September 25, 2023
We are thrilled to introduce Arizona State University’s 2023 cohort in the Food Policy & Sustainability Leadership graduate certificate program and Sustainable Food Systems MS program. This marks our 5th cohort of students, and by far the largest and most diverse.
Committed to shaping food and farm policy in the public interest, this dynamic group of 35 leaders represents 19 states and a wide range of professions, including chefs, dietitians, retailers, landscape architects, grant writers, educators, and numerous community and school garden managers. This cohort showcases remarkable diversity in terms of ethnicity, nationality, and race.
Earlier this year, the ASU School of Sustainability was awarded nearly $5 million to support students studying sustainable food systems at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. This funding stems from an $18 million USDA NextGen grant that was submitted in partnership with the University of Alaska Fairbanks, Hawaiʻi Pacific University, University of Guam and the nonprofit FoodCorps. Thanks to this award, the School of Sustainability was able to offer more scholarships for these graduate programs than ever before, enhancing affordability and accessibility. Within this cohort, 61.8% of students represent BIPOC backgrounds and 58.8% are first-generation graduate students.
These rising stars represent business, nonprofit, and academia, modeling the community necessary for food system transformation. They’re passionate about climate-smart agriculture, food waste reduction, and community gardening. They’re dedicated to school food reform, racial equity, and food sovereignty. They're eager to transform public policy to create inclusive, diverse, and resilient food systems.
They are the future of food.
Meet the leaders:
Javonne Alonzo is a food history and culture scholar passionate about understanding how food impacts us beyond consumption. Javonne is a recent graduate of the New York University Food Studies Master’s program, where she focused her efforts on learning more about the foodways and cultures across the Black diaspora. Her interests were informed by her FoodCorps service as a food educator and her interdisciplinary HBCU education as a proud Howard University graduate. Since completing her AmeriCorps service with FoodCorps, she serves as the New Jersey Program Coordinator. In her role, she supports, coaches, and leads trainings for an annual cohort of service members serving throughout the Garden State. Javonne is excited to continue her education in Food Systems to become a more informed and impactful leader in education and food policy. She plans to eventually combine her professional and academic efforts to continue her career in academia, engaging in research and educating future changemakers and thought leaders in food.
Imelda Rodriguez Benevides
Imelda Rodriguez Benavides is an advocate for food justice and sustainable food systems. From Watsonville, CA, and raised in the vibrant community of East Palo Alto, Imelda’s passion for creating positive change in the food landscape began early in her life. She earned her BS in Food Studies from Syracuse University in New York, where she co-founded the first nationally recognized Food Policy club, launched a CSA drop-off program, and helped establish the university’s first slow food cafe. Returning to the Bay Area after graduation, Imelda continued her mission to empower communities through food justice initiatives, serving San Jose, Oakland, and, most recently, as a Dean of Students and Families in San Francisco. Currently, she is the Program Coordinator at Nuestra Casa in East Palo Alto and serves as the California Alumni Policy Chapter Lead at FoodCorps, influencing legislative priorities in the state. As the program coordinator, Imelda’s primary role is to support the Food Recovery Program as well as other programs Nuestra Casa has to offer. When she’s not hard at work or working on her MS in Sustainable Food Systems at Arizona State University, Imelda channels her creative spirit into sculpting, painting and hiking adventures with her 7-year-old Doberman Pinscher. Connect with Imelda on LinkedIn.
Sarah Bosse grew up on a 25-acre farm in Benton, Arkansas. Currently in Louisville, KY, she is completing her sixteenth year in retail management, where she is in charge of maintaining a seven-million-dollar area. She coaches, teaches, and trains teams throughout the district on changing behaviors. During the pandemic, she turned a food desert into an oasis with a Kentucky Proud Farmer’s Market that generated twenty-five vendors every Saturday. While completing her Bachelors of Sustainability at the University of Louisville also interned with Aramark Dining Services as the Sustainability intern. She managed Canon’s sponsored vertical farm initiative and was featured on the local news for three weeks to gain engagement and excitement about a new way to grow produce. She hopes to move to Colorado to gain a job bridging retail and food systems together in order to be a part of the solution.
Haley is a Program Officer at the Walton Family Foundation, working at the intersection of climate and agriculture in the Midwest. Prior to the Walton Family Foundation, Haley led the Environmental Initiative’s Agriculture Program, where she convened public, non-profit, and corporate leaders across the supply chain to increase on-farm conservation across the Midwest. She also worked at Aramark, where she managed sustainable food procurement and zero-waste packaging initiatives at the University of Minnesota. Haley began her career with Americorps FoodCorps as a food and garden educator. Following this experience, she launched a food and garden program at KIPP Houston Middle School. She studied Public Health at George Washington University and continues to think of her work in the context of human and environmental health and well-being. In her free time, Haley enjoys cooking, gardening, beekeeping, and spending time in nature.
Bridgette is an AmeriCorps FoodCorps Education Service member partnering with Greater Newark Conservancy in Newark, NJ. In 2022 Bridgette was an interviewee in the Service Member spotlight Video entitled “Newark Chose Me” and a Thrive Market feature for her service role and commitment to empowering communities of color. Her advocacy for food equity and accessibility can be felt far and wide. She has six years of experience serving communities in Athens, Greece; Puerto Rico; New Hampshire, and surrounding regions in sustainable global initiatives. Similarly, she provides students in grades K-5 with food lessons and culinary experiences in the classroom and on the adjacent school farm. Together they plant, maintain, and harvest the foods they grow.
She graduated Cum Laude in May 2020 from Rutgers University, completing a BA in Psychology, and served a two-year term in the MBRS Post Baccalaureate program as a full-time Researcher in the Well-Being Lab. Her passion will be recognized as a Rutgers Environmental Steward in November 2023, where she will be honored for the completion of her “Conscious Consumption” Environmental Initiative in her school community.
Emily Cai (they/them) is a vegetable farmer currently working in Vermont. After graduating with a theater degree from Temple University and traveling the world for several years, they obtained a master’s degree from Sciences Po from the Paris School of International Affairs, with concentrations in Diplomacy and Global Risks. In the pursuit of social justice, Emily previously worked to fight against extreme human rights abuses, including fighting the U.S. death penalty and the practice of lethal injection. However, after working on a biodynamic farm in Germany for a year, Emily decided to move into the field of agriculture in order to grow food and effect social change at the community level. They have farmed in Maine, the Hudson Valley, and Vermont. Emily is also a published author, having written several articles and having co-authored a chapter for the book Star Wars and Conflict Resolution.
Carpenter is an Adjunct Faculty member at Mid Michigan College, teaching introductory courses in agricultural sciences. They are fascinated by the complex systems that feed rural food insecurity, and growing up in rural food deserts and seeing the disconnect between impoverished, remote eaters and fresh, nutritious food grown in rural areas and transported away for sale, inspired them to work diligently to bring food from the farm back to the tables of small communities. Casey also owns Daybreak Ag Services, an agricultural consulting company specializing in regenerative practices, including managed grazing and agroforestry systems.
Casey graduated from the University of Tennessee-Martin with a degree in Agribusiness - Farm and Ranch Management. They are active with the Michigan Farm Bureau and Michigan Farmers Union and are always enthusiastic about involvement in local policy and interacting with legislators. Their experiences growing up as a queer youth in the rural Midwest and as a queer adult working in the agriculture industry inspired them to be deeply intentional about creating inclusive spaces and bringing visibility to diversity in agriculture. They established the Michigan Pollinate Conference for women and under-represented voices in agriculture and natural resources during their time working with the Eaton Conservation District and serving on the advisory board for the Mid Michigan Land Conservancy. Casey lives in the village of Lake in north-central Michigan with their partner and a pack of Border Collies.
Driven by her passion for fostering an equitable food system that heals and sustains ecosystems and communities, Jane earned her bachelor’s degree in Sustainable Food Systems with a minor in Nutrition and Healthy Living from Arizona State University in 2022. She proudly belongs to the first graduating class to receive this degree from ASU. As an undergrad, Jane held a student worker position at the Swette Center for Sustainable Food Systems and transitioned into a full-time role as a Food Systems Specialist upon graduation. Her expertise stems both from her studies and her work experience on an organic farm in Nebraska. In her current position, Jane plays a critical role in the Center's public relations and projects related to organic agriculture and true cost accounting of food production. Additionally, her leadership in organic agriculture and soil health has been recognized through her selection as a board member for the Grain Place Foundation.
Cesar Cortes is a NYC public high school teacher in the Bronx (co-) teaching multiple subjects. He enjoys working with diverse student populations and planning events that enrich school culture. Before working in education, his food journey began when his family owned a taquería in Redwood City, CA. His food experience continued as a grocery worker, cheese-handler, and line cook. Cesar's proudest year of work was in Nutrition Services at Oakland Unified School District, leading school lunch recipe development and managing school produce markets and taste tests. Cesar received his Social-Science A.A. from De Anza College, his Humanities Certificate from Institut d'etudes Politiques de Paris, his B.A. in Politics from UC Santa Cruz, and his M.S. in Adolescent Special Education from Hunter College. He served two years with AmeriCorps through City Year (Philadelphia) and FoodCorps (Oakland).
Cesar was born and raised in the Bay Area. In his spare time, he enjoys cooking, trying new restaurants, consuming art, and kickin' it with his partner and friends.
Jessica Cox is a chef and educator in the Hudson Valley, NY. After earning her Bachelor's Degree in Culinary Arts and Business Management with a concentration in Italian Cuisine from the Culinary Institute of America, she worked for José Andrésin his two Michelin star restaurant, Minibar, in Washington, D.C. She has also worked for a fine dining catering company, was head chef of a local Italian restaurant, and was a product developer for an ice cream company on a dairy farm. Currently, she has returned to her alma mater as a restaurant manager for the student-operated campus restaurants. She also teaches culinary classes at her local vocational school. Jessica aspires to teach students of all ages how to grow their own food and make it taste good too! When she's not cooking, you can find her exploring Hudson Valley restaurants and wineries or at home with a good book.
Stephanie is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist in Omaha, Nebraska. While working alongside clients who are improving food choices and habits, she realized making healthy, sustainable food choices was a step along the continuum, not only for overall health but for our environment.
She received her undergraduate degree in Dietetics from the University of Nebraska (UNL). She also obtained her Master's from UNL in Nutrition and Health Sciences. She began her doctorate at UNL in nutrition with an agronomy minor. After taking agronomy courses, she realized her passion was helping a more sustainable, healthy future for the generations that follow. Her focus shifted to a wider lens toward the systemic issues in the food system and how it affects our health.
Ellie Ferguson is currently the Community Garden Coordinator for the Escalante Community Garden in Tempe, Arizona. The Escalante Community Garden focuses on building community through the growing of organic produce, seed saving and sharing, holding educational workshops, and providing produce bags. Portions of the garden harvest are also given to the local Food Pantry to supplement emergency food boxes.
Ellie grew up on a small farm in Sacramento County, California. It is there she attributes her love of all things food and agriculture. While attending culinary school and working in a variety of restaurants as a cook and baker, Ellie desired to provide equal food relationships and experiences to all communities. In 2021 Ellie graduated with her master's in landscape architecture from Arizona State University, where she focused on incorporating edible plants into public green spaces.
Timothy Gonzales was born on November 17th, 1989, in Los Angeles County, CA. His family relocated to Gilbert, AZ, during his early years, where he completed 2nd grade through high school within the Gilbert Public School system. After successfully graduating from Gilbert High School, Timothy made the decision to enlist in the Army. Over the course of three years of service, which included a tour of duty in South Korea and a deployment to Afghanistan, he gained invaluable experience. Following his military service, Timothy returned to Gilbert to prepare for his culinary journey. In 2013, he ventured to Hudson Valley, New York, where he enrolled at The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park. There, he pursued his passion for culinary arts and eventually earned an associate degree in the field.
During a pivotal three-year period, Timothy had the opportunity to manage a vineyard and winery, a role that deepened his appreciation for agriculture as he witnessed the growth of grapes. This experience ignited his interest in sustainable farming practices. Driven by his evolving interests, Timothy decided to return to The Culinary Institute of America to pursue a bachelor's degree in applied food studies, focusing on sustainability in various aspects of food systems and culture. After completing his education, Timothy gained professional experience in the restaurant industry, working in various establishments in both New York City and Washington DC. Presently, he serves as the general manager of the Mitsitam Café, located inside the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, DC.
Timothy is truly passionate about the restaurant industry, possesses a deep love for cooking, and maintains a strong commitment to sustainability. He aspires to unite these elements to create a positive impact through food production, policy advocacy, and the promotion of a more sustainable way of life.
Jessica Greensides graduated in 2022 with her Bachelor of Science in Sustainability and a Minor in English. During this time, she managed multiple Starbucks locations and developed a Partners for Sustainability chapter to promote proper waste and food disposal, leading to a reduction in food waste in over 50 stores and lasting relations with local nonprofits and community gardens.
