40 Under 40: The Rising Stars in NYC Food Policy (Class of 2022)

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 2022 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.

Alexis Agliano Sanborn

Age: 35

Grew up in: Sacramento, CA

Job Title/Organization or Company: Independent Researcher & Manager of Development and Communications, Christodora: Nature, Learning, Leadership

Background and Education: I am an independent researcher, food advocate, nature enthusiast, and award-winning artist. With over a decade of experience studying Japanese culture, I directed and produced Nourishing Japan, a documentary short exploring food education and the school lunch system in Japan. I also produced and co-hosted Season by Season, a podcast that celebrates our connection to nature through sound and story. I serve as Manager of Development and Communications at Christodora: Nature, Learning, Leadership, an environmental education non-profit. Previously, I served as NYC Program Coordinator of the Wa-Shokuiku Project, an after-school culinary exchange program inspired and informed by the educational philosophy, flavors, and foods of Japan. I received my Bachelor’s degree in East Asian Studies and Japanese from UC Santa Barbara (2008), a Master’s in Regional Studies of East Asia from Harvard University (2013), and a Master of Public Administration from New York University Wagner Graduate School of Public Service (2020). I serve on the board of the Washington Heights Chamber Orchestra in upper Manhattan.

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

Food policy hero: I am inspired by those who work to protect our agricultural biodiversity and rare, heirloom, or “lost” varieties. I admire the founders, staff, and community of FEDCO Seeds. As someone who has a particular love of apple trees, John Bunker of FEDCO Trees is a particular food policy hero. He worked to preserve rare old apple varieties in New England and founded the Maine Heritage Orchard, which serves as a publicly accessible living monument to Maine’s apple trees. (Which I hope to visit someday during apple season!)

Your breakfast this morning: 
Coffee and yogurt

Favorite food: Apples! I enjoy the heirloom varieties, in particular. I also love really good bread with really good butter.

Favorite last meal on Earth: Something in season

Favorite food hangout and why: Le Cheile in Washington Heights is my neighborhood pub and watering hole. Every time I visit there, I see someone I know, whether a neighborhood group or a friend. The city feels more like a little village full of extended family. Plus, the food is great, too.

Social media must follow:
@66squarefeet – A great resource for people interested in foraging and how to live a delicious life connected to nature, even in the big city.

Liz Alpern

Age: 37

Grew up in: Long Beach, NY

Job Title/Organization or Company: Creator, Queer Soup Night; Co-Owner, The Gefilteria; Consultant, Fair Food Network

Background and Education: I discovered my passion for the field of food while baking challah out of my apartment during undergrad. After that, I was hooked, and have been working in all facets of the food world ever since: front and back of the house, event planning, catering, food policy, program development, fundraising, cookbook creation, media and more!

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

Food policy hero: Oran Hesterman, founder and chief executive officer of Fair Food Network

Your breakfast this morning: My partner’s homemade granola and homemade almond milk

Favorite food: Soup!

Favorite last meal on Earth: Giant bowl of ramen with an ice cold beer

Favorite food hangout and why: My backyard in Brooklyn. During the pandemic it was the greatest gift because I could continue to host and feed people, safely.

Social media must follow: @noodleworship, @fig_nyc_@zoeadjonyoh

K.C. Alvey

Age: 32

Grew up in: Long Island, New York

Job Title/Organization or Company: Senior Outreach Coordinator, NYC Parks GreenThumb

Background and Education: I am passionate about supporting community-driven planning and working to create equitable, healthy, and climate-resilient neighborhoods. I have over 10 years of environmental advocacy, community engagement, facilitation, and project management experience, working with a variety of non-profit and public sector organizations throughout New York State. I previously worked as an organizer for 350.org and was active in the movement against fracking in upstate New York. When I moved back downstate, I was eager to get involved with community-led solutions to the climate crisis and worked with Cornell Cooperative Extension on a community tree planting program before starting at NYC Parks GreenThumb. As a Senior Outreach Coordinator at NYC Parks GreenThumb, I currently work with about 50 community gardens along the Brooklyn waterfront from Greenpoint to Sunset Park. In this role, I provide material support, technical assistance, and capacity-building support to the volunteer-led garden groups that steward these beautiful public green spaces and food-producing gardens. Over the past five years, I’ve helped coordinate the physical rebuilds and redesigns of a number of community gardens in collaboration with gardeners and my colleagues at GreenThumb. I’ve also helped support garden groups in outlining and strengthening their governance processes, with the goal of increasing democratic participation in these important neighborhood institutions. I’ve also enjoyed planning meet-and-greets to support community gardeners in building relationships, sharing best practices, and hosting collaborative events such as Open Garden Day in North Brooklyn.

I have completed both the Master Gardener and Advanced Master Gardener certificate courses at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden in partnership with NYC Parks, along with the Citizen Pruner course through Trees New York. I have a B.S. in Natural Resources with a minor in Law & Society from Cornell University. In addition, I will complete my Master of Urban Planning with a concentration on climate resiliency and environmental justice at Hunter College in summer 2022. I’ve had the opportunity to study issues facing our food system in New York City, as well as conduct a studio project with classmates on the opportunities that recent landmark climate legislation in New York presents for equitable economic development in historically under-resourced communities.

I am also an avid gardener and love tending to my block’s street tree pits, as well as a small garden at my apartment which is full of herbs, flowers, vegetables, and pollinators.

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

Food policy hero: There are so many! This includes my colleagues at NYC Parks GreenThumb (past and present), community gardeners citywide, along with Raj Patel, Kali Akuno, and Leah Penniman.

Your breakfast this morning: An everything bagel from Nagle’s Bagels

Favorite food: Blueberry crumble with fresh blueberries from the farmer’s market

Favorite last meal on Earth: Fettuccine alfredo

Favorite food hangout and why: I love a good potluck dinner and opportunity to share food with friends, especially in a busy city.

Social media must follow: @greenthumbnyc, @grownyc, @saveourcompost, @gocoopnyc, @nyrenews, @neweconomycoalition, @plannersnetworknyc

Elizabeth Angeles

Age: 31

Grew up in: East Village/Lower East Side, NYC

Job Title/Organization or Company: Vice President of Advocacy, United Way of New York City (UWNYC)

Background and Education: I serve as Vice President of Advocacy at the United Way of New York City. I lead the organization’s first advocacy unit to drive policy and systems change that addresses the needs of low-income New Yorkers and advances equity across various areas, including education and food access. I served on the first-ever New York City mayoral transition team for food policy, where I collaborated on recommendations for fortifying New York City food systems and ensuring all New Yorkers have dignified access to nutritious food that meets their needs. I am an Adjunct Assistant Professor at New York University’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service. I teach an advocacy capstone section and supports students with nonprofit client organization consulting projects, their final projects before graduation. I hold a BA in economics and linguistics from Columbia University and an MPA from New York University.

