Isa Mujahid

Isa Mujahid

Isa Mujahid, Founder and Organizing Director of CTCORE-Organize Now!, is a native of Bridgeport, CT. The child and grandchild of Civil Rights Era activists, Isa was aware from an early age the role that racial politics had played in the history of the United States in the oppression of marginalized groups, in particular African Americans. An opportunity to attend private schools in neighboring Fairfield, opened his eyes to the large disparities that exist in the small state of Connecticut. After graduating high school, Isa joined the U.S. Army and spent the time thinking how he could best serve his community and country. Upon returning home to CT, he sought opportunities to be engaged in civic and political activities. He began community organizing with ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now) in Bridgeport.

Isa saw how effective  community organizing was at winning demands from the powers-that-be and showing community members, who may have previously felt discouraged or unsure about their own ability to bring about social change, what was possible if communities work together in an organized and strategic way. Isa continued to organize with ACORN for several years, later organizing with the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) of Connecticut and FaithActs for Education in Bridgeport, before forming CTCORE-Organize Now!

Smita Narula

Smita Narula

Smita Narula is Haub Distinguished Professor of International Law at the Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University. She is author of dozens of academic articles and investigative reports on human rights-related subjects, and has helped formulate policy, legal, and community-led responses to a range of social justice and environmental issues worldwide.

Professor Narula has worked globally to uphold food sovereignty, defend land rights, and ensure access to nutritious food as a fundamental human right.  She has led key research and advocacy initiatives to promote sustainability and justice in our food systems, paying particular attention to the accountability of corporations and international financial institutions for human rights abuses and to structural violence against small-scale farmers and communities marginalized on the basis of their race, gender, caste, or indigenous status. 

Narula is former legal advisor to the U.N. Special Rapporteur on the right to food. Before joining Pace, she was Distinguished Lecturer and Interim Director of the Human Rights Program at Hunter College.  Prior to Hunter, she was Associate Professor of Clinical Law at NYU School of Law where she taught the International Human Rights Clinic & served as Faculty Director of the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice.

Panel Speakers

This section is currently being updated. Please stay tuned for more bios on the way!

ALife Allah

C’BS ALife Allah, an author, thinker, and change maker with a pedigree in working with youth. With the guidance of his parents, he realized early on that it isn’t enough to just be a product of one’s environment, but that one must be the producer of one’s environment. He has traveled abroad to England, Kenya, Zimbabwe and Tanzania. His forays into Africa allowed him to see indigenous problem solving applied to pressing issues. It was in many of these observations that he noticed that the adoption and/or forcing of western views on science and technology exacerbated the problems at hand. He also noticed that there wasn’t a full appreciation for indigenous science. When he returned to the states he realized that the disparity of science in the original community was due to a veiling of the heritage of western science being rooted in indigenous science traditions, a veiling of the presence of the original man in modern day science and a lack of the connection between theory and application to address the issues of original people. Upon his return to the states he became heavily invested in projects and programs that deal with health and wellness in the urban community, establishing Hood Health, a new paradigm of addressing these issues. He has authