40 Under 40: The Rising Stars in NYC Food Policy (Class of 2023)

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 2023 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 we emerge from 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.

Mohamed Attia

Pronouns: he/him
Age: 35
Grew up in: Alexandria, Egypt 
Job Title/Organization or Company: Managing Director, Street Vendor Project at the Urban Justice Center.
Background and Education: I was born and raised in Alexandria Egypt, in a middle-class family with 3 brothers and a sister. I graduated high school in 2004 and attended Alexandria University in Egypt, where I studied math education for 4 years and immigrated in 2008 to NYC.

Soon after I immigrated to NYC I started working as a food vendor and spent a decade as a food vendor when I learned first-hand how outdated the vending system is and how inequitable our cities food policies are. I was inspired by the work that SVP does and joined as a member in 2011, got heavily involved with “Lift The Caps” campaign as it was personally impacting me at the time in 2014. In 2018, when the founder of SVP decided to step down I joined as the new Managing Director.  
One word you would use to describe our food system: inequitable.
Food policy hero: nobody I can think of!
Your breakfast this morning: Fava beans, a traditional Egyptian breakfast dish/ sandwich.
Favorite food: Negresco pasta. (My mom makes the best negresco ever!!)
Favorite last meal on Earth: Falafel sandwich. 
Favorite food hangout and why: Qahwa House. They have the best authentic coffee I’ve ever had and I’m a coffeeholic person who appreciates a good delicious cup of coffee anytime of the day. Also, the location is so well decorated, well designed, staff is welcoming and they bring a unique sense of the Yemeni culture that can’t be felt the same way in other locations.
Social media must follow:

Ken Baker

Pronouns: he/ him
Age: 34
Grew up in: Baltimore, MD
Job Title/Organization or Company: Director of Culinary Operations, Rethink Food
Background and Education: I grew up in Baltimore Maryland, 1 of 4 children to my Mom and StepDad. I went to IUP in western Pennsylvania to study Hospitality Management, in which I got the opportunity to study for one year at New Mexico State University’s School of Hotel Restaurant and Tourism Management as part of the National Student Exchange Program. After college I returned to Baltimore where I worked as a Catering Assistant at the Belvedere Hotel. I would soon be recruited by ARAMARK to join their Higher Education dining team at Johns Hopkins University and later American University in Washington, D.C.Family tragedy struck in which I had to leave ARAMARK to become a full time Hospice caregiver to my grandmother who was diagnosed with Pancreatic cancer. After the season with my grandmother passed I took a career pivot and explored a longtime passion of mine and took an internship on Capitol Hill with the Senate Small Business Committee. From there my path would cross with Jane L.Campbell, former Mayor of Cleveland,Ohio and then Staff Director of the Committee, and after the election shifted the balance of power in the Senate, I would follow Campbell to the National Development Council in which she was selected to open their Washington Office for Policy and Advocacy in which she deputized me as policy manager. The new administration in Washington shifted priorities and resources away from economic development initiatives leaving NDC unable to justify the investment of internal Washington presences and dissolved the Washington Office in 2018. I would return to my hospitality roots and join the team at  BLT Prime at the then Trump International Hotel. Covid struck and I relocated to NYC during the summer of 2020 to help my friend in her Cafe and Flower Shop. During this time I learned of Rethink and started picking up gigs in their commissary kitchen. I later joined the organization full time as a member of their culinary team in fall of 2021.  
One word you would use to describe our food system: Inequitable 
Food policy hero: Beatrice “Bea” Gaddy – Known as “Mother Teresa of Baltimore” she was a fierce advocate for the poor and homeless. In 1981 she founded the Patterson Park Emergency Food Center, collecting food donations from local churches and distributing to neighbors in need. In that same year Gaddy won $250 playing the lottery and used the winnings to feed 40 of her neighbors in need Thanksgiving dinner. This would be the start to of the “Bea Gaddy Thanks for Giving Campaign” , an annual tradition in Baltimore raising tens of thousands of dollars in cash and food donations to feed over 3,000 Baltimoreans in need Thanksgiving dinner on site and deliver an additional 50,000 Thanksgiving Meals all across the city to Baltimoreans in Need. Gaddy’s dedication and advocacy for those most in need would win her a seat on Baltimore’s City Council. Though Gaddy passed away prematurely due to breast cancer in 2001, her legacy continues to live on in the Thanks for Giving Campaign preparing to celebrate their 42nd Thanksgiving service this year. 
Your breakfast this morning: Blueberry Pancakes (only way I get my boyfriend to wake up at the same time I do) 
Favorite food: French fries (crinkle cut)
Favorite last meal on Earth: Porterhouse / Creamed Spinach / French Fries 
Favorite food hangout and why: C as in Charlie – great Korean fusion restaurant, menu is simple unfussy FLAVORFUL food, super consistent and service is exceptional every time. (this is our go to Friday night spot – Sophie is our favorite🤗) 
Social media must follow: all IG: @villagecookings, Sophia Roe (@sophia_roe), Daniel Williams (@danielsonwilliams_

Charlotte Boesch

Pronouns: she/her
Age: 29
Grew up in: Mahopac, New York
Job Title/Organization or Company: Shell Collection Program Manager, Billion Oyster Project
Background and Education: I’m fascinated how humans interact with nature in the most fundamental way possible – through what we grow and eat. Whether in my mom’s vegetable garden or traveling with my dad, an archeologist whose head was constantly in the soil, my childhood created many touch points between food and earth. This inspired me to graduate with a BA in Anthropology and Environmental Studies from Hamilton College in 2016. After working at a local farm, I pursued a master’s degree in food systems and culture at NYU Steinhardt’s Food Studies graduate program. Now managing Billion Oyster Project’s Shell Collection Program, I’ve deepend my love for the ocean and its food resources. Recycling oyster shells from restaurants, which are typically treated as waste, to restore marine habitat in New York Harbor showcases the value of managing food systems at a local level. I have the privilege to work with chefs and industry professionals on shell collection operations, growth, and policy change, connecting me to a community that is passionate about sustaining both land and sea ecosystems. I’m proud to play a part in this local, creative solution that benefits all New Yorkers.
One word you would use to describe our food system: Global
Food policy hero: As an NYU Food Studies alum, I have to say Marion Nestle! Also Naama Tamir, co-owner of Lighthouse in Williamsburg, is wonderfully innovative at her restaurant, thinking about everything from sourcing to waste in a whole new way. She is the model for how a restaurant can integrate sustainable solutions in its everyday operations while creating incredible, down-to-earth food. 
Your breakfast this morning: Lately, I’ve been enjoying a jammy soft boiled egg with homemade sourdough toast for breakfast. My parents raise backyard chickens in the Hudson Valley so I am spoiled with a constant supply of fresh eggs.
Favorite food: East coast oysters with a drop of lemon! Working with a lot of seafood restaurants has its perks. Plus, they’re one of the most sustainably farmed foods – benefiting the environment while living and creating new habitats when the shells are recycled.
Favorite last meal on Earth: A lobster dinner with an ear of corn, a baked potato, and a side of steamers with a cup of dipping butter at Mac’s Shack in Wellfleet, Massachusetts. And for dessert, a soft serve twist with rainbow sprinkles.
Favorite food hangout and why: Taco Vista on Governors Island! For just an 8 minute ferry ride, Taco Vista has everything from great tacos, a kind staff, and unparalleled views of lower Manhattan, Brooklyn, and New York Harbor. And it’s only a minute walk from my office on the island so needless to say it’s my go-to lunchtime or coffee hangout spot, especially when I forget to bring lunch or want to enjoy a beautiful day.
Social media must follow: @GreenWaveOrg and @AtlanticSeaFarms – what they’re both doing is incredible. Seaweed is the future! For amazing food content, @sophia_roe always makes me drool. And of course, @billionoyster

Susana Camarena

Pronouns: she/her
Age: 38
Grew up in: Guadalajara, Mexico
Job Title/Organization or Company: Sr. Director of Impact and Culture & Head of the Tacombi Foundation, Tacombi
Background and Education: As Sr. Director of Impact & Culture at Tacombi I oversee the Tacombi Foundation that works for the advancement of Latinx communities through food accessibility, education and employment training. My work in the restaurant industry has given me a lot! But especially the opportunity to connect and get inspired by people that are not just passionate about food but that have an incredible respect for the ingredients, where they come from, how they are used, who prepares them and who consumes them. 

Growing up in Mexico and as a daughter of an agriculturist, I experienced first hand what it takes to grow food and also how devalued farmers are and the food they grow in general. I believe that restaurants play an important role in the consumer’s education and can serve as catalyzers for the community and how people get access to quality meals.

After moving to NYC from Mexico I served as Executive Director at Qualitas of Life Foundation, a nonprofit organization that provides basic financial education to Hispanic families in New York in order to foster their financial security and improve their standard of living.

I hold a degree in Sociology from the University of Guadalajara, a certificate from the Developing Leaders Program for Nonprofit Professionals at the Columbia Business School and a Migration and Governance diploma from the Center for Research and Teaching in Economics (CIDE). 

My driver is to leave this world better than I found it through uplifting communities which has taken me to get involved in multiple projects, organizations and initiatives in Mexico and the US. Visiting the farmers’ markets in NYC, Mexico or anywhere I travel to is one of the things I enjoy the most in life. 
One word you would use to describe our food system: Misunderstood
Food policy hero: Dolores Huerta and my colleagues at Tacombi that runs the community kitchen which serves thousands of meals every week to communities facing food inaccessibility.
Your breakfast this morning: Chilaquiles verdes, scrambled eggs and avocado. It’s Sunday!
Favorite food: Mexican – anything with nixtamilized, hand made corn tortillas, beans (preferably black) and salsa.
Favorite last meal on Earth: Tacos!
Favorite food hangout and why: Tacombi! Also at my sister’s in Connecticut enjoying her delicious desserts and beautiful garden. At my in-lawys in Guadalajara surrounded by family and at my friend Luis’s – perfect combination between great food and hospitality. At my friends Fany and Danny’s for nice home made Mexican food. Really anywhere with good mezcal and a relaxed vibe!
Social media must follow: @Tacombi @grassrootsgroceryny @onelovecommunityfridge @Rethinkfood @themigrantkitchen @mannafoodcenter and many more doing a great job fighting food insecurity. 

Imani Cenac

Pronouns: she/her
Age: 23 years
Grew up in: Bronx, NY
Job Title/Organization or Company: Resiliency Organizer, We Stay/ Nos Quedamos
Background and Education: Food policy student, wellness advocate, & cultivator. 

I’d attest various previous experiences to why I’m here now (GrowNYC Youth Leader, Horticultural Assistant at NYBG, Food Pantry Organizer, Nutritional cooking classes, and more). 

During my time in the Hunter College Public Health program, I acquired various internships and experiences that broadened my interest in Food Policy as it relates to wellness and climate. My experience is rooted in communities that have faced mal-investment into their quality of life. 

Throughout my Public Health research, I consistently focused on the impacts of the low-grade fresh foods offered in the Bronx. I found that the Bronx needs a stronger United front on Food Literacy [the ability to make informed food-choices, keeping a healthy balance in mind]. 

In leading We Stay/ NosQuedamos’ Environmental Justice Youth Team to create a garden where residents could access a bountiful area of commonly used plants with cultural value and medicinal properties on their rooftop – a healing garden – in the South Bronx.
One word you would use to describe our food system: Costly
Food policy hero: People who are working to improve the economic mobility and access of those who have been paying a costly price by treading through this system. 
Your breakfast this morning: Mango yogurt with chicken salad sandwich 
Favorite food: Soft corn tortilla tacos with Mexican ricotta,  black beans, and radishes
Favorite last meal on Earth: My mom’s pumpkin soup (Potatoes, kabocha pumpkin/ squash, celery, lentils, seasonings, and optional: pig tail) 
Favorite food hangout and why: Fort Tryon Park. It’s a beautiful place to picnic with views of the Hudson River that sits in front of the scenic rocks on the Jersey side of the river.  Also, museum buildings & of course, the greenery
Social media must follow: Imani Cenac – Resiliency Organizer – We Stay Nos Quedamos Inc | LinkedIn

Mark Chatarpal

Pronouns: he/him
Age: 39
Grew up in: Guyana (The Soesdyke-Linden Highway, The Rupununi, Georgetown), Canada (Toronto).
Job Title/Organization or Company: Adjunct Professor, New York University’s Food Studies Program
Background and Education: My background is rich and complex as every other diaspora member from the Caribbean Community. I graduated from the University of Toronto with a B.A (Hons) specializing in Caribbean Studies. During that time, I conducted engaged research on issues connected to food security, food sovereignty, indigeneity and land tenure in Guyana, Belize, and Ghana. I then received a scholarship and direct entry into the Ph.D. program at Indiana University’s Department of Anthropology where I received an M.A. in Cultural Anthropology with a special emphasis on Food Studies. I also won IU’s Harold K. Schneider Prize for best paper in Economic Anthropology. I am in the final stage of my Ph.D. (A.B.D) and currently teach Inequality and Food Systems, an advanced graduate seminar at NYU’s Food Studies program. Recently I was added to the consultancy roster of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) as a Social Inclusion, Indigenous Peoples and Land Tenure Specialist. I am passionate about teaching and encourage my students to practice critical thinking, to carefully examine the mechanisms that reproduce inequality in our food system whether in New York City, The U.S, or as my mentor would say, ‘the global supermarket’.
One word you would use to describe our food system: Excellent question! I actually reposed it to my graduate students and had them write a few on the chalkboard. One word that comes to my mind is ‘exploitative’.
Food policy hero: Richard Wilk
Your breakfast this morning: Coffee, leftover Baigan Choka and Roti that was purchased from a West Indian Restaurant in ‘Little Guyana’, Queens (I will not state which restaurant over fears of causing an uproar among the other Caribbean restaurants I frequent in the area).
Favorite food: Pepperpot
Favorite last meal on Earth: Charcoal grilled Tambaqui with all the sides.  
Favorite food hangout and why:  This largely depends on where I am. In NYC, I would say the Pink Forest café in Forest Hills, Queens. In Guyana, it’s definitely the ‘Braff Man Soup Shop’ at the Soesdyke Junction. In Belize, it has to be Gomier’s Restaurant in Punta Gorda.
Social media must follow: LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/mark-chatarpal-4a395520a/

CheVon Cooper

Pronouns: he/him
Age: 32
Grew up in: Bronx, NY Castle Hill/Soundview section 
Job Title/Organization or Company: Urban Agriculturist, The New York Botanical Garden Bronx Green Up Program
Background and Education: I am a black agriculturist specializing in urban food systems. I am a HBCU graduate from the University of Maryland Eastern Shore c/o 2013. I have a BS in Agricultural studies and am pursuing a certification in horticultural therapy.
One word you would use to describe our food system: inadequate 
Food policy hero: George Washington Carver
Your breakfast this morning: egg white lettuce tomato on whole wheat toast 
Favorite food: southern or African cuisine
Favorite last meal on Earth: cheesecake double layered with the strawberry filling in the middle and real strawberries on top
Favorite food hangout and why: juices for life because there’s always great energy, beautiful people and all the fruits, vegetables and supplements you can ask for
Social media must follow: @abeautifulworld__

Sarah Diehl

Pronouns: she/her
Age: 35
Grew up in: Beverly, Massachusetts
Job Title/Organization or Company: Founder & Principal, Empowered Hospitality
Background and Education: I grew up in a suburb of Boston, spending a lot of time visiting and eating with my grandparents. Being the world travelers that they were, they introduced my brother and me to all kinds of adventurous food — from oysters to sushi to stinky cheese — and I fell in love with it. After graduating from Yale, I joined Hillstone Restaurant Group where I managed restaurants across the US and found my passion for training and human resources. It wasn’t until an unexpected layoff in 2016 that I realized how many independent hospitality companies lacked access to the HR support they very badly needed. Since then, and through building an incredible team at Empowered, we’ve supported hundreds of growing hospitality businesses with tens of thousands of employees. Our ethos at Empowered is that we care deeply about our industry and about creating workplaces where people can thrive. We are working hard to make hospitality an industry that brings out the best in people, both from an employee and employer perspective.
One word you would use to describe our food system: Broken
Food policy hero: There are so many inspirational leaders doing the hard work to change our food system and the hospitality industry – I would choose Martha Hoover, who I’ve heard speak at FAB multiple times. As a female founder, an advocate of sustainable sourcing, and a champion of equity and well-being for her team, Martha exemplifies the power we each have to change the system one action at a time.
Your breakfast this morning: Yogurt, granola, english muffin, and orange juice
Favorite food: Sushi
Favorite last meal on Earth: Lobster and steamers at Lobsta Land in Gloucester, MA
Favorite food hangout and why: Nami Nori – one of our awesome clients. The food (Japanese temaki hand rolls) is always fresh, creative, and delicious and the setting is airy, comfortable, and bright.
Social media must follow: @empoweredhospitality

Daaimah Dratsky 

Pronouns: she/her 
Age: 33
Grew up in: Atlanta, GA 
Job Title/Organization or Company: Research Dietitian, Columbia University Irving Medical Center  
Background and Education: I graduated from Hunter College with a MS in Nutrition and Dietetics, and I am a Registered Dietitian. During my time at Hunter, I conducted research on how food insecurity can influence the dietary quality of Black individuals with gastrointestinal cancers. This research was submitted for publication and is currently under review. I currently work as a Research Dietitian at Columbia University Irving Medical Center and I will be the primary interventionist on a study looking at the socioeconomic, physiological, and psychological factors that influence successful weight loss maintenance.  
One word you would use to describe our food system: Precarious  
Food policy hero: Tambra Raye Stevenson  
Your breakfast this morning: Like a true millennial, avocado toast and coffee  
Favorite food: Anything with chocolate 
Favorite last meal on Earth: Chicken tikka masala, garlic naan bread, and a vegetable samosa  
Favorite food hangout and why: Teff, an Ethiopian restaurant in Stamford, CT. My friend’s family owns this restaurant and I frequently visit this spot just to catch up with her and enjoy her mom’s delicious cooking.   
Social media must follow: Eat Well Exchange: (https://instagram.com/eatwellexchange?igshid=YmMyMTA2M2Y=)

Carolina Espinosa

Pronouns: she/her
Age: 38
Grew up in: Long Branch, New Jersey (by the shore)
Job Title/Organization or Company: Program Director, BronxWorks SNAP-Ed Program
Background and Education: I completed my BS and MS degrees at Rutgers University in Nutritional Sciences, and then completed my Dietetic Internship at the James J Peters VA Medical Center and attended NYU’s Clinical Nutrition Graduate program.
One word you would use to describe our food system: Abundant
Food policy hero: Mark Winne
Your breakfast this morning: Oatmeal with cinnamon, and black coffee
Favorite food: Tacos de hongos/huitlacoche (Mushroom tacos)
Favorite last meal on Earth: Any vegan friendly taco with lime, cilantro
Favorite food hangout and why: My mom’s kitchen
Social media must follow: @fullplate_dietitian

Eman Faris

Pronouns: she/her
Age: 30
Grew up in: Maryland
Job Title/Organization or Company: Director of Advocacy, CUNY Urban Food Policy Institute; Project Director, Washington Heights/Inwood (WHIN) Food Council 
Background and Education: I moved to New York City in 2016 to pursue my Master of Public Health from the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University. After graduating in 2018, I decided to continue living in the city and thought it was important for me to find opportunities to connect with my neighborhood that I would call home for the next several years. Because of my personal interests in social justice, nutrition, and food, I joined the Washington Heights/Inwood (WHIN) Food Council. After a few months of volunteering, I took on additional leadership responsibilities and became a member of the Steering Committee as the Administrative Coordinator. Upon the founder’s departure from the organization in 2020, I transitioned into becoming the new Project Director and now oversee all day-to-day operations for our food justice programs aimed to increase the amount of public land designated for food growing, improve access to nutritious and locally grown produce, and build our community’s knowledge and confidence around urban gardening, nutrition, and advocacy. In 2021, the WHIN Food Council launched three new programs as a response to COVID-19, which we’ve been able to maintain over the last several years, including our Farm Share Distribution, Grow from Home, and Scholarships. My work would be impossible without the support of our Steering Committee members and committed volunteers. 

In 2022, I joined the CUNY Urban Food Policy Institute’s staff as the Director of Advocacy, where I lead efforts to engage CUNY students in advocating for changes to improve campus food policies. My projects aim to reduce food insecurity on campus and improve the food and beverages environment across CUNY’s 25 schools and train the next generation of food justice leaders. I currently oversee the Institute’s CUNY Campaign for Healthy Food (CHeF) and the CUNY Food Justice Leadership Fellowship (FJLF).    
One word you would use to describe our food system: Avaricious 
Food policy hero: Leah Penniman 
Your breakfast this morning: Overnight oats with strawberries and banana! Literally tastes like I’m having dessert for breakfast, except I don’t have to feel guilty eating it.
Favorite food: Juicy, ripe mango
Favorite last meal on Earth: Brown stew chicken, rice and peas, festival, and spicey beef/cheese patties.
Favorite food hangout and why: Oasis Jimma Juice on 125th and Broadway is a small Black/Ethiopian owned business committed to serving affordable, healthy and nutritious food in Harlem. I discovered this local spot during my first weekend in NYC apartment hunting and it’s been a staple ever since. I highly recommend trying their Times Square smoothie and chicken or lentil sambuusas with the spicy green sauce! I like to take my order and then walk a block down to Riverside Park, find a park bench overlooking the water, and enjoy my goodies. It’s especially beautiful around sunset and is the perfect solo or friend date!  
Social media must follow: @cunychef @whinfoodcouncil @cspi_nutritionaction 

Iliana Garcia

Pronouns: she/her
Age: 35
Grew up in: Hoboken NJ
Job Title/Organization or Company: Lead Manager, Food Access Initiatives and Partnerships, GrowNYC
Background and Education: I received my MPH degree from the CUNY School of Public Health and am also a certified Health Coach. I began my career in public health research at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and then pivoted more intentionally into the food access space in 2017. I am passionate about bridging the food system and the health system and went on to manage the nation’s first pediatric food pharmacy at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. I also had the opportunity to serve as the deputy director at the Hunter College New York City Food Policy Center where I worked with stakeholders across the food system to advance solutions to address food insecurity and diet-related diseases in NYC. In my current role, I oversee operations to accept nutrition benefit programs across GrowNYC’s network of food access sites and support the expansion of partnerships and programs.
One word you would use to describe our food system: Misaligned
Food policy hero: Michael Pollan – his book “In Defense of Food” really helped to spark my interest into the larger food system.
Your breakfast this morning: Yogurt with Chia Seeds + Fruit
Favorite food: Soups of all cuisines
Favorite last meal on Earth: Rice and Beans with an empanada
Favorite food hangout and why: I love to gather at my mother’s house for Sunday dinner. It is a tradition that my family looks forward to every week!
Social media must follow: @organic_olivia @thefoodbabe @happyhealthylatina @solidstarts (for my moms out there!)

Connor Gorsira

Pronouns: he/him
Age: 29
Grew up in: St. Petersburg, FL
Job Title/Organization or Company: Farm Operations Manager, Teens for Food Justice
Background and Education: Although my educational background is in neuroscience, I have always had a passion for food. In 2016, I fled the windowless neuroscience laboratory and moved to Italy where I embarked on a year-long farming career across several European countries. Upon returning to the United States, I managed a 20,000 square foot Gotham Greens greenhouse on top of Whole Foods Market, in Gowanus, Brooklyn. I have since transitioned out of the commercial sector and into the world of non-profit food justice and hydroponic education. I currently have the honor of being the Farm Operations Manager at Teens for Food Justice, a non-profit organization working to end food insecurity through youth-led, school-based hydroponic farming. Doing this work has allowed me to marry my love of food and hydroponic growing with my desire to make a meaningful impact in the community and inspire the next generation of farmers and food advocates.
One word you would use to describe our food system: Unsustainable
Food policy hero: My mom, who always advocates for informed food choices and wellness above all. She always says “health is wealth!”
Your breakfast this morning: Toast with sunflower butter and sliced banana
Favorite food: Kimchi
Favorite last meal on Earth: Pesto pasta (with hydroponic basil)
Favorite food hangout and why: Public Records, a plant-based oasis on the bank of the otherwise unsavory Gowanus Canal that serves creative fare and libations.
Social media must follow: @teensforfoodjustice

Delilah Guzman

Pronouns: she/her
Age: 39
Grew up in: Born in Queens but grew up in Dover, DE
Job Title/Organization or Company: Senior Benefits Access Specialist, West Side Campaign Against Hunger
Background and Education: I grew up in a working class Puerto Rican family and was the first person to complete a 4 year college degree in my family. I graduated from the University of Delaware with a Bachelor’s in Human Services. Growing up in a household that relied on food pantries and SNAP benefits, gave me a first hand look at food insecurity and the inequality in the food system. Even with the little that we had, my Mom always found a way to help others.. She was my first inspiration that led me to the work that I do today.
One word you would use to describe our food system: changeable
Food policy hero: My fellow Benefits Access and Food Delivery Team Members at WSCAH who work everyday to help people in our NYC community obtain Public Benefits and healthy food in a dignified way.
Your breakfast this morning: Oatmeal and a coffee
Favorite food: My Mom’s Puerto Rican home cooking and all forms of potatoes
Favorite last meal on Earth: Puerto Rican Pollo Guisado con arroz y aguacate (stewed chicken with rice and avocado)
Favorite food hangout and why: Hole in the wall places that the locals frequent. This is where you can truly learn about a community and the way food brings people together.
Social media must follow: https://www.instagram.com/vianycorg/ (Venezuelans and Immigrants Aid), https://www.instagram.com/wscah_/ (WSCAH) Because Human Rights and Food Dignity go hand in hand

Shey Hall

Pronouns: he/him
Age: 35
Grew up in: The Bronx, NY
Job Title/Organization or Company: East Coast Regional Director, Brighter Bites
Background and Education: I am a proud father, husband, son, brother, and friend to many. As a New York native and first generation American, I grew up in the Bronx and attended public school all the way through high school. I earned a Posse Scholarship to attend Lafayette College where I studied Economics and Business, and upon graduating, went to work for a Fortune 500 company.

I would spend the next 8 years there learning all sides of the business, before taking a leap of faith to change careers and focus on food insecurity and nutrition education. Now, roughly 6 years into this space, I am the East Coast Regional director for a national nonprofit that focuses on creating communities of health through fresh food.

Overseeing our operations at 48 public schools across NYC, Maryland/DC and SWFL we are providing hundreds of thousands of pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables to students and communities. Our goal is to provide access to fresh produce, while also educating students and families about the importance of developing health eating habits.  
One word you would use to describe our food system: Unbalanced
Food policy hero: Ron Finley and Tony Hillery
Your breakfast this morning: Coffee, a croissant and a banana
Favorite food: Lamb Chops
Favorite last meal on Earth: Lamb chops, potatoes, greens, and a dessert
Favorite food hangout and why: Anywhere outdoors with a grill. Nothing beats sunshine, cold drinks, and the smell of a smoking grill.
Social media must follow:

Alexis Harrison

Pronouns: she/her
Age: 29
Grew up in: The west coast & down south
Job Title/Organization or Company: Partnerships Lead, IDEO.org; Member-owner, Central Brooklyn Food Coop
Background and Education: I studied environmental design at Auburn University and urban planning at MIT and have been working in community development, community-based research and community health planning for most of my career. Working alongside and engaging with my community is the heart of the mechanisms I use to do my work. My work in food evolved from a professional role to a personal commitment as I grew my understanding in how deeply personal and necessary a healthy & reflective food ecosystem should be.
One word you would use to describe our food system: ripening
Food policy hero: Qiana Mickie, Executive Director of the Mayor’s Office of Urban Agriculture
Your breakfast this morning: Rolled oats topped with granola and dark chocolate
Favorite food: homemade desserts (by my dear friend Abby especially!)
Favorite last meal on Earth: a family feast featuring my sister’s collard greens and my grandmother’s sweet potato pie
Favorite food hangout and why: My friend Kiry’s grand room. He throws down in the kitchen, hosts us around a beautiful table, and creates intentional space for us to deepen our connection, have real talk, and let out the deepest of deep belly laughs.
Social media must follow: @jazzitup_caribbean_cuisine – the most talented Brookly -based chef who has a passion for caring for people through food; @cbfoodcoop; @goodfoodjobs

Kendall Hough

Pronouns: she/her
Age: 29
Grew up in: Saratoga Springs, NY
Job Title/Organization or Company: Economic Development Program Specialist, NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets
Background and Education: My career is rooted in the restaurant industry, where I fell in love with the uniting power of food. In Nashville, TN, I had the opportunity to work alongside a handful of passionate chefs who introduced me to local food producers and alternative food networks. This inspired me to dive into food systems work!

I hold a BA and MA in Environmental & Sustainability Studies from the University of Kentucky. In my current role with the NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets, I manage economic development programs to support NY food producers, processors, businesses, and consumers.
One word you would use to describe our food system: Inequitable
Food policy hero: Leah Penniman (and my colleagues in the NYS government!) 
Your breakfast this morning: Oats with banana, strawberry jam, and almond butter
Favorite food: My mom’s eggplant parmesan
Favorite last meal on Earth: Oysters and sparkling wine
Favorite food hangout and why: Henrietta Red in Nashville, TN because it feels like home. Go for the anchovy butter, stay for the exceptional staff!
Social media must follow: @civileats (https://twitter.com/CivilEats), @nyagandmarkets (https://twitter.com/nyagandmarkets), @nycurbanag (https://twitter.com/NYCUrbanAg)

Dickran (DJ) Jebejian

Pronouns: he/him
Age: 34
Grew up in: Los Angeles, CA 
Job Title/Organization or Company: Food Policy Manager, Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty 
Background and Education: I am a second-generation Armenian American dedicated to social justice and equity who has participated in organizing and policy work around economic inequality, housing rights, and food policy for nearly 15 years. I work in food policy because food is vital to each of our daily lives. Food provides not only nourishment, but it also helps to mitigate most other symptoms of poverty.  

Though I am interested in raising the floor of poverty through any and all means, food has always been an essential part of my family history and culture. While working towards my bachelor’s degree in political science at the University of California Santa Cruz, I worked full-time as a line cook. This experience not only cemented my love for cooking and feeding people, but it also taught me about seasonality, sustainability, and procurement in the largest agricultural market in the United States. After some time working in kitchens, I pursued a master’s in public policy from the University of California Los Angeles, focusing my time there on food policy studies and research. 

 In 2021 I moved to New York and began working on food policy for Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty. Met Council serves kosher and halal emergency food to hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers through the largest kosher emergency food network in the country. Since 2020 our food team has worked tirelessly to serve millions of pounds of kosher and halal emergency food to New Yorkers in need. I conduct the research, analysis, and advocacy that informs our work with local, state, and federal agencies and elected officials. In just two years, our food policy team has published three original reports on kosher and halal food insecurity and the needs of direct service providers, secured nearly $7 million in funding for our food programs and research, and pushed for legislation, budgets, and policy changes that have directly benefited emergency food organizations throughout New York City.  

I love this work with all my heart, and I am excited to continue feeding our communities! 
One word you would use to describe our food system: Commodified 
Food policy hero: Paula Daniels, Founder of the Center for Good Food Purchasing, who mentored my journey through graduate school at UCLA 
Your breakfast this morning: Coffee, Yogurt, and Granola 
Favorite food: KFC (Korean Fried Chicken) 
Favorite last meal on Earth: Tacos al Pastor from El Chato in Los Angeles 
Favorite food hangout and why: I love to spend all day cooking an overly elaborate meal for my friends and family and then have them over to my apartment for a long night of eating and chatting.  
Social media must follow: I have closed my social accounts, stay off Twitter and read more books!

Diana Johnson

Pronouns: she/ella
Age: 37
Grew up in: Born in Houston, Texas. Raised in London, Ontario, Canada
Job Title/Organization or Company: Manager, Food Initiative, The Rockefeller Foundation
Background and Education: I’m the daughter of immigrants from El Salvador. I was fortunate enough to be raised in a family that celebrated our cultural foods. When I was growing up, my parents had seasonal jobs including work on a carrot farm. Eventually they both landed permanent jobs at a car factory. The work was physically demanding. My mom injured her arm on the job. And when I was a freshman in college, my dad suffered a heart attack at 51 years old. It became clear to me that I wanted a career that focused on promoting health for communities and families like the one I came from. I also knew that healing could come through food.

I have a Bachelor’s degree in Health Sciences from Western University in Canada. In 2009, I earned a master’s degree in Health Education and Behavior Science from Teachers College, Columbia University. I began my career working in the Bronx as a Health Educator at a Federally Qualified Health Center. Since then, I’ve held roles at various nonprofits including Bronx Health REACH, CUNY Urban Food Policy Institute and even Hunter College’s NYC Food Policy institute (back in 2014!). I also worked in city government for 3 years at Toronto’s Food Strategy office. My current position at The Rockefeller Foundation brought me back to New York. People often ask me about my career path and what it’s like to work in philanthropy. I usually tell them that writing grant applications and working for nonprofits first helped me become a sensible grant maker. My lived experience taught me to deeply respect communities that face hardship and to value organizations that authentically honor them too.
One word you would use to describe our food system: Fragile
Food policy hero: From Canada: Rosie Mensah & Paul Taylor. From the US and Central America: Ricardo Salvador & Bibi La Luz Gonzalez
Your breakfast this morning: Coffee, avocado, eggs & corn tortillas
Favorite food: An impossible question! But if I had to choose – plantains (fried, boiled or baked)
Favorite last meal on Earth: Salvadoran breakfast (I’ll eat it any time of day)
Favorite food hangout and why: I love preparing a big meal for friends and family in my home. When I’m not at home cooking, you’ll often find me at Win Son in Brooklyn. The owner Josh Ku is a family friend.
Social media must follow: @Salvisoul – Right now, I’m following Karla Vasquez. She’s writing a cookbook for the Salvadoran diaspora. Sharing recipes and storytelling is such an important way to pass down cultural food wisdom

Anup Joshi

Pronouns: he/him
Age: 38
Grew up in: New Jersey
Job Title/Organization or Company: Chief Culinary Officer, Green Top Farms
Background and Education: My career in food started in restaurants when I was 15 washing dishes and answering phones before getting into the kitchen. After high school I went to I.C.E. on 23rd st and then continued in restaurants until 2017 when I joined Green Top Farms.
One word you would use to describe our food system: antiquated
Food policy hero: Nancy Easton, WITS
Your breakfast this morning: An apple and a cup of coffee
Favorite food: South Indian food
Favorite last meal on Earth: A spicy masala dosa
Favorite food hangout and why: The break room at Green Top Farms is where our amazing team refuels, where my chefs develop products and do tastings, and also where we have meetings about the direction of the company. It’s a significant improvement from sitting on milk crates and eating out of quart containers.
Social media must follow: @peopleskitchenphilly (https://www.peopleskitchenphilly.com/)

Leah Kirts

Pronouns: they/them/theirs
Age:  37
Grew up in: Williams, Indiana
Job Title/Organization or Company: Self-employed freelance writer; queer food columnist at Them; active member of Sunnyside & Woodside Mutual Aid
Background and Education: I grew up in a rural Indiana community of farmers, homemakers, and working class folks. I was homeschooled by my mother through high school alongside my eight siblings in a fundamentalist evangelical culture, and was the first in my family to graduate from college. Propelled by my embrace of vegetarianism and then veganism, I developed an interest in studying food and how it shapes people’s lives economically and socially — specifically how queerness, ecofeminism and veganism intersect. 

After working in the restaurant industry through college, I moved to New York City to study food in graduate school where I began my writing career and delved into anticapitalist food justice work. After graduating, I worked at a nonprofit based in Harlem teaching nutrition and cooking to school kids. We grew herbs, fried tofu, made homemade takis, and wrote a cookbook with recipes that our classes developed with illustrations drawn by the kids. In 2019, I pivoted to full-time freelance work and started a column at Edible Brooklyn on queer and trans organizers expanding food justice through mutual aid across New York City, and at Tenderly Magazine, covering queer and trans vegans working in food. In April 2020, in the wake of the pandemic, I joined my neighborhood mutual aid group and started a mobile food pantry to provide free food for anyone who needs it every Saturday in Woodside — three years and still going! 

I dedicate this award to my mom, Marianne, who grows food from the soil out of joy and necessity, who cares for the earth and shares what she has, and has taught me to see the abundant possibilities of plants as nourishment, medicine and magic. 
One word you would use to describe our food system: Unjust
Food policy hero: Karen Washington of Rise and Root farm
Your breakfast this morning: Steel-cut oats with natural peanut butter, chopped apple, walnuts, maple syrup and oat milk, with a cup of black coffee in my favorite mug
Favorite food: That’s hard! A savory bowl of seared mushrooms, slurpy noodles, roasted vegetables, spicy peppers & fresh herbs
Favorite last meal on Earth: Ordering the entire menu at Superiority Burger
Favorite food hangout and why: Honestly, my place! My housemate and I cook delicious meals together and often invite friends over to share
Social media must follow: Alicia Kennedy for sure! If more are allowed: Bryant Terry, William Mullan aka Pomme Queen, Annie Faye Cheng, Tony Ortiz, Bettina Makalintal aka @crispyegg420, Studio ATAO

Jade Lopez

Pronouns: she/her
Age: 35
Grew up in: Bronx, New York
Job Title/Organization or Company: Senior Program Manager, United Way of New York City
Background and Education: I’m a registered dietitian, currently working as a Senior Program Manager at United Way of New York City. I oversee the management of UWNYC’s Local Produce Link program that brings locally grown fresh fruits and vegetables from small regional farms in New York and New Jersey to food pantries throughout the five boroughs. Additionally, I conduct nutrition education, food safety, and operations management workshops for NYC’s emergency food network alongside my two fellow UWNYC dietitians. I started working in the food access space right after completing the dietetic internship at Teachers College, Columbia University in 2018. I hold a BA in Media Studies from Vassar College.
One word you would use to describe our food system: Inequitable
Food policy hero: Evelina Lopez Antonetty
Your breakfast this morning: Avocado toast with scrambled eggs
Favorite food: Pizza
Favorite last meal on Earth: Cacio e Pepe from I Sodi in the West Village and a glass of red wine
Favorite food hangout and why: 787 Coffee Co., a Latine-owned coffee shop with locations throughout the city. They grow, process, and roast their coffee beans at their coffee farm in Puerto Rico. The coquito latte is a must try!
Social media must follow: @bacoapr

Courtney Lum

Pronouns: she/her
Age: 31
Grew up on: Long Island, NY
Job Title/Organization or Company: Sr. Manager Supply Chain Analysis & Reporting, City Harvest
Background and Education: I graduated from Binghamton University with a B.S. in Economic Policy Analysis and Environmental Public Policy & Law. In my studies I learned about the intricacies of our food system and the potential to address the inefficiencies and inequities seen throughout. In my nearly eight years at City Harvest, I’ve held several roles from fundraising to food procurement and am currently managing the organization’s food budget, providing analytical detail to inform strategic and thoughtful sourcing. I deeply believe in City Harvest’s mission and am proud of the work that my team and colleagues accomplish each day to get nutritious food to New Yorkers.
One word you would use to describe our food system: Inequitable
Food policy hero: Yin Chang & Moonlynn Tsai/Heart of Dinner, Chef Jose Andres/World Central Kitchen, Leah Penniman/Soul Fire Farm
Your breakfast this morning: A lot of coffee
Favorite food: Burritos!
Favorite last meal on Earth: So much sushi
Favorite food hangout and why: My friends Julian & Sam are the best hosts, I love going to their apartment for dinner! He’s an amazing cook and she’s an incredible baker. I get to be cozy on the couch with their dog, Kikko, while enjoying so many delicious foods- plus there’s always homemade bread!
Social media must follow: @heartofdinner & @soulfirefarm & @cityharvestnyc

Shana McCormick

Pronouns: she/her
Age: 34
Grew up in: Queens, NYC
Job Title/Organization or Company: Executive Director, The Skyline Charitable Foundation; Program Director, Relief Access Program for The Bronx (RAP4Bronx)
Background and Education: I grew up as an only child in a single mother household, acknowledging the importance of both independence and community at an early age.  Learning from personal struggles I had endured over the years gave me the tools to effectively serve myself and others.  Having a strong work ethic, I usually held more than one job, my first job being a hostess at a local diner at the age of 14.  It was there that my sense of community grew in strength and the foundation which I would forever carry with me, was developed: all people deserve to be seen and it is our duty to help grow confidence in self and in one another. I eventually moved on to working in a family run Accounting and Property Management firm, serving on multiple resident boards and then received my Associates in Accounting.  Later on I found myself working for a company within the construction industry which eventually led me to where I am today – which I sometimes feel was destined because I am now able to use all that I have learned both personally and professionally to do what I do best, to serve with love and dignity.
One word you would use to describe our food system: Sacred.
Food policy hero: Lilian Wald – a trailblazer on many fronts – she understood that the root causes of hunger include factors such as poverty, cultural barriers, inadequate education, geopolitics, disease, geography, climate, governmental debt, and corrupt leadership.
Your breakfast this morning: scrambled eggs with tomato and red onion and a banana.
Favorite food: Doubles
Favorite last meal on Earth: Lentil soup with sliced avocado
Favorite food hangout and why: any of my best friends’ kitchens.  When we gather, it is usually potluck style, embracing both new and old tastes and exchanging lots of laughs, standing around the table.
Social media must follow: @rap4bronx – keep in touch with us! @righteouseats – covering amazing eateries & everyday underground food heroes. 

Caitlyn McFadden

Pronouns: she/her
Age: 24
Grew up in: Chicago, Illinois
Job Title/Organization or Company: Urban Agriculture Education/ FFA Specialist, Cornell Cooperative Extension
Background and Education: I am a Chicago native with a passion for agricultural education, specifically in urban areas. My journey began at Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences with a focus in Agricultural Education. I later transitioned to the University of Kentucky where I received my bachelor’s in science in Career and Technical Education. Upon graduation I started full time with Land O’Lakes Inc., in marketing and communications, with a focus in social media management. In my current role I support all things urban agriculture and FFA in middle and high schools across New York City.
One word you would use to describe our food system: Dynamic
Food policy hero: Shirley Chisholm
Your breakfast this morning: Kale, pineapple, lemon, and apple juice with avocado toast
Favorite food: All things pasta
Favorite last meal on Earth: Seafood boil
Favorite food hangout and why: Kokomo for the Caribbean food an island aesthetic 
Social media must follow: @caitlyn.mcfad 

Theresa Morelli

Pronouns: she/her
Age: 39
Grew up in: Albany, NY
Job Title/Organization or Company: Senior Program Manager, the Sylvia Center
Background and Education: When I was 5 years old, I told my parents I wanted to be a Chef. I spent lots of time cooking with my grandmothers and helping my mom in the kitchen. I am the oldest of 5 children in a big family with lots of cousins. Many years of babysitting later, I headed to Northeastern to study Elementary Education and ASL interpreting. From there, I moved to New York in 2004 and received a Chef Certificate from the Natural Gourmet Institute. I spent much of the next 15 years as a private chef, cooking for clients and catering parties. In 2010, I started working at the Sylvia Center as a Chef Educator. I’ve taught over 1,000 classes with the Sylvia Center, and love the work we do! Now, I oversee youth and family programming for the organization and work to grow our programs across the Five Boroughs, the Hudson Valley, and the Capital Region. The best part of my job is coaching an amazing team of young educators to grow into their roles as mentors and advocates for our communities.
One word you would use to describe our food system: Vital
Food policy hero: Although it seems long ago now, I was so excited about Michelle Obama’s work on improving school lunches. The policy changes were so common sense and practical. The students in NYC that I work for every day rely on school meals, and they should be nutritious and delicious. No child in this country should go hungry and school food is a critical piece of access for so many.
Your breakfast this morning: My 15-month old daughter loves breakfast! I usually eat whatever I make for her, which is usually some combination of scrambled eggs, avocado, oatmeal, yogurt, and her favorite – banana buckwheat pancakes that I make for her and keep in the freezer. 
Favorite food: My go-to easy meal usually involves rice, eggs, seaweed, kimchee and soy/ sesame. I always make extra rice to have on hand so that I can whip this up in less than 5 minutes. It works for breakfast, lunch and dinner!
Favorite last meal on Earth: It would have to be something Italian. I grew up eating a lot of Italian food with my family. I love fresh pasta, great pizza, gnocchi, red sauce, eggplant, arugula, all of the cheeses, and of course summer tomatoes. 
Favorite food hangout and why: I live in a great restaurant neighborhood (Red Hook) and I love going out with my daughter and husband in the early evening to have a small bite and say hello to friends and neighbors. But nothing beats MY kitchen – it’s definitely the place where I relax, cook, sip wine, catch up with my husband, and like any chef – sometimes eat a meal standing at the counter. 
Social media must follow: IG is my primary social media. I cook a lot of what I see on @pinchofyum – easy, healthy and delicious recipes. I think the @NYTcooking and @food52 both do a great job with their content – it’s not just recipes, but educational. For fun, I love 4 year old Chef Oliver @chezoliz – it shows how capable kids can be in the kitchen when you teach them and let them try! And of course, I follow my local restaurants @goodforkpub and @grindhausnyc to make sure I don’t miss any specials.