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

Food policy hero: Joel Berg

Your breakfast this morning: Coffee (milk, no sugar) & boiled eggs

Favorite food: Anything w. avocado

Favorite last meal on Earth: My mother’s porkchops with tostones (fried plantains)

Favorite food hangout and why: My local family-owned bodega, Metro Deli, in the Bronx. Mohammed, Al, Abdul, Khaleed, Sal and Armando always have my back. I once needed eggs and my local supermarket was closed. The bodega was also out of eggs, but Mohammed delicately packed me a dozen single eggs from their deli section.

Social media must follow: @Boriliciouss

Dylaney Bouwman

Age: 28

Grew up in: Sarasota, Florida

Job Title/Organization or Company: Chief of Staff, New York City Mayor’s Office of Food Policy

Background and Education: I have the honor of serving as the Chief of Staff in the Mayor’s Office of Food Policy (MOFP). In this role, I oversee the day-to-day operations of MOFP and lead cross-functional strategic food policy initiatives. I manage new and ongoing efforts around nutrition and food insecurity with agencies and offices across City government with a focus of improving health equity and food access for all New Yorkers.

Previously, I worked on health and human services initiatives focused on food policy, public benefits, workforce development, intergenerational poverty, and social determinants of health in the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services. Prior to joining City government, I worked in health services and chronic disease research at NYU Langone’s Comprehensive Program on Obesity and the Veterans Health Administration. I received my Bachelor’s in Food and Nutrition Science from Florida State University and my MPH from New York University’s College of Global Public Health with a concentration in Public Health Nutrition.

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

Food policy hero: The countless food workers across our food system that ensure that we are fed day in and day out – from the day laborers that grow our food to warehouse packers, line cooks and street vendors – each one of these individuals play a critical role in shaping food policy and are vital to the health and vibrancy of our communities.

Your breakfast this morning: Oatmeal with a banana and a big cup of coffee!

Favorite food: Freshly baked baguette

Favorite last meal on Earth: Street tacos topped with spicy guacamole and tons of cilantro, a side of grilled corn and zucchini, and for dessert – my mom’s fruit salad.

Favorite food hangout and why: Fishkill Farms in Dutchess County. There is nothing better than sitting around a picnic table with friends on a sunny Saturday afternoon, snacking on fresh locally grown produce (and apple cider donuts 😊), and listening to a live band.

Social media must follow: @nycfood, @nychealthy, @grownyc, @RWJF, @kaiserhealthnews, @NYHFoundation, @CDC_DNPAO, @foodchainworker, @foodtank, @civileats, @CSPI, @FAO

Omar Bravo Pavia

Age: 33

Grew up in: Oaxaca, Mexico

Job Title/Organization or Company: Co-founder & Sourcing Director, The Connected Chef

Background and Education: After leaving Mexico, I began working in the restaurant industry here in NYC for 15 years. It was there that I learned both how to manage a kitchen and staff as well as use food as an opportunity for further learning and growth. After leaving the restaurant industry during the pandemic in 2020, it was my experience as a chef, paired with my life experience that gave me the tools to community organize and begin directly addressing food access in NYC.

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

Food policy hero: Small local farmers. As consumers many often don’t fully understand the work that goes into caring for and harvesting the land. As someone who grew up farming with my family in Mexico, I experienced first hand how much energy and labor goes into growing the food we eat everyday. Responsible farming must be the foundation of our food system and we must not only recognize, but actively support and invest in the work and livelihood of small farmers in order to create a food system that is accessible to all communities and that does not extract from its people and the land.

Your breakfast this morning: Fried eggs and tortillas and salsa

Favorite food: Anything my mom cooks .. but i’ll say barbacoa tacos

Favorite last meal on Earth: Breakfast made by my grandma. Eggs, queso fresco, salsa verde and handmade tortillas

Favorite food hangout and why:My house with friends and family and good drinks

Social media must follow: @lilythezapotectraveler & @neftaliduran_

Leah Butz

Age: 25

Grew up in: Huntington, NY

Job Title/Organization or Company: Senior Research Associate, Hunter College NYC Food Policy Center; Compost Coordinator, GrowNYC

Background and Education: I earned my Bachelor’s degree in Linguistics & English from Northeastern University in 2020. Throughout college, I worked in food service of all kinds, from coffee to bars to restaurants. Upon moving to Queens in July 2020, I spent a good amount of time volunteering with my local Sunnyside & Woodside Mutual Aid and GrowNYC (which later turned into a part-time job at the Grand Army Plaza Greenmarket in summer 2021!). I started working for the FPC in March 2021, and some of the recent projects I’ve been especially proud of include NY Food 2025 and the Food as Medicine Report

One word you would use to describe our food system: Taken-for-granted

Food policy hero: Karen Washington. Her efforts to make agriculture and growing accessible to city dwellers is inspirational, and the importance of her work drawing attention to injustices in the food system cannot be overstated. 

Your breakfast this morning: Black coffee and Mediterranean chickpea salad. I got a massive bunch of dill in my CSA this week so I’m trying to use it all up on various refreshing picnic salads.

Favorite food: Chocolate cake, preferably of the molten lava variety. 

Favorite last meal on Earth: A cubano from El Oriental de Cuba in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts. 

Favorite food hangout and why: Greenpoint! Christina’s, Kiszka Meat Market, Syrena Bakery, and others – My mom is a Polish immigrant so the food I can get in Greenpoint always reminds me of family. 

Social media must follow: Instagram: @blackforager, @swma.nyc; Twitter: @whatsylviaate, @natlibscot, @crevicedwelling; TikTok: @doobydobap, @smokeyrgreens, @b0tanica

Renae Cairns

Age: 29

Grew up in: Ballston Spa, New York

Job Title/Organization or Company: Advocacy and Community Engagement Manager, Teens for Food Justice

Background and Education: While studying anthropology at Davidson College, I was part of a civic engagement-based program where I worked with Charlotte-area community-based organizations. Through this program, I had the opportunity to learn from and work with so many community leaders addressing racial and social inequity through food and farming. Upon graduating, I pursued a career in community-based food systems and held various positions with urban farming and agricultural education nonprofits, small-scale, sustainable production farms, as well as socially-minded food businesses.

Currently, as the Advocacy and Community Engagement Manager with Teens for Food Justice, I direct our after school programming, community food distributions, as well as youth-led advocacy and food policy initiatives.

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

Food policy hero: All of my current and former colleagues and community partners whose mentorship, collaboration and commitment are invaluable to and a guiding force for me.

Your breakfast this morning: Always coffee

Favorite food: My fiance’s mashed potatoes

Favorite last meal on Earth: A spread of tacos, chips and spicy salsas.

Favorite food hangout and why: My grandparents’ kitchen. My grandparents on both sides of my family are hugely foundational to my love of and passion for food. My maternal grandfather always had something cooking on his stove to share with friends or family who may stop in. I try to bring that spirit and love into my kitchen and work each day.