After graduation, she became a Global Sustainability Fellow with Starbucks. Her role involved implementing over 14 water projects in local growing communities to enhance watershed life and address access to clean water. Currently, she serves as the Sustainability and Equity Coordinator at the Greater Stockton Chamber of Commerce. Her work has facilitated helping over 40 businesses to reduce their environmental footprint, energy saving, implement recycling programs, food waste donation and compost initiatives.
Jessica is passionate about breaking down equity barriers that hinder many from accessing sustainable, organic, and healthy food. She spends her free time with her senior citizen dog named Hairrie and exploring the wilderness.
Matt Hargis is the Farm to School Supervisor for Detroit Public Schools Community District. He has been with the Office of School Nutrition’s Farm and Garden program for 10 years and was a founding farmer for the District’s Drew Farm project. Matt earned a Bachelor of Science in Sustainable Development with Environmental Studies concentration at Appalachian State University in 2012. He is also an urban beekeeper, starting Buzzed Beekeeping LLC in 2022. Matt is dedicated to the farm-fresh transformation of school food in Detroit through the empowerment of Detroit Youth!
Alissa Haskins is a Program Associate in the Bureau for Democracy, Human Rights, and Governance at USAID. Before joining USAID/DRG, Alissa was a FoodCorps Americorps service member focused on garden and nutrition education, food security, and community development surrounding the joy and power of food. She served in Van Buren, AR and Lowell, MA, where she provided extensive support with classroom and cafeteria engagement centering on community feedback and digital outreach campaigns. Prior to that, Alissa was a Management Analyst for the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, Office of Special Projects, where she provided administrative support managing personnel, travel, correspondence, and office maintenance. Alissa graduated from Edgewood College in Madison, WI, with a B.S. in Political Science: Global and Comparative Politics and a minor in Economics.
During this next phase of her professional journey, Alissa is excited to continue learning about food systems work and dig deeper into sustainable agriculture and policy reform related to access to nourishing foods.
Katie is currently a graduate student at Arizona State University (ASU), pursuing a Master of Science in Sustainable Food Systems. She will focus her studies on finding sustainable solutions to food system issues like food waste, food insecurity, and produce as prescriptions. One of Katie’s goals is to lobby for the produce industry in favor of re-examining how produce crops are classified, provide more resources to specialty crops, and work to repair the vitality of healthy agriculture and plant and vegetable biodiversity.
Katie recently transitioned careers to have more exposure to the problems that plague the food and agriculture industries. She is currently a supply planning analyst and produce buyer for a local food service distributor in Arizona. Prior to her current role, she worked in the retail grocery industry for 30 years as an operations manager.
She earned her Bachelor of Arts in Food Industry Management with a certificate in Applied Business Data Analytics at ASU. When she is away from work and school, Katie enjoys cooking, eating, backcountry camping, and traveling to the Caribbean.
Carolyn is a driven community advocate committed to working towards a more equitable food system. An avid believer in the power of holistic education, Carolyn works in partnership with entities across the NYC food justice space to deliver people-centered policy reform, community advocacy and environmental harm reduction. She served as an AmeriCorp Food Education service member, and she taught children in grades K - 5 about food and nutrition in the classroom. In this role, she also secured grant funding for maintaining new and existing school and community gardens. Carolyn holds a BPS in Food Studies from the Culinary Institute of America.
Hayley Hunter received her Bachelor of Arts in International Affairs with a minor in Horticulture and a certificate in Sustainability from the University of Georgia. During her undergrad, Hayley was heavily involved in UGArden, an organic student community farm. She volunteered there, interned there, and became President of UGArden Club. Following her graduation, Hayley has been an AmeriCorps VISTA at UGArden, a community garden manager, and is currently a harvest coordinator for Concrete Jungle, a non-profit that forages farms and fruit trees to support food access in Georgia. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, cooking, making pottery, knitting/crocheting, and hanging out with her cat Willow.
Susan Kiskis has over a decade of experience leading for-profit and non-profit organizations through program development, fostering internal and external relationships, partnership development, education, and business management. She is currently a graduate student in both the M.S. Sustainable Food Systems and M.S. Global Health programs. She is passionate about leading organizations toward the successful integration of programs around food, health, and climate change. In 2023, she was selected to be a part of the Clinton Global Initiative University for her project Rewilding Cumberland Valley.