Grace Paik

Pronouns: she/her
Age: 35
Grew up in: Silver Spring, Maryland
Job Title/Organization or Company: Union Square Greenmarket Operations Manager, GrowNYC
Background and Education: I am a first-generation Korean-American, born and raised in the DMV. I studied neurobiology/physiology and psychology at the University of Maryland, College Park, and then worked at the University of Maryland Medical School in Baltimore, in pediatric nutrition and public policy research, where I managed a few studies and a feeding clinic. While I was initially interested in attending medical school, I found a greater conviction to study the social determinants of health, so I got my Masters of Science in Design and Urban Ecologies, from Parsons School of Design.
One word you would use to describe our food system: Unjust
Food policy hero: the Black Panther Party and the Young Lords; I have a great reverence towards any community groups that organize and help themselves.
Your breakfast this morning: black coffee
Favorite food: any type of bunsik, which are inexpensive Korean dishes or snacks, like tteokbokki, gimbap, soondae, and eomuk.
Favorite last meal on Earth: naengmyeon, which is buckwheat noodles in a cold bone broth, seasoned with mustard oil and vinegar, topped with thin slices of cucumber, Korean pear, pickled radish, boiled beef, and a boiled egg
Favorite food hangout and why: With a time machine, I would go back to the garden and deck of my childhood home. As a child, I helped but mostly watched the laborious, but loving, process of my halmunee harvesting, sun-drying, and deseeding chili peppers, which would later become gochugaru and gochujang. Not only is this hangout a very precious memory to me, but this experience gave me an early awareness about growing food and deepened my appreciation for my culture.
Social media must follow: @grownycworkers, @maangchi, @blackforager, @junghyun.lg, @tasty_d.ay, @potatoislike, @cookingwithlynja, @rustcakes, @mateo.zielonka, @rainandcolors

Mikaela Perry

Pronouns: she/her
Age: 30
Grew up in: Brownington, Vermont
Job Title/Organization or Company: Artist, Mikaela Perry Art; New York Policy Manager, American Farmland Trust
Background and Education: I am a former 5th generation farmer from Vermont and have farmed in five states, two countries, and in three languages before making NYC my home. I have a Bachelor’s degree in political science and a Master’s degree in Food Studies, and spend my days advocating for farmland protection, farmland access, and farmer viability in and around NYC, leading two statewide coalitions: New York Grown Food for New York Kids and the Alliance for New York’s Farmland. I lobby the state legislature for programs and policies covering topics such as land use laws and urban agriculture, local food purchasing incentives, and farmland access for a new, more diverse generation of young farmers. I am also a watercolor, gouache, and oil painter elevating the stories of farmers and the food system to an urban audience here in NYC; my first solo show is coming up in November at Solas Studio and will include farm-to-table fare! All are welcome to attend.
One word you would use to describe our food system: Critical
Food policy hero: Just one?! Jeff Jones, Samantha Levy, Kadeesha Williams, and the community of farmers who raised me.
Your breakfast this morning: Coffee, greek yogurt with granola, maple syrup (obviously), and berries.
Favorite food: Maple Syrup.
Favorite last meal on Earth: Jägerschnitzel from the Derby Line Village Inn. Shoutout to Chef Fritz.
Favorite food hangout and why: Any coffee shop or restaurant where I can sit and sketch or have lengthy, deep conversation with friends.
Social media must follow: Brian Can’t Stop Eating; 802Foodie; Funny Girl Bread; mikaelaperryart 😉

Steven Raga

Pronouns: he/him
Age: 38
Grew up in: Queens
Job/Title/Organization: Assemblymember, New York State Assembly
Background and Education: I proudly serve as Assemblymember for District 30, encompassing the neighborhoods of Woodside, Elmhurst, Maspeth, Middle Village, Jackson Heights, and Astoria. I previously served as Executive Director of the non-profit organization Woodside on the Move, as the Northeast Regional Manager for Policy & Advocacy for Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, the Chief of Staff for Assemblymember Brian Barnwell, and Senior Strategist for Multicultural Leadership at AARP. I also sat on the boards of the Western Queens Community Land Trust, Queens LGBT Pride, National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA), National Urban Fellows Alumni, and Pilipino American Unity for Progress (UniPro) which I founded in Woodside, Queens. I hold an MBA from Cornell University’s S.C. Johnson Graduate School of Management, an MS in Healthcare Leadership from Weill Cornell Medicine, an MPA from Baruch College, a Graduate Diploma in International Human Rights Law from the American University in Cairo, and a BA/MPP from Stony Brook University. 
One word you would use to describe our food system: Globalized
Food policy hero: Larry Itliong
Your breakfast this morning: A black coffee and fruit
Favorite food: Soup Dumplings
Favorite last meal on Earth: A community potluck where everyone brings a dish that represents their heritage, fostering connections and celebrating the diversity of our food cultures.
Favorite food hangout and why: Purple Dough is my favorite food hangout because of their unique fusion of Filipino and American flavors. The warm and inviting atmosphere, paired with their usage of high-quality ingredients, makes Purple Dough the perfect spot for indulging in delicious, one-of-a-kind baked goods while building meaningful connections with the local community in Queens.
Social media must follow: @righteouseats, @soulfirefarm, @meanwhilebackinqueens

Karna Ray

Pronouns: he/him
Age: 34
Grew up in: Massachusetts
Job Title/Organization or Company: Brooklyn Packers; Brooklyn Supported Agriculture
Background and Education: Prior to the pandemic, I was a working touring musician. Organizing while under quarantine, I was a founding member of the Union of Musicians and Allied Workers (UMAW), which advocates for better pay, working conditions, and develops services for working musicians. It was this pivot into labor that led me to my role at the Brooklyn Packers, a Black-led, worker-owned labor cooperative based in Bed-Stuy. Developing from the two pillars of labor justice and community food sovereignty, we strive to develop Brooklyn Packers into the community food hub Brooklyn deserves. 
One word you would use to describe our food system: malicious
Food policy hero: With no formal education in the food policy space, I am incredibly grateful to count many of my friends and loved ones as mentors. At my best, I serve as a conduit for the deep knowledge of those who have the patience to work alongside me in pursuit of food and labor justice goals. I consider Kim Vallejo, Steph Wiley, and Rae Gomes as three of my closest friends, advisors, and co-conspirators. 

Outside of those three folks, the MST’s work occupying and distributing unproductive land and Brazil is incredibly inspiring. 
Your breakfast this morning: One hot cup of coffee, one lukewarm cup of coffee 30 minutes later. 
Favorite food: Rice and masoor daal with a side of French’s potato sticks (Grandma style, accept no substitutes)
Favorite last meal on Earth: Rice and masoor daal with a side of French’s potato sticks (Grandma style, accept no substitutes)
Favorite food hangout and why: Sitting on the public bench in from of Punajbi Deli on 1st ave on a humid summer night, drinking chai from styrofoam, eating pakora out of styrofoam whose edges have melted gently around the hot fried edges. Sweating. 
Social media must follow: I don’t mess with social media too much, but I’ll give our projects a plug: @brooklynsupportedagriculture, @brooklynpackers

Ryan Renaud

Pronouns: he/him
Age: 38
Grew up in: Dallas, TX
Job Title/Organization or Company: Program Manager, Edible Schoolyard NYC
Background and Education: Growing up in Dallas in a family of educators, I was fortunate to always be around a Texas-sized abundance of good food. After studying health and behavior in college and working with populations affected by chronic health conditions, I came to New York to focus on community nutrition at Teachers College, Columbia University. While there I became a Registered Dietitian and began working with programs that served youth and their families, from pre-school children with the Department of Health to college-bound interns at an urban farm. 