Social media must follow: @thenutritiontea, @civileats

Anthony Carrión

Age: 31

Grew up in: Harlem, New York

Job Title/Organization or Company: Program Manager, Hunger Free NYC

Background and Education: I am a graduate of the City College School of Architecture. My background in architecture includes projects such as La Marqueta Mile, NYCHA’s Polo/Rangel Houses Initiative, and the the Harlem African Burial Ground Memorial & Cultural Center. The built environment is a reflection of the values (or lack thereof) of the society. Ultimately, architecture is about the creation of space. Currently, there is no space for ideas such as the commons, the public good, democracy, etc. Perhaps through advocacy and activism we can finally create space for what people need and deserve.

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

Food policy hero: Vandana Shiva

Your breakfast this morning: Oatmeal with banana slices, berries, Ceylon cinnamon, and chia seeds.

Favorite food: Dessert: Lady M Mille Crêpes

Favorite last meal on Earth: Katz’s Reuben

Favorite food hangout and why: My parents’ home. Food tastes best in good company, especially with the nephews around the holidays. Also, my mother and 2 older sisters are great cooks.

Social media must follow: @drvandanashiva

Photo by Alex Lau

Yin Chang

Age: 33

Grew up in: Born and raised in NY

Job Title/Organization or Company: Cofounder, Heart of Dinner

Background and Education: As a short film producer and director, my work has gathered over 13 million views. Experiencing the lack of representation throughout her 15 year career in television and film, I launched online platform 88 Cups of Tea in 2015 to amplify diverse voices, nurturing creative writers to write themselves into the heroes of their own stories. 88 Cups of Tea’s podcast arm ranked in Apple’s top 15 Literature & Arts podcasts, and featured in Apple’s top 20 Asian and Pacific American voices. I co-founded Heart of Dinner with life partner Moonlynn Tsai, a non-profit that counters isolation and food insecurity amongst NYC’s Asian elderly in intentional ways that bridge gaps and build community across all cultures and backgrounds. My efforts have been lauded by Time, Vogue, NBC and ABC News, Ellen, WSJ and Fortune, and I was named a 2021 Glamour Woman of the Year.

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

Food policy hero: Star Route Farm NY is disrupting the food system by re-prioritizing and centering the community and serving those who do not have access to nutritious produce. Food policy heroes doing wonderful work as well are Helen Nguyen, Winston Chiu, Irene Li, and Jose Andres.

Your breakfast this morning: I usually skip breakfast and opt for warm water first thing in the morning before moving onto green tea

Favorite food: Anything my Grandma would make for me growing up– freshly grated turnip cake and any dish that would integrate her homemade pickled ingredients.

Favorite last meal on Earth: Anything that my loved ones make.

Favorite food hangout and why: Family and friends’ kitchens. Coffee shops are a close second.

Social media must follow: @theconsciouskid, @sonyareneetaylor

Edlin Choi

Age: 33

Grew up in: Suburban North Jersey and then New York City from college on

Job Title/Organization or Company: Edlin Bets the Farm; Choy Commons

Background and Education: I graduated with a bachelor’s in Finance and Marketing from NYU’s Stern School of Business. After working at a handful of NYC startups, including my own healthy meal subscription business, I moved to SF to work in big tech. That lasted a year and a half until I moved again to rural Georgia to apprentice at an ecologically-beneficial livestock farm. I stayed on to spearhead their e-commerce and DTC growth for a year before moving back to New York, first upstate and now the city again. After working with another farm on ecommerce nearby, I got involved with Choy Commons at the start of this year and am developing a new project that blends food, agriculture, waste, justice, and culture.

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

Food policy hero: National Young Farmers Coalition

Your breakfast this morning: Classic bacon and eggs. Bacon, ultra-thin sliced so it feels like I get more, cooked low in a cast-iron from a cold start so it shrinks less. Eggs scrambled super slow so they stay yolky and almost cheesy when they’re done. Both from Autumn’s Harvest Farm, picked up at my local butcher, Hudson & Charles.

Favorite food: Korean BBQ and Filipino food

Favorite last meal on Earth: Kkorijjim, a Korean oxtail stew made with carrots, potatoes, daikon, onion, garlic, and ginger braised low and slow in broth and soy sauce until the sauce is thick and syrupy and the meat is falling off the bone. My mom makes this with rice and steamed cabbage leaves. It’s the best. I could eat that sauce poured over rice any day.

Favorite food hangout and why: Our apartment or any friend’s place where we can cook together and spend quality time and make the vibe whatever we want – cocktails and board games, dinner and a movie, or a collaborative dinner party with dance music.

Social media must follow: @sylvanaquafarms, @agrowingculture and @michellekimkim for knowledge, @hwoo.lee for drool-worthy food photos and recipes, and @space_babe2 for too-real-you-have-to-laugh memes

Noah Cohen-Cline

Age: 39

Grew up in: Seattle, WA

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

Background and Education: I spent the first half of my career working in international human rights and development in South and Southeast Asia. One of my early formative roles was as a grassroots grantmaker in Indonesia, where inclusive, community-led approaches were paramount in our funding strategy; I’ve carried that philosophy throughout my career. I didn’t think of myself as a food systems professional at the time, but would later come to realize that, by virtue of working on equity and economic development in rural areas globally, I’d always worked within food systems! I went on to work squarely in food roles with the International Food Policy Research Institute, The Clinton Foundation, and eventually The Rockefeller Foundation, where I get to support a phenomenal cohort of food policy advocates and practitioners building a more nourishing, equitable, and sustainable food system. I have a bachelor’s degree in political economy from UC Berkeley and a master’s in development economics from The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.

One word you would use to describe our food system: Misdirected (…but with many bright spots to build on)

Food policy hero: Janie Hipp

Your breakfast this morning: Steel-cut oatmeal with yogurt, peanut butter, raspberries, and plenty of maple syrup, and/or whatever my 6-year-old left on his plate.

Favorite food: All fruits, especially mango

Favorite last meal on Earth: I’d be happy leaving this world with a fresh loaf of sourdough and butter.

Favorite food hangout and why: My wife’s parents’ house is by far my favorite place to eat in New York. A typical meal there might include fish, chicken, goat, and eight different vegetable dishes, with flavors you can’t find in any restaurant in the city. I love the energy, attention, and joy that surround food in their home.

Social media must follow: I’m admittedly a bit of a social media luddite…

Miguelina Diaz

Age: 34

Grew up in: Bronx, NY

Job Title/Organization or Company: Senior Manager of Food & Benefits Access, United Way of New York City (UWNYC)

Background and Education: I graduated from Hunter College with a BA in Accounting. During that time, I discovered my passion for advocating for food security and access after taking Janet Poppendieck’s sociology class- Hunger in America. Currently, I manage the Food Support Connections program at UWNYC, connecting eligible households to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Prior to joining UWNYC, I held a few positions at Hunger Free America, managing SNAP access projects that broke down barriers New Yorkers encounter when applying for SNAP, increased awareness of federal nutrition programs, and advocated for food access in low-income communities. I also worked with the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene- Shop Healthy Program, recruiting food outlets to participate in the program to increase access to healthy food in neighborhoods with high rates of people with obesity.

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

Food policy hero: Everyone involved in the fight for food justice.