Susan is a Children’s Programmer at Cleve J. Fredricksen Library, where she facilitates STEAM programs and, in 2023, successfully secured a grant to install a children’s educational vegetable garden. She is a Graduate Service Assistant working with Dr. Rissing on a USDA AMS analysis of organizations managing farmer's markets. In the summer of 2023, Susan lived in Indonesia, where she was a Research Assistant Intern at Alam Sehat Lestari, an NGO in Sukadana, where she analyzed data on the health perceptions of organic farming by organic farmers, as well as research on the mental health impacts from climate change. Susan also volunteered at the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation in Central Kalimantan during her time in Indonesia. She serves on the planning committee for Market on Market, a farmers’ market in Pennsylvania where she resides.
Hannah received her undergraduate degree in Human Nutrition and Dietetics from Metropolitan State University of Denver. She went on to complete a Dietetic Internship prior to becoming a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN). She currently works as a clinical dietitian at Saint Anthony Summit Medical Center in Frisco, Colorado. In her role as a clinical dietitian, she provides nutrition assessments and implements nutrition interventions for patients. Her academic and professional experiences have ignited an interest in the interconnectedness of our food systems and our healthcare system. In Hannah’s free time, you can find her running and hiking the trails of Colorado.
Carla is a first-generation Filipina Immigrant who has lived in the San Francisco Bay area, San Jose, Los Angeles and now resides in Portland, Oregon. Carla’s journey has taken her from luxury hotel properties in Santa Monica to corporate dining at Kaiser Permanente NW and Kroger to being an ECE Nutrition provider for NIKE and Atlas Immersion Academies. In over a decade of service to Portland Parks & Recreation, she piloted, developed, and was the lead instructor within a Farm-To-School program. After completing her 2-year service with FoodCorps, she is now an educator in the Youth Grow division of Growing Gardens.
Her first influences for food are memories of sugar cane and rice fields of her grandmother’s village in Culasi and her grandfather’s abundant vegetable garden in Silicon Valley. As a professional Chef, Carla’s lasting message from her instructors was to “respect the land.” This French-based instruction taught her the essence of terroir: how the land and farming techniques have a direct relationship to the nutrition and flavor of what we eat and drink. Carla hopes to cultivate Farm-To-School policies that invite the entire school community. Her dream is to help plant seeds of relationship-building with the land, solutions to climate shifts, and aligning families with food sovereignty.
Abbie has spent her career working to build resilient local food systems. As a FoodCorps service member, Abbie led farm-to-school lessons, bridging gaps between students, their plates, and sustainable agriculture. Watching her students sow garden beds and savor the fruits of their labor left a lasting impact. She believes schools are pivotal partners in changing how we approach food, assuring it is both nourishing and sustainable for generations to come. This commitment led her to her current role as a coordinator of Assessment at the Chef Ann Foundation. Her work promotes scratch cooking and sustainable practices in school food operations, ensuring that students receive meals that nourish them and promote the planet's well-being. Abbie grew up on a south-central Pennsylvania farm, which fostered her fascination with the power of food to bring people together and create positive change. She earned her B.A. from Oberlin College and was an active Oberlin Student Cooperative Association member, advocating for community-driven food practices. Abbie currently lives in Philadelphia.
Jordan Mitkowski is a born and raised Arizona native who obtained a bachelor’s degree from Arizona State University. She is grateful for the Starbucks College Achievement Program, which aided her in acquiring higher education, promoting sustainability as a part of the leadership team at a local Starbucks, opening the store, and serving customers bright and early. When not handcrafting beverages, she is one of four farmers at a local small-family farm, Greenhouse Gardens, in Chandler, Arizona. Gaining education on planning and running a farm’s harvest through the seasons, establishing and maintaining the crops with sustainable tactics, and supporting sales by maintaining the ‘Honor’s Fridge.’ Her career goal is to be a Conservation Scientist to inspire the shift from manufactured to sustainable agriculture in the United States and globally.
With extensive volunteer opportunities, from gardening at Veteran’s Oasis Park to planting trees with Arizona Sustainability Alliance and selling local flowers and vegetables at a farmers’ market for Bene Viviendo, Jordan seeks to develop skills with any opportunity possible. Her passion for restoring Mother Earth through healing humanity’s relationship with nature is her sole purpose for expanding her knowledge concerning sustainable food systems.