Ultimately, like much of my family, I became interested in working with schools and in the important role they play in shaping our habits. For the past 8 years I’ve been a program manager with Edible Schoolyard NYC, where I’ve worked directly with schools to enrich students’ experiences around food, from building gardens, connecting recipes to curricula, growing student wellness leaders, hosting community health fairs, and advocating for policies that support a more inclusive, responsive food system for all New Yorkers.
One word you would use to describe our food system: Politicized
Food policy hero: Joan Gussow
Your breakfast this morning: Oatmeal and coffee
Favorite food: Anything wrapped in dough
Favorite last meal on Earth: Homemade breakfast tacos and tamales from Texas friends and family
Favorite food hangout and why: When it’s nice out nothing beats the park, whether it’s solo takeout or a picnic with friends.
Social media must follow: @agrowingculture, @urbanag.nyc, @nycnen

Cole Riley

Pronouns: he/him
Age: 31
Grew up in: Los Angeles, CA
Job Title/Organization or Company: Founder and CEO, Wellfare
Background and Education: I’m a graduate of New York University ’13 and Brooklyn Law School ’16, and I’m a former real estate broker, content producer, talent agent, Uber driver, security analyst, mailroom intern and yogurt entrepreneur. Today, I’ve successfully funneled all these wins, failures and learnings into my true passion: a nonprofit tasked with transforming the food system in low-income communities across the country.
One word you would use to describe our food system: Viable
Food policy hero: Hamdi Ulukaya, Founder of Chobani
Your breakfast this morning: Scrambled eggs, aji verde, english muffin, tomatoes and lemon, hot coffee
Favorite food: Cold Brew
Favorite last meal on Earth: Half Juanita Chicken, fried plantains, avocado salad, rice and beans from Pio Pio 6 in the Upper West Side
Favorite food hangout and why: Before it closed, Fish Restaurant on Bleecker and 7th Ave. It’s where my wife and I went on our first date and it was my favorite NYC dining experience. Super cramped hallway, small tables, oyster bar at the front adding chaos. But the vibes and the food were stellar.
Social media must follow: wellfare.org, instagram.com/wellfareorg, linkedin.com/in/coleriley 

Shari D. Rose

Pronouns: she/her
Age: 35
Grew up in: Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, New York
Job Title/Organization or Company: Associate Director of Environmental Education, Learning Gardens at City Parks Foundation
Background and Education: I am a Brooklyn-based programs strategist, environmental educator, and urban grower. I have curated a career that inspires people to connect to nature for the health and vitality of themselves and their community. For nearly two decades I have proudly served as a steward of the land as an urban grower in community gardens in NYC. I am currently the Associate Director of Environmental Education, leading Learning Gardens programs at the City Parks Foundation. In this role, I developed and expanded urban agricultural education and social impact initiatives for under-resourced BIPOC youth populations across New York City, specializing in streamlining programmatic offerings for culturally relevant teaching modalities and parks equity and access initiatives. Additionally, I provided advisory and strategic youth development support to NYC’s GreenThumb Youth Leadership Council, and currently serve on the boards of Green Guerillas and ENY 4 Gardens.

I earned my Bachelor’s of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies: Human Ecology as a Posse Foundation Scholar at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN, and studied Urban Agriculture at Farm School NYC.
One word you would use to describe our food system: Commercialized
Food policy hero: Fannie Lou Hamer
Your breakfast this morning: Fruit smoothie and toast
Favorite food: stew peas, fried plantains and steam okra
Favorite last meal on Earth: anything with rice. I grew up in a Jamaican household. Rice is life!
Favorite food hangout and why: Natural Blend Vegan Cafe & Juice Bar in Brooklyn. It’s a great place to get sea moss smoothies and vegan patties on the go.
Social media must follow:

Gila Schwarzschild

Pronouns: she/her
Age: 31
Grew up in: NYC
Job Title/Organization or Company: Nutrition & Food Science Laboratory Manager and Adjunct Instructor, Hunter College
Background and Education: I grew up in New York City in a family that loves to cook and values local, seasonal and healthful eating. We came home each night from our various daily activities and connected in the kitchen as we prepared a home-cooked meal to share. This simple routine set the foundation for my career. As a teenager I worked as an assistant culinary instructor in community cooking classes in my neighborhood. Later, I studied economics at Barnard College, Columbia University. I used my senior year thesis project to analyze economic contributors to obesity and how these factors may explain some of the disparity between the rates of obesity in the United States and in France. Following college, I studied health supportive culinary arts in the Chefs Training Program at the Natural Gourmet Institute. Since then, I have built a career around food and wellness. I’ve worked in Michelin starred kitchens in NYC restaurants, private homes with clients looking to improve their health through food, and on a biodynamic vineyard in France. Frustrated by both the lack of concern for health and sustainable farming in many fine dining institutions, and the absence of elevated and beautiful food in healthcare settings, I went back to school to study nutrition in the hopes of bridging this gap. I recently earned a master’s degree in nutrition science from Hunter College and became a Registered Dietitian. I now have the privilege of combining my passions for food and wellness as part of the Nutrition Department at Hunter where I manage our Nutrition and Food Science Laboratories, teach nutrition courses, and work with students on their individual health goals through our new Hunter College Nutrition Counseling Initiative. 
One word you would use to describe our food system: Backward
Food policy hero: Jose Andres 
Your breakfast this morning: Jammy egg on toast with hummus and purple radish
Favorite food: Sweet potato
Favorite last meal on Earth: A fresh baguette with butter in Paris, followed by Graeter’s black raspberry chocolate chip ice cream in a cone
Favorite food hangout and why: Tatte Bakery & Cafe in Beacon Hill (Boston) – we stop here on our way up to Maine in the summers and it means we’re halfway there!
Social media must follow: @Kenjilopezalt

Amber Tamm Canty

Pronouns: she/her
Age: 27
Grew up in: Brooklyn. NY
Job Title/Organization or Company: peasant farmer
Background and Education: What up y’all, I’m Amber Tamm. I describe myself as a “Brooklyn gurl anointed by momma earth”. Folks have called me a resounding voice in the world of food sovereignty, urban farming, and horticulture. I do lead a busy life as a celebrated floral designer, farmworker, urban farmer, community organizer all across the US. 

I have made it my practice to share my deep & very personal relationship to land, trauma, and healing— while simultaneously bringing awareness to the barriers that colonialism, structural racism, and chattel slavery have created for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color in farming industries across the globe (international community is very important to me!). 

I am  actively working to create new spaces that are centered in the liberation of BI&PoC and radical healing (especially in regards to land & food). I am also on a mission to unlock my own land access to start a farm of my very own in Vermont where I currently reside.
One word you would use to describe our food system: wack
Food policy hero: Assata Shakur
Your breakfast this morning: organic blackberries & cream, rose tonic, large cup of cacao, apple cider w/ bitters, coconut water 
Favorite food: cilantro- I put this on almost everything I eat!
Favorite last meal on Earth: coconut shrimp with coconut rice 
Favorite food hangout and why:

  1. Imani Caribbean Restaurant – I love this place so much! It’s got it all: good music, hella black, REAL yummy soul touching food. Located in my favorite brooklyn area: Clinton Hill/Fort Greene <3 
  2. Petee’s Pie – Best pie in NYC! I’m biased cause I worked here for a few years as a baker and horticulturalist. Petee’s is my community. Real good people, real good pie.
  3. Caliente Cab – Classic NYC spot!! My mother was a OG rave club kid, they’d come here to eat a lot cause it stays open real late. I go here to remember her. Guacamole is always banging, drinks are good, very AFFORDABLE.

Social media must follow: @acresofancestry @laviacampesina @seedkeeping @ramonshiloh @kesiena @duronchavis @maiareillyw @petalsandpigments @mennlay

Taziah Taveras

Pronouns: she/her
Age: 29
Grew up in: The Bronx — I lived in Throggs Neck, but spent time running around with my cousins and friends in The South Bronx, Pelham Bay, and all of the parks/green spaces with sprinklers scattered throughout The East Bronx
Job Title/Organization or Company: Community Program Manager, Riverdale Neighborhood House & Community Organizer in the Northwest Bronx
Background and Education: I am a native New Yorker and proud Bronxite. I obtained my Bachelors from Fordham University in 2015. I currently work at Riverdale Neighborhood House as the Community Program Manager, and support The Neighborhood Fridge, a free food community fridge open 24/7 for those who want to take or give donations. Connecting RNH to The Neighborhood Fridge, I teach students about food access, food apartheid, and food waste in their hyperlocal community by preparing meals with them using donated surplus, which then goes into the fridge. 
One word you would use to describe our food system: unjust
Food policy hero: The La Morada family
Your breakfast this morning: Babaghanoush on toast with avocado and toasted pumpkin seeds
Favorite food: Mojo chicken with wild arroz con gandules, and platanos maduros
Favorite last meal on Earth: My mom’s sticky chicken wings
Favorite food hangout and why: Arthur Avenue — perfect coffee, sidewalk clams, proper butcher/fishery, the freshest mozzarella (Casa), and favorite restaurant (shout out Roberto’s!) plus a nice walk, skip and a jump to NYBG on a good day.
Social media must follow:

Vanessa Ventola

Pronouns: she/her
Age: 31
Grew up in: College Point, Queens, New York 
Job Title/Organization or Company: Assistant Director, Operations at NYC Parks GreenThumb
Background and Education: I am the Assistant Director of Operations at NYC Parks GreenThumb where I have the privilege of supporting community gardens citywide by coordinating garden improvement projects and distribution of gardening resources. Previously I worked with the NYC Compost Project at the Queens Botanical Garden and the Lower East Side Ecology Center host sites. Sharing my love and knowledge of composting while teaching the Master Composter Course remains a highlight in my career. I love wearing my Master Composter t-shirt and getting stopped by fellow enthusiasts! I have worked and volunteered with small farms in NYC including QBG Farm, Randall’s Island Urban Farm, and Brooklyn Grange. I have an MS in Sustainability from City College and a BS in Agricultural and Environmental Sciences from McGill University. In addition to my experience in food, farming, and composting, I am passionate about other waste issues. I have published research on NYC’s recycling systems and sit on the Queens Solid Waste Advisory Board. 
One word you would use to describe our food system: Disordered
Food policy hero: Marisa DeDominicis, Co-founder and Executive Director of Earth Matter
Your breakfast this morning: We shared a pot of coffee at GreenThumb Operations this morning while preparing vegetable, herb, and native plant seedlings for community gardens!
Favorite food: A piping hot bowl of kimchi jjigae.
Favorite last meal on Earth: Dad’s spaghetti! His seafood pasta is the ultimate comfort food.
Favorite food hangout and why: Bohemian Hall & Beer Garden is a great place to enjoy pierogies with friends. I also took the Trees NY Citizen Pruner course in one of their meeting rooms! 
Social media must follow: @greenthumbnyc, @earthmatterny, @lesecologyctr

Julia Widmann

Pronouns: she/her
Age: 26
Grew up in: Edgemont, New York
Job Title/Organization or Company: Sustainability Manager, Javits Center
Background and Education: I grew up participating in – and then organizing – service work with food banks through my synagogue’s youth group in Westchester. I began learning about the interconnected issues of destructive industrial farming practices, climate change, food waste, and hunger while attending Washington University in St. Louis. I studied Environmental Policy and worked as a student employee on the food team at my campus’s Office of Sustainability. Since graduating I’ve continued learning through an internship at The Climate Museum in New York City, a sustainable honey sales job at the Union Square Holiday Market, a coordinator role at Waterkeeper Alliance, and hands-on farming experience through WWOOF (Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms). I joined the Javits Center’s Sustainability Team in September 2021, just as the first seeds were going into the ground of our newly built rooftop farm and began working on our food & beverage sustainability projects and zero waste initiatives. With the support of Brooklyn Grange, a rooftop farming company with expertise in sustainable practices, we grow high-quality produce for the great chefs at our in-house caterer who then serve it to our guests and employees. We’re proud to offer a unique rooftop-to-table experience that also reduces our food’s carbon footprint. Additionally, as part of the Javits Center’s longstanding commitment to sustainability, we work closely with our events, chefs, cleaning teams, and community partners to follow the US EPA’s Food Waste Hierarchy; we extend the shelf life of our food through practices like pickling and pureeing, we consistently donate tons of leftovers in good condition to several nonprofits that help us distribute to New Yorkers in need, and we send any remaining food scraps to a food-waste-to-energy facility in Greenpoint. We host public tours from April to October that include a visit to The Farm at the Javits Center – visit and see it for yourself!
One word you would use to describe our food system: broken/mending
Food policy hero: Every organizer and volunteer at the mutual aid groups, nonprofits, and community and religious groups who work tirelessly to provide food to struggling New Yorkers. Also, Robin Wall Kimmerer (scientist, professor, author of must-read “Braiding Sweetgrass”) and Leah Penniman (farmer, educator, author, activist, co-founder of @soulfirefarms).
Your breakfast this morning: Greek yogurt and blackberries
Favorite food: Breakfast burritos
Favorite last meal on Earth: Ice cream sundae
Favorite food hangout and why: @playgroundcoffeeshop Playground Coffee Shop in Bed-Stuy! It’s got everything: kind people, great coffee and pastries, a fantastic bookstore, restaurant pop-ups with neighborhood chefs, a community fridge and library, and it’s across the street from me 😊. Also, @farmtopeople Farm to People in Bushwick has amazing local and ethically grown produce that you can pick up as a CSA or get served at their great bar and restaurant. They also host great food-related events.
Social media must follow: @blackforager for education and entertainment on foraging and food justice by Alexis Nikole / @geosteinmetz for stunning photographs with an “aerial perspective on climate change and global food supply” / @shinnecockkelpfarmers for indigenous women leading the way towards a sustainable and abundant food future right here in New York.

Gabrielle Williams

Pronouns: she/her
Age: 34
Grew up in: Queens, New York 
Job Title/Organization or Company: Director of Operations, Food Programs, Met Council  
Background and Education: Food is my lens. I’ve been cooking since I was five years old and for as long as I can remember I have been lucky to have people teach me about their foods and welcome me to their kitchens and tables. My family never discouraged me from my desire to be a chef and for all the interests I developed growing up, my love of food never wavered. I went to culinary school right out of high school and quickly realized I needed more. I knew that I could cook and learn from just doing that work, but restaurant life wasn’t for me. I needed something else, and with a lot of introspection, I came to realize that what I loved about food was people and their stories.  

After thinking about what I enjoyed, I decided to study anthropology at Queens College. I made every bit of coursework that I could about food (even when it was a bit of a stretch). In that time, I worked at a farm, at a butcher, I catered, and even was a culinary instructor for a time. I also stage-managed because aside from food, I simply enjoy making things work. The process of getting to a final product whether it is a meal or a production, is where I thrive. 

Curious about food systems and wanting to do work that helped to feed people, I started a temporary role at City Harvest in their food sourcing department which led to a permanent role on their agency relations team. I was able to help build apps that serve the emergency food network, work collaboratively with agencies across NYC, but my greatest experience and honor was working with the incredible pantry and soup kitchen managers and volunteers across this city. Their work is essential, but food is just the starting point for the care, community, and needs these programs fulfill. In 2020, I had the opportunity to join Met Council’s Food Program which uniquely functions as a provider and food funder. I am incredibly proud of this team’s dedication to creating a more equitable emergency food system by providing kosher and halal food to hundreds of partners and advocating on their behalf. My role is to help make it all work. After working in NYC’s emergency food system for nine years, I am grateful that I can help feed people and remain committed to enabling equitable access to food for all.  
One word you would use to describe our food system:  Stratified 
Food policy hero:  Dr. Kate Riley, linguistic and cultural anthropologist and my professor at Queens College. As a research assistant for Kate, we explored school food change from a socio-linguistic perspective. She taught me to listen and analyze through food. 
Your breakfast this morning: A quart of water and leftover Moo Shu at 12:30. 
Favorite food: Collard greens.  
Favorite last meal on Earth:  Small, briny northeast coast oysters that I shuck on my own under a starry sky.  
Favorite food hangout and why: Sri Pra Phai in Woodside. I only have happy memories there. I love the sound of the plates passing, spoons and forks clanging, the impressed shock of a first timer or that comfort on someone’s face because the bite was like they remembered. It’s a people and food sensory heaven.  The crispy watercress salad with seafood (or vegetarian with a variety of mushrooms) will make your life better. 
Social media must follow: Margaret Rappold ran the cafeteria at the school where my mom worked when I was little. Margaret used her own resources and seasoned every bit of food that left that kitchen. Added spices and fresh alliums, made fresh dressings, and she let me help there and in her home. The @thebutterfacelunchlady (https://www.instagram.com/butterfacelunchlady/) on Instagram reminds me of these memories. She may have limited resources, but it doesn’t stop her from using her vast knowledge of food to create fresh meals.

Dan Zauderer

Pronouns: he/him
Age: 35
Grew up in: Larchmont, NY
Job Title/Organization or Company: CEO & Founder, Grassroots Grocery
Background and Education: I was adopted at birth in Waco Texas, grew up in Larchmont, NY (suburbs of NYC), went to college at Trinity College in Hartford (with six months studying abroad in Amsterdam!), and began working in sales roles in the startup world in New York City post college graduation. While I loved the people element of sales, I craved more meaning in my life and left my job to pursue teaching English abroad in Costa Rica. That journey ultimately led me to Teachers College to pursue a degree in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages, which led me to teaching middle school in the South Bronx at the American Dream School – where I met the most amazing and resilient families, many of whom struggled with food insecurity. This experience with American Dream School students and families ultimately led to my working with colleagues to found a community refrigerator in Mott Haven during the pandemic. That community refrigerator would eventually become part of the Grassroots Grocery family. The rest is history! 
One word you would use to describe our food system: Evolving
Food policy hero: Greg Silverman of West Side Campaign against Hunger for his policy-oriented spirit of collaboration with players big and small in the food system!
Your breakfast this morning: An almond croissant and a greek yogurt / raspberry danish
Favorite food: Sushi
Favorite last meal on Earth: Omakase
Favorite food hangout and why: Bronx Brewery / Empanology for its awesome use of the Mott Haven area to bring good vibes and great people together! 
Social media must follow: Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/daniel-zauderer-71789725/ Grassroots Grocery IG: https://www.instagram.com/grassrootsgroceryny/

Related Articles

Subscribe To Weekly NYC Food Policy Watch Newsletter
Subscribe to our weekly email newsletter today to receive updates on the latest news, reports and event information
No Thanks
Thanks for signing up. You must confirm your email address before we can send you. Please check your email and follow the instructions.
We respect your privacy. Your information is safe and will never be shared.
Don't miss out. Subscribe today.