Your breakfast this morning: Avocado-Egg Toast with Coffee

Favorite food: Gyoza (Japanese Dumplings)

Favorite last meal on Earth: Rice, beans and rotisserie chicken with an avocado salad.

Favorite food hangout and why: My favorite food hangout spot, without a doubt, will be my parent’s kitchen. My mom and dad make their food with so much love. They make the most delicious Dominican dishes.

Social media must follow: @bronxnarratives

Kathleen DiPerna

Age: 29

Grew up in: Pittsburgh, PA

Job Title/Organization or Company: Director of Government Relations, Rethink Food

Background and Education: Bachelors of Business Administration in Food Business Management & Bachelors of Professional Studies in Food Studies – The Culinary Institute of America, Hyde Park, NY

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

Food policy hero: Emily Broad-Leib, Harvard Food Policy

Your breakfast this morning: Oatmeal with blueberries, chia, flax, milk and maple syrup

Favorite food: Parker House rolls, with Irish butter and flaky Maldon salt

Favorite last meal on Earth: A chopped cheese and Ben and Jerry’s chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream.

Favorite food hangout and why: My coworker & friend Jordan’s house in New Jersey. We cook together all day, try new foods, talk, laugh, drink and bond over sharing the experience and breaking bread together. It is a culinary oasis away from the City.

Social media must follow: Leah Penniman of Soul Fire Farm @leahpenniman

Isabella Di Pietro

Age: 24

Grew up in: New York City

Job Title/Organization or Company: Co-Founder and Executive Director, Feed the Frontlines NYC

Background and Education: I was born and raised in New York City, where I grew up working in my family’s Italian restaurants and constantly cooking for my friends and family members. In college, I deepened my interest in the food space through coursework with Michael Pollan and leading food education events as part of Harvard’s Food Literacy Project. I’ve also been fortunate to learn from internships at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture. When the pandemic hit in March of 2020, I took a leave of absence from Harvard a few weeks shy of graduating to launch Feed the Frontlines NYC alongside an incredible team of fellow classmates, friends, family and partners from across New York City. To date, our amazing restaurant partners have delivered over 200,000 meals to frontline workers and New Yorkers experiencing food insecurity.

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

Food policy hero: Marion Nestle

Your breakfast this morning: Oatmeal and coffee

Favorite food: Soft scrambled eggs with Parmigiano

Favorite last meal on Earth: My nonna’s timballo. It’s like lasagna, but with delicate crepe layers instead of pasta!

Favorite food hangout and why: It’s hard to pick one, but recently I’ve loved eating at Banh on 106 and Amsterdam. The food is wonderful, and their busy opening in 2021 was such a bright spot during the pandemic.

Social media must follow: @civileats, @hbottemiller and local journalists!

Emily Gartenberg

Age: 27

Grew up in: Montgomery, NJ

Job Title/Organization or Company: Program Manager, No Kid Hungry New York

Background and Education: I have worked on the No Kid Hungry campaign for over four incredible years, and have had the privilege of focusing on both our programmatic and policy initiatives. Prior to working at Share Our Strength, I earned my undergraduate degree in Government and Sociology with a focus on Inequality Studies from Cornell University.

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

Food policy hero: Rachel Sabella

Your breakfast this morning: Raisin Bran and banana slices.

Favorite food: Too many to choose from, but I always love a hot bowl of pho. 

Favorite last meal on Earth: Soft scrambled eggs on a buttered english muffin.

Favorite food hangout and why: I love bar food – it’s always good (are fries ever bad?) and often great, especially when there’s a surprising item that’s been honed over the years.

Social media must follow: @Rock_on_Cafe, the social media page for Broome-Tioga BOCES school nutrition services, highlights how incredible school meals can be. I love to follow them and see the fresh produce (often grown in NY) and new recipes that they’re serving to ensure kids have the healthy and tasty food they need to grow and thrive.

Angelica Gibson

Age: 25

Grew up in: Riegelsville, PA

Job Title/Organization or Company: Data Director, Hunger Free America

Background and Education: My major is Global Food Security (BSc) at McGill University with a minor in Economics and specialty in International Agriculture. During my studies at McGill, I conducted research with Gustolab International on the food security status of migrants in Rome and the role of food insecurity and climate change as a factor in migration. I was also a fellow with the Mosiac Institute in Toronto and helped develop a national initiative to combat prejudice through fostering connection. After graduating, I joined Hunger Free America as the Data and Design Coordinator and now lead our new Data Department.

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

Food policy hero: The millions of individuals who have experienced food insecurity. They have the answers and need to be in paid leadership positions in the fight against hunger if we’re seriously going to end it.

Your breakfast this morning: My Grandpa’s pancakes

Favorite food: Vegetable Pot Pie

Favorite last meal on Earth: Vegetable Pot Pie

Favorite food hangout and why: My apartment, becuase my partner is the most incredible chef/barista and spoils me with amazing vegan food.

Social media must follow: @thenapministry, @prentishemphill

Yolanda Gonzalez

Age: 34

Grew up in: Long Island

Job Title/Organization or Company: Urban Agriculture Specialist, Cornell Cooperative Extension NYC

Background and Education: My parents are originally from Lares, Puerto Rico, a rural, mountainous town, where I grew up visiting family during summer school vacations.  I have fond memories of collecting acerolas from my aunt’s backyard and snacking on quenepas on long car rides in the countryside.  My grandfather was a farmer his entire adult life, so having a career in agriculture is the ultimate homage to my jibarita roots. After woofing and working on small farms throughout the Northeast, I obtained a BA in Spanish and Environmental Studies from SUNY Geneseo and a joint MPA/MS degree from Syracuse University and SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Public Administration and Environmental Science. Over the past five years, I have had the privilege of working with urban growers throughout the five boroughs of New York City, providing technical assistance and educational programming in a variety of areas, including fruit tree care, mushroom cultivation and food safety. In my time off, I love to visit extended family and spend time on regenerative, agroecological farms in Puerto Rico.

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

Food policy hero: Leah Penniman

Your breakfast this morning: Oatmeal, coconut flakes, chia seeds and peanut butter

Favorite food: My green smoothie recipe– spinach, banana, chia seeds/hemp seeds/flax seeds, and coconut water

Favorite last meal on Earth: Vianda con bacalao, it’s a Puerto Rican dish, my family only makes it when we buy bacalao from La Marqueta in Williamsburg (which is 2-3x/year)

Favorite food hangout and why: Chelsea market, Tacos #1 and Los Mariscos—best tacos in NYC!

Social media must follow: @Urbanag.nyc (our Cornell Cooperative Extension page that is managed by our urban ag team), @biocontrol.nysipm (information on biocontrol by NYS IPM), @thetrashwalker (all about circular economy, waste reduction), @proyectoagroecologicocampesino (dreamy farmscapes in my family’s hometown of Lares, Puerto Rico)

Ellen Granger

Age: 32

Grew up in: Croton on Hudson, NY

Job Title/Organization or Company: Senior Manager of Donor Relations & Supply Chain, City Harvest

Background and Education: I grew up in a small town up the Hudson River from NYC and went to a tiny public school with the same kids from Kindergarten through 12th grade. Then went all the way to Conway, Arkansas to a small liberal arts school called Hendrix College, where I majored in Anthropology and minored in Photography, made a lot of great friends and met my husband to be. Whether I intended to or not, I ended up back in New York during my post-college job search and started in the non-profit world at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. At that point, I started becoming familiar with City Harvest’s work through volunteering at their Greenmarket Rescues around the city. A number of years later, I decided to see if I could make my love for City Harvest’s work and mission “official”.