While studying International Affairs at George Washington University and having the opportunity to travel abroad, Maddie found that sharing a meal was the most powerful way to build genuine connections and learn about different cultures. This sparked in her a desire to learn the mechanisms behind a food culture and led her to a career in food systems.
She has worked across the food system for non-profit organizations, federal agencies, and in the private sector, holding positions with FoodCorps, the USDA and sweetgreen. During her time at FoodCorps, she led the first cohort of 13 service members in Washington, DC schools. Today, she is back in school food, working for DC Public Schools’ Food and Nutrition Services department. In this role, she strives to enhance the student experience with school meals through operational and policy improvements that are implemented across the 117 schools in Washington, DC.
Maddie is passionate about connecting people to good food and supporting local food systems.
Maria Ridoutt Orozco
Maria is a passionate professional originally from Lima, whose journey began at the renowned National Agrarian University in Peru. There, she nurtured her love for agriculture and sustainability, earning a B.S. in Environmental Engineering.
Fueling her curiosity, Maria has traveled around the world to keep on learning about innovative and sustainable solutions. She has ventured to Japan to research greywater irrigation solutions, studied Innovation and Technology at Utah State University and Digital Transformation at MIT.
For the past several years, Maria has been based in California, bridging sustainability, agriculture, and community development. She has worked at the University of California Cooperative Extension as a Climate-Smart Agriculture specialist, and currently, she’s a Small Farm Technology Advisor at the Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF), an organization dedicated to empowering small-scale farmers in California through policy advocacy and technical expertise.
Outside work, she likes to spend time with her two dogs and two cats, tending to her garden, and exploring diverse cultures through travel.
Emily was born and raised in the small border town of Douglas, AZ. Community was always a core value in Douglas. Having always enjoyed community health work, Emily studied Care, Health and Society with an emphasis in Public Health for undergraduate school at the University of Arizona. During undergrad, Emily interned with Tucson Unified School district to care for their school gardens. Emily has loved gardening ever since. Now, Emily works for the University of Arizona Maricopa County Cooperative Extension under the SNAP-Ed program. As a Garden Coordinator for the South Phoenix community, she enjoys working closely with school and community gardens to promote local food access. Emily chose to study sustainable food systems to continue furthering her knowledge in an effort to address local food apartheids.
Aaron has spent his life living up and down Oregon’s Willamette Valley, one of the country’s most fertile agricultural regions, and sees our school system as a crucial lever in creating a more just and sustainable food system. As the Oregon Impact and Partnership Lead for FoodCorps, Aaron collaborates with innovative school leaders to resource their goals for increasing access to food education and nourishing, culturally affirming school meals. He is a member of the Oregon Farm to School and School Garden Network’s Steering Committee, which he chaired from 2019-2022, and part of two Policy Working groups that advocate for Oregon’s farm-to-school grant program and School Meals for All. Aaron also serves on the board of Zenger Farm, a working urban farm in Portland that models sustainable practices. Aaron’s passion for food sprouted at the University of Oregon, where he graduated with a Bachelor’s in Environmental Studies. He loves hiking his way across the Oregon backcountry and finding creative toppings for pizzas from his backyard pizza oven.
Megan Quiñones is the Program Officer for Grantmaking Programs at the Community Foundation of Greater Greensboro, where they support the design and implementation of various grantmaking programs aligned with the Foundation’s strategic focus on health and wellness, cultural vibrancy, and economic mobility. Prior to relocating to North Carolina, Megan spent two years in Boston, where they completed a year of service with FoodCorps AmeriCorps at the Mayor’s Office of Food Access and then coordinated Volunteer Services at St. Francis House.
Megan proudly calls Tacoma and Lakewood, Washington home. They graduated from Saint Martin’s University in 2020 with their Bachelor's in Political Science and in Sociology/Cultural Anthropology. Megan’s passion for food systems work was instilled from an early age through her lived experience with food insecurity, love for baking, and general curiosity about food. Megan is committed to transforming food systems to create a better world.
