farmers of the Global Majority, Michelle Carrera, Lauren Ornelas, and Brenda Sanders.

Your breakfast this morning: Raspberries and blueberries.

Favorite food: Fruit 

Favorite last meal on Earth: Tropical fruit eaten where it is native to. 

Favorite food hangout: My great-great grandmother’s kitchen for all that it taught me. Spicy Moon, The VSpot, Marty’s V Burger, The Organic Grill– Plant based restaurants who are passionate about giving back to the community. 

Social media must follow: @ChilisonWheels, @FoodEmpowermentProject, @AGrowingCulture, @Immokalee.Workers, @FairFoodProgram, @NYCHipHopisGreen, @PlantPoweredMetroNY, @RegenerationInternational, @VeganActivistAlliance 

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