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

Food policy hero: José Andrés / World Central Kitchen team

Your breakfast this morning: Leftover mac and cheese, cold!

Favorite food: Spicy Thai food, ideally from somewhere in Woodside/Elmhurst

Favorite last meal on Earth: Two chicken tacos and rice and beans (specifically from Tacos del Rey in Sunnyside, Queens OR Azteca in Mt. Kisco, NY)

Favorite food hangout and why: A bar with a small but good food menu and outdoor space, where you can spend hours on a summer afternoon.

Social media must follow: @unsqgreenmarket on Instagram – The GrowNYC team is always making me wish I lived closer to the Union Square Greenmarket with their beautiful and entertaining posts!

Ivory Harris

Age: 34

Grew up in: Brooklyn and Freeport, NY. 

Job Title/Organization or Company: Farm Inspections Manager, GrowNYC Greenmarket

Background and Education: I grew up in New York, born in Crown Heights. My family lived in Brooklyn until I was eleven, moving out to Long Island and eventually laying new roots down in Freeport. 

Following my undergraduate studies in English Literature at SUNY New Paltz, I started my career with GrowNYC in 2015 as a part-time Market Manager for the Greenmarket program. Last year, in 2021, I transitioned into the Farm Inspections Manager role, overseeing quality assurance and compliance for Greenmarket Producers. 

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

Food policy hero: June Russell whose work creating the GrowNYC Grains program was transformative for the proliferation of regional grains, showcased the potential for collaboration among growers and processors, and built avenues for the accessibility of diverse grain varieties to local communities.

Your breakfast this morning: Savory oatmeal with spinach and eggs, and some salsa macha on top.

Favorite food: Chili with cornbread

Favorite last meal on Earth: Oxtail stew with rice and plantains

Favorite food hangout and why: Mel, the Bakery. Their pastries are stellar!

Social media must follow@nativeseedsearch, @sylvanaquafarms, @greenwaveorg, @nefoclandtrust

Erik Hassert

Age: 38

Grew up in: New Jersey

Job Title/Organization or Company: Strategic Marketing Manager, GrowNYC

Background and Education: After studying visual arts in college, I spent most of my time behind a camera, in kitchens, and working as a butcher in NYC. I was fortunate enough during that time to source from small-scale farmers who raised livestock in the Northeast which eventually led me to work directly with Sun Fed Beef at the Greenmarkets. Spending early mornings and weekends at the markets talking with other farmers and customers was the best part of my job. Now at GrowNYC, I continue my education in our food system alongside our farmers through a variety of marketing projects that helps communicate their value to the communities in which they work and live.

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

Food policy hero: The farmworkers who dedicate their days and nights to growing food for us all.  

Your breakfast this morning: Taylor ham, egg and cheese on a roll.

Favorite food: Leftover roasted chicken noodle soup

Favorite last meal on Earth: Grilled clams with beer, garlic and crusty bread. 

Favorite food hangout and why: Slow, long outdoor cookouts of all kinds with family and friends.

Social media must follow: @historycoolkids

Chantel Kemp

Age: 28 

Grew up in: Brooklyn, NY 

Job Title/Organization or Company: Garden Coordinator, GrowNYC 

Background and Education: Started my farming career through an AmeriCorps program called Green City Force. There I fell in love with land work and community building. From there I went on to work for a plethora of non-profit organizations, learning more about growing food, the relationship between food and health and the relationship between food and economics. Now I spend a large part of my time building and cultivating spaces in public housing and sharing that knowledge with the people who need it most. 

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

Food policy hero: Fanny Lou Hamer 

Your breakfast this morning: Breakfast Bar & Sour sop Tea 

Favorite food: Veggie Lasagna 

Favorite last meal on Earth: Cereal & Oat Milk 

Favorite food hangout and why: Grace Thai II, I love Thai food and the people there are so nice and welcoming. It’s always good to shop local and feel welcomed and cared for. 

Social media must follow: @blkgirlfarming, @blackforager and @enlightenthoughts

Ashley Kosiak

Age: 37

Grew up in: Kansas City, MO 

Job Title/Organization or Company: Director, Project Management Office, James Beard Foundation 

Background and Education: After graduating from the University of Minnesota, my food-adjacent career started at Mill City Museum in Minneapolis, MN, where I engaged with museum visitors and visiting students on the city’s industrial milling past and the state’s agricultural history. I moved to New York a little over ten years ago to get a Masters in Food Studies from NYU. While at NYU, I started as an intern at the James Beard Foundation and have been there ever since. I’m proud to have been involved with the Foundation’s Impact Programs – focused on food policy and sustainability – from the get-go in 2012. Chefs and independent restaurants have an amazing opportunity to highlight and enact positive food system change. Throughout my career I’ve been fortunate to support these chefs and help them develop their voices and grow their confidence and knowledge base. Currently, as Director of our Project Management Office, I’m working with projects and programs across the organization that champion a standard of good food anchored in talent, equity, and sustainability.   

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

Food policy hero: So many people have gone above and beyond the last few years, it’s really difficult for me to pick out a single hero. There are so many! A few that immediately come to mind for me: Mavis-Jay Sanders (NYC), Patrick Mulvaney (Sacramento), Judy Ni (Philadelphia), and Ed Lee and Lindsay Ofcacek (Louisville). 

Your breakfast this morning: Coffee with milk – I’m embarrassed to say I’m not really a breakfast person (though I do love breakfast for dinner) 

Favorite food: French fries. Or a salad. How about a salad with a side of fries? 

Favorite last meal on Earth: A spread with every type of pizza. If it’s my last meal, I want it all: Detroit-style, New York-style, deep dish/Chicago-style, Neapolitan, and anything else I might have missed. 

Favorite food hangout and why: I grew up an only child, but have a large extended family I still try to visit on holidays. My aunt’s kitchen always feels like a party, especially during Thanksgiving, with everyone cooking and laughing and enjoying wine. It’s a good time. 

Social media must follow: Independent Restaurant Coalition (@indprestaurants), Black Food Folks (@blackfoodfolks), James Beard Foundation (@beardfoundation), and for something completely different and not food-related, Hannah Shaw AKA The Kitten Lady (@kittenxlady)

Andrei Kozlov

Name: Andrei Kozlov

Age: 33

Grew up in: New Rochelle, NY

Job Title/Organization or Company: Food Access Initiatives Coordinator, GrowNYC

Background and Education: MFA in Poetry, Sarah Lawrence College; BA, University of Puget Sound; Independent Study, School for International Training, Cusco, Peru. Greenmarket Site Manager for three seasons, GrowNYC’s Food Access Initiatives Coordinator for five years. 