Kali holds a Bachelor of Arts From Hampshire College, where she studied African-American Studies and Sustainable Community Development. Her thesis, “Let’s Build a Garden: Integrative Food and Garden Enrichment Education in Springfield Public Schools,” explores the food system within her home city of Springfield, Massachusetts, and the potential garden-based education holds in creating more equitable and just food systems. She served two years as a FoodCorps AmeriCorps Food Education Service Member before joining FoodCorps’s staff as the Massachusetts Program Coordinator. Kali’s work experiences have ranged from Social Media Manager for the Farm-Based Education Network, Food and Garden Site Supervisor for the Springfield Public Schools, as well as five summer seasons of farming and youth garden education. Currently, she is a full-time volunteer for the Isha Foundation, working on their Save Soil People’s Movement to end soil degradation and raise human consciousness.
Alex Rivas (she/her/hers) is from South Central Los Angeles. She completed her Bachelor of Arts at Colorado College and a Master of Arts in Latin American Studies at the University of New Mexico. She currently works at the New Mexico Environmental Law Center and at the Center for Social Sustainable Systems. She believes in the innate connection between our bodies and nature & the reciprocal relationship humans have with the Earth. She is grounded in the belief that nature takes care of us as long as we take care of nature.
Thailiya Thomas currently serves as a FoodCorps School Nutrition Service Member (SNSM) at the Rio School District. FoodCorps is a non-profit dedicated to providing every child with access to food education and nourishing school food. As an SNSM, Thailiya focuses on district-wide projects that change school cafeteria meals and culture. Her main tasks include procuring locally grown produce, developing culturally relevant menu options, coordinating and hosting educational family engagement events, and managing compost waste sorting systems across nine school cafeterias.
She graduated with her Bachelor of Science in Urban and Regional Planning with a focus on Resiliency, Sustainability, and the Environment. While at Cal Poly Pomona, she served as a Farm to Table Ambassador. In this position, she led collaborative projects and experiential learning opportunities regarding urban agriculture as well as recruited Cal Poly students to the college's urban agriculture classes and programs.
After graduating from the University of New Mexico with an MA in Chicano Chicana Studies, Tatyana Trujillo is dedicated to working with middle school students as the community schools coordinator in the South Valley of Albuquerque, NM. Born and raised in New Mexico, her Nuevo Mexicana roots run deep and have encouraged her to seek a deeper connection to place through agriculture. Studying native food systems and how to grow in a changing climate is at the forefront of Tatyana's passion. Currently, she is invested in dedicating her time and education to food justice and ensuring young students are at the table for discussion regarding equal access to healthy, nourishing foods.
Yaquana is an educator, lover of plants, foodie, and herbalist. She was born in New Jersey, growing up in Newark and Irvington where she was introduced to her love of urban farming. She comes from a lineage with southern roots and a deep love for cooking. She is a graduate of Pitzer College with a Bachelor’s Degree of Arts in Africana Studies. There, she completed a senior thesis project titled “Finding the Future in the Soil: Black Farm Collectives and Black Liberation.” Her thesis collected stories on the work Black farm collectives in Johannesburg, South Africa; Havana, Cuba; and Newark, NJ, are doing to create access to organic produce for the communities they are in. She is deeply passionate about combating food apartheid in urban communities by looking at how cities are creating urban farms and gardens to increase food access. After graduating in 2021, she served as an AmeriCorps FoodCorps Service member for a year in the Newark Public School district, creating outdoor garden experiences for children to learn about the power of food. She also was a student under The Peoples Medicine School, Hood Herbalism, and the Rooted Medicine Circle, all herbal medicine programs centered on building restorative relationships to the land and honoring nature's medicine. With her knowledge, she has held community workshops in her hometown, teaching residents how to use local plants to support their bodies. She is looking forward to learning more about ways to impact policy decisions on food access through the Sustainable Food Systems program.
Katie, a Hawaiʻi Island resident, is passionately dedicated to supporting the local farming community and enhancing access to fresh, nourishing food across Hawaiʻi. Her profound connection to food and natural farming is rooted in cherished memories of her family's farm in Japan. She holds a B.A. in Environmental Analysis from Scripps College, where she completed her college senior thesis on "Shizen Nōhō: Restoring the Relationship Between Food, Nature, and People in Japan." Her research took her to Central Japan, where she explored the perspectives and practices of several farmers, including her own family, who have been farming for generations in Ōkute-juku, Mizunami-shi, Japan. Katie takes pride in continuing her family’s legacy through her contributions to the local food system on Hawaiʻi Island. In her free time, Katie enjoys forest bathing with her husband Cody and son Bodhi.