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

Food policy hero: Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale

Your breakfast this morning: Roasted sweet potato and black coffee

Favorite food: Clams

Favorite last meal on Earth: Okroshka (cold Russian soup)  

Favorite food hangout and why: The Jackson Heights Greenmarket! Amazing regionally-grown products and a great place to meet my neighbors. 

Social media must follow: Schooner Apollonia (sail freight delivering cargo from the Hudson Valley to NYC). 

Danielle Levin

Age: 28

Grew up in: Villanova, PA 

Job Title/Organization or Company: Founder / President, SNACC Inc.; State and Local Government Consultant, KPMG 

Background and Education: Master of Public Health in Sociomedical Sciences with a certificate in Health Policy and Practice from Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University. Bachelor’s degree Sociology and Public health from Muhlenberg College. My background includes developing solutions to navigate public health complexities, through identifying, designing, and implementing innovative out-of-the-box approaches.

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

Food policy hero: Kate Mackenzie

Your breakfast this morning: Smoothie 

Favorite food: Soup (Pho, Vegetable Soup, Miso Soup, Matzah Ball Soup, Chicken Noodle Soup, and most other soups as well)

Favorite last meal on Earth: a very simple spaghetti dish with butter or olive oil

Favorite food hangout and why: My favorite food hangout is being at a restaurant with loved ones because I enjoy understanding and engaging with the team behind the food, seeing the environment and inspiration of the chef, and taking in every aspect of the culture and personality of the creators.

Social media must follow: @brigaid, @galileeculinaryinstitute, @ChefAZ

Lianna Levine Reisner

Age: 37

Grew up in: Erie, PA

Job Title/Organization or Company: President & Network Director, Plant Powered Metro New York

Background and Education: Reversed longstanding health issues with whole food, plant-based nutrition, which made me an activist. Received Plant-Based Nutrition Certificate from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies. Previously, served Jewish communal organizations as an organization development consultant. Received MSOD from Case Western Reserve University in Positive Organization Development & Change. Inspired by the power of relationships in networks, and committed to the health of nonprofits and the people who champion them. Mom of three.

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

Food policy hero: Marion Nestle, who first introduced me to the politics of food, and I owe so much to T. Colin Campbell, my nutrition science hero

Your breakfast this morning: Greens-and-fruit smoothie with chia and hemp seeds

Favorite food: Raspberries

Favorite last meal on Earth: Kale and sweet potato salad with lemon/garlic tahini dressing

Favorite food hangout and why: Anywhere with a whole food, plant-based potluck, where people come to share the most nourishing, unadulterated food on the planet

Social media must follow: @nutrition_facts, @plantpoweredmny

Abigail Merced

Age: 29

Grew up in: Cataño, Puerto Rico 

Job Title/Organization or Company: Health Equity Program Manager, CDC Foundation

Background and Education: I was born and raised in Puerto Rico. My family immigrated to the United States in 2010. In 2019 I obtained my Master’s in Global Health and Community Wellness. I have been a community organizer and food sovereignty advocate for over seven years. My interest in food sovereignty started when I noticed the lack of accessibility to fresh and nutritious food my family and I experienced in the US. We started eating what was available, and my dad was then diagnosed with hypertension. As I started working with food sovereignty advocates in NYC City, my work focused on the accessibility, availability, and affordability of fresh, nutritious food in Central and East Brooklyn. In 2021, in collaboration with my team, I  developed and implemented a Diabetes Wellness Program in East Brooklyn. The program provides the community with a holistic approach to preventing and managing diabetes and other comorbidities by connecting participants to social (access to affordable and nutritious food, nutrition and diabetes education, social/peer support, etc.) and clinical services. And before that, I was a Food Justice Specialist Program Coordinator at the NYC DOHMH Centers for Health Equity and Community Wellness.  

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

Food policy hero: I have several, and they are not just food policy heroes. They are also local farmers and community advocates. All of them have influenced and guided my work on food sovereignty in one way or another. But I’ll give this one to my mentor Rae Gomes, Food Equity Consultant. 

Your breakfast this morning: Bacon, egg, and cheese in a roll, orange juice, and an apple. 

Favorite food: Anything Puerto Rican! 

Favorite last meal on Earth: Today it is my dad’s smoked ribs with tostones (fried green plantains) and avocado salad on the side. Yum! But my favorite meal changes constantly. 

Favorite food hangout and why: Any Birria food truck in Sunset Park, Casa Adela in the Lower East Side, and my parents kitchen where my dad and I get creative! 

Social media must follow: All on Instagram: Isabahlia Ladies of Elegance Foundation (@isabahlialoef), Brooklyn Supported Agriculture (@brooklynsupportedagriculture), Stone Barns (@stonebarns), and Comedores Sociales PR (@comedores.socialespr).

Andrea Molina

Age: 28

Grew up in: Brooklyn, NY

Job Title/Organization or Company: Program Coordinator and Community Organizer, Catholic Charities at Grand Street Guild

Background and Education: I currently work in the heart of the Lower East Side at Grand Street Guild, home to the Nutrition Access Center. We provide locally sourced produce to our clients on a monthly basis in order to increase access to healthy food options and improve both food and nutrition security. Brooklyn born and raised, I decided to experience more of what the state had to offer and attended the University at Buffalo to obtain a BA in Political Science. My career path had been geared towards data collection of social inequalities but now I’m involved in making strides to change the system.

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

Food policy hero: My food policy heroes would have to be the founders of the Black Panther Party Huey Newton and Bobby Seale that envisioned community-based programs such as the Free Breakfast Program that would later become the basis of the national program.

Your breakfast this morning: Berry Berry Acai Smoothie from Baya Bar

Favorite food: My favorite food would have to be the chicken tostadas from the taco truck on the corner of 36th and 4th Avenue. Their salsa verde is amazing. They should not be confused with the Tacos El Bronco truck on 5th Avenue. The unfortunate part is that the truck disappeared in the height of COVID and I never wrote down their name or number.

Favorite last meal on Earth: It would have to be the one of Ecuador’s national dishes – guatita. It is a hearty stew consisting of tripe simmered in a sauce of peanuts and potatoes. But it has to be served with pickled onions and avocado.

Favorite food hangout and why: My favorite food hangout would probably be the Dekalb Market Place, it is always a good time. If my friends and I aren’t eating then we are usually taking a salsa class hosted by Marlon Mills.

Social media must follow: Harlem Grown (@harlemgrown), The Gordon Parks Foundation (@gordonparksfoundation), and Sky High Farm (@skyhighfarmhudsonvalley)

Jorge Negron

Age: 31

Grew up in: Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic (until age 5) then immigrated to NYC and have been living in the Heights/Inwood since.

Job Title/Organization or Company: Assistant Director of Food Programs, NY Common Pantry

Background and Education: I am a first-generation immigrant and an emergency food management professional with over five years of experience in budget management and strategic planning. Before joining NY Common Pantry, I worked in the service industry, where I developed strong leadership, interpersonal, and communication skills.

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

Food policy hero: Thomas J. Vilsack

Your breakfast this morning: Low-fat Greek yogurt, with granola and a pinch of agave; a shaken espresso with two homemade chocolate chip cookies.

Favorite food: PIZZA (in all forms)

Favorite last meal on Earth: Chuletas (pork chops) made by my momma.

Favorite food hangout and why: Percy’s Pizza on Bleecker St. Absolutely, hands-down: the best $1 pizza place in the city. This is a hill I am willing to die on. Special mention to the High Line as well. Great place to walk through while enjoying a gelato or ice cream cone.

Social media must follow: @known_unpetable and @instajor

Liz Peralta-Foxwell

Age: 29

Grew up in: Port Chester, NY

Job Title/Organization or Company: Co-Founder + VP of Impact, Feed Forward

Background and Education: I am a proud graduate of a BA in history from St. Francis College in Brooklyn Heights. Growing up my mother always taught me to give back. We didn’t have a lot, sometimes barely enough for dinner, but she always made sure to take care of us and her community. Since her passing in 2013 I have made it my mission to help others with resources, love, and community. Prior to helping to co-found Feed Forward, I served as the youngest Executive director to lead the National Supermarket Association, where I proudly worked to serve and protect the interest of independent supermarket owners on the East Coast. Before my time in the F&B industry, I was heavily involved in the nonprofit world, where I worked at several museums in NYC and Washington D.C., including the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture before its inaugural opening. In my spare time, I proudly serve as the chair of the Food Education Fund Jr Board.

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

Food policy hero: Tanya Fields from The Black Feminist Project

Your breakfast this morning: Smothered Breakfast Burrito

Favorite food: Cacio e Pepe

Favorite last meal on Earth: Tres Golpes or anything made by a Dominican que cocina!

Favorite food hangout and why: Coszcal de Allende in Bayridge. I used to be a school administrator and one of my student’s families owns this place. They take care of everyone like family, and almost every milestone I’ve had in the last 10 years has been celebrated there, including some of my wedding festivities! The food is delicious, the drinks are even better! and it’s home!

Social media must follow: @blackforager, @blackfoodfolks, @FeedForward, @Foodeducationfund, @garyvee, @badbunnypr, @blackownedbklyn, @smallorchids, @whileentertaining, @passthespatula, @uncovermore

Kasumi Quinlan

Age: 24

Grew up in: Bergen & Hudson Counties in New Jersey

Job Title/Organization or Company: Co-Founder, Lemontree

Background and Education: I graduated from George Washington University with a BA in International Relations and a minor in Criminal Justice. Through college, I worked with the NAACP, UNRWA, and 826DC, but I also started working in restaurants, which helped me realize my love of hospitality.

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

Food policy hero: Alexis Nikole Nelson (aka @blackforager on Instagram!) and everyone over at La Morada in the Bronx

Your breakfast this morning: Whole wheat everything bagel, toasted with butter

Favorite food: Pizza (all forms, but specifically from La Sorrentina in North Bergen), and runner up: tacos from Habanero in Washington DC (sorry, but beats anything I’ve had in New York!)

Favorite last meal on Earth:  A steak grilled by my dad, accompanied by my favorite Japanese dishes: okra, kimpira gobo, good white rice, nori, and miso soup made by my mom <3 and jasmine bubble tea to finish!

Favorite food hangout and why: My own kitchen! Nothing I love more than creating a meal & sharing with loved ones.

Social media must follow: N/A – spend less time on social media 🙂 

Anthony Reuter

Age: 35

Grew up in: Wisconsin

Job Title/Organization or Company: Senior Outreach Coordinator, NYC Parks GreenThumb

Background and Education: Lifelong community organizer in the LGBTQIA, youth, and food justice worlds with a degree in Social Justice, Youth Studies, & GLBT Studies.

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

Food policy hero: Qiana Mickie for always speaking her truth!

Your breakfast this morning: Steel-cut oats with a winesap apple

Favorite food: Truly too difficult to answer! But I love blueberries and ramps, both of which are tattooed on my body.

Favorite last meal on Earth: Either the lamb burger at Hart’s or the rotisserie chicken at The Fly.

Favorite food hangout and why: Hart’s, Cervo’s, and The Fly – all owned by the same people who try their hardest to source justly and treat their employees well.  The food at all three restaurants is stellar and the people are warm and welcoming; truly places that feel like home.

Social media must follow: All Instagram: @ragamickie, @lungsnyc, @greenthumbnyc, @earthmatterny, @cityworkers4nyc, @theslowfactory

Fadhylla Saballos-Tercero

Age: 34

Grew up in: Nicaragua & Sunset Park, Brooklyn

Job Title/Organization or Company: Director of Nutrition and Outreach Programs, Bronx Health Collective (Montefiore)

Background and Education: I am the Director of Nutrition and Outreach Programs at Montefiore’s Bronx Health Collective. I have worked in various community nutrition education programs for the past ten years, including the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s Stellar Farmers’ Market, Just Food’s and the Children’s Aid’s. I hold a Bachelors in Health and Nutrition Science from Brooklyn College and a Master’s in Public Health Nutrition from the CUNY Graduate School of Public Health & Health Policy. I have a passion for food justice and accessibility and in my spare time I am the chair-elect of the New York City Nutrition Education Network (NYCNEN).

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

Food policy hero: La Via Campesina – for the 30 years of collective struggle, hope and solidarity of peasant farmers across the world

Your breakfast this morning: Chilaquiles and tomatillo sauce

Favorite food: Potatoes in all forms

Favorite last meal on Earth: Mom’s nacatamales

Favorite food hangout and why: El Olomega food truck in Red Hook, they make the best pupusas in NYC and are only available for a limited time (during soccer league season).

Social media must follow: @diversifydietetics, @nycnen, @loveyourchichos

Meg Savage

Age: 37

Grew up in: Rockville Centre, NY

Job Title/Organization or Company: Co-founder and Chief Growth Officer, Feed Forward

Background and Education: MBA – Fordham University (Summa Cum Laude – Dual Concentrations (Marketing, and Media Communications Management); BA – Fairfield University.

Early career: Marketing and Business Development roles in organizations such as Hearst, Condé Nast, and Sotheby’s. After becoming ill and receiving an autoimmune diagnosis, I made a career change to follow my new passion for food (specifically food as medicine, improving food access, food education, and food systems).

Last ten years: I have been working exclusively in the food space, predominantly as a consultant. I’ve worked across multiple sectors -startups, VCs, food media, non-profits, corporate, with a amix of government – as I truly believe that it requires everyone working together to yield true impact. I was a founder of Food Loves Tech – and experiential platform bringing together the changemakers and innovators in our food system. At Feed Forward I am able to utilize all of my experience all under one umbrella to truly ignite change.

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

Food policy hero: Marion Nestle

Your breakfast this morning: I’ve been intermittent fasting for quite some time now, but on the days I’m not so strict my go-to is a smoothie or oatmeal.

Favorite food: Mexican (in particular – tacos)

Favorite food hangout and why: Frankies 457 in Carroll Gardens – each dish is better than the next, and the family style service coupled with the atmosphere, has made it a go-to for my family and friends. I have so many special memories from dining there.

Favorite last meal on Earth: See above! Must include the Cavatelli with browned sage butter, and the sweet potato sage ravioli in parmesan broth!

Social media must follow: @drmarkhyman – an integrative medicine practitioner. He shares a lot of helpful information on how food is medicine, and preventative medicine.

Ricky Stephens

Age: 32

Grew up in: Bronxville, NY

Job Title/Organization or Company: Director of Digital Strategy, Agritecture

Background and Education: I oversee all aspects of Agritecture’s digital strategy and online user engagement. I have led programming for multiple agtech conferences and formerly was a board member of the NYC Agriculture Collective. Before joining Agritecture, I founded AgTech X, New York’s first collaborative workspace dedicated to AgTech education and entrepreneurship. Previously, I served as Manager of Marketing Analytics for Red Ventures, where I helped launch the company’s first international office in Brazil. I hold a BA in History from Davidson College.

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

Food policy hero: Michael Pollan – the person who first opened my eyes to thinking about food systems while in college

Your breakfast this morning: Grilled mushrooms/onions with 2 eggs over easy on toasted sourdough

Favorite food: Pasta / Italian food

Favorite last meal on Earth: Crispy mac and cheese that my partner has perfected

Favorite food hangout and why: Lighthouse in Williamsburg – amazing summer vibe and Naama is a sustainable food champion.

Social media must follow: @oatly for their humor. @okofarms, @smallhold, @stonebarns, @madagriculture, @propagate_ag for their sharing of knowledge across the urban and rural ag spectrum. (And of course @agritecture!)

Kelvin Taitt

Age/Birthday: 35

Grew up in: Amityville, Long Island

Job Title/Organization or Company: Co-Founder, East Brooklyn Mutual Aid, Inc.

Background and Education: A Social Entrepreneur that has spent years learning logistics, operations, and planning. I have had the privilege of learning through my experiences in retail operations, music and entertainment management and development, event planning, and production.

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

Food policy hero: All of the community members who stepped in and rolled up their sleeves during COVID. All of those folks are my heroes.

Your breakfast this morning: Strawberry, Mango, Pineapple smoothie bowl with granola and honey

Favorite food: Seafood

Favorite last meal on Earth: Seafood Boil, heavy on the King Crab legs, please.

Favorite food hangout and why: My home. My favorite place to share meals with my loved ones, and my chosen family.

Social media must follow: @eastbrooklynmutualaid, @kelvintaitt

Moonlynn Tsai

Age: 36

Grew up in: Carlsbad, CA

Job Title/Organization or Company: Co-founder, Heart of Dinner

Background and Education: Entrepreneur focusing on food based project and restaurants which have landed on NYT, James Beard and Bon Appetites Hot 10 restaurants

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

Food policy hero: Chef Mavis Jay and Irene Shiang Li

Your breakfast this morning: I usually skip breakfast!

Favorite food: Sushi!

Favorite last meal on Earth: Shabu shabu from Kagaya

Favorite food hangout and why: I love hanging out at Partybus Bakeshop in the LES, the team there is incredible and the space is so warm and inviting

Social media must follow: @heartofdinner

Julia Turshen

Age: 36

Grew up in: New York City / Westchester County

Job Title/Organization or Company: Cookbook Author, Cooking Teacher + Podcast Host; Founder, Equity at the Table

Background and Education: Studied poetry at Barnard College, worked on 15 cookbooks over the next 15 years (including collaborative work + solo projects), various side projects/experiences (podcast, vegetable farming + more), and now I teach online cooking classes every Sunday afternoon.

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

Food policy hero: Karen Washington

Your breakfast this morning: Coffee, berries, a piece of almond cake I made a while ago and froze and my wife defrosted for us this morning

Favorite food: Chicken soup

Favorite last meal on Earth: Chicken soup

Favorite food hangout and why: My own kitchen— it’s where I am happiest, most resourceful, and calm

Social media must follow: @yrfatfriend (Aubrey Gordon)

David Youssef

Age: 28

Grew up in: Cleveland, Ohio

Job Title/Organization or Company: Medical Student at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai

Background and Education: B.S. Biomedical Engineering, B.S. Electrical Engineering at Ohio State University Class of 2017. Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Class of 2024.

My role with Mount Sinai’s Food as Medicine working group has been as an Advocacy Chair. This mainly involves reaching out and networking with various groups within the food policy and advocacy space in order to be able to advocate for the food policy changes we are interested in. These are largely centered around the challenges that patients at Mount Sinai’s student run clinic, EHHOP, face related to food insecurity. One of our main policy objectives is expanding SNAP access in New York for undocumented people in order to bridge the gap in access to healthy foods that many of our patients face. 

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

Food policy hero: Emily Broad Leib

Your breakfast this morning: Mixed berry smoothie with whey protein

Favorite food: Al Pastor Tacos

Favorite last meal on Earth: Peking Duck

Favorite food hangout and why: Kabab Cafe in Astoria, Queens. Great Egyptian food served in a homestyle kitchen

Social media must follow: @artisanbryan on Instagram for sourdough baking

Benjamin Zaientz

Age: 31

Grew up in: East Meadow, NY

Job Title/Organization or Company: Senior Manager of Agency Relations, Met Council on Jewish Poverty

Background and Education: Ensuring equal access to food has always been really important to me. Prior to my work at Met Council I oversaw the Kosher Kitchen at SUNY Albany, ensuring student’s had equal access to Kosher food on campus. I have a BA in History and Judaic Studies and an MA in History from SUNY Albany.

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

Food policy hero: Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm.

Upon her election in 1968 as the first African-American woman elected to the US House of Representatives, she was placed on the Agricultural Committee- something she resented at first as being from Brooklyn, obviously not a rural area with much agriculture. This placement was clearly meant to silence her by those that ran the House at the time.

After meeting with the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi MM Schneerson, a powerhouse religious figure in her district (and world-wide), he pointed out that there is so much surplus food and so many who need it and she can make that connection. After that meeting, she recalled, feeling invigorated and empowered to fight for those in need and she played a pivotal role in expanding both Food Stamps/SNAP and WIC. At her retirement party, she credited the Rebbe’ vision which enabled her to get food to hungry children throughout the country.

Great things can happen when New Yorkers utilize their diversity and work together.

Your breakfast this morning: Eggs, Toast, Avocado, Cucumber, and Trader Joe’s Vegan Feta Cheese

Favorite food: I’m partial to a good Bagel with Lox and a shmear.

Favorite last meal on Earth: Medium-Rare Steak, French Fries, and a Diet Dr. Brown’s Cream Soda

Favorite food hangout and why: My dining room table surrounded by games, stories, good food, friends, and family.

Social media must follow: @henmazzig, @NYCGreenfield, @anzovina, @washingtonpost (on TikTok), @PatinkinMandy, @HillaryClinton, @JoshMalina, @Shabboshouse, @Rabbi_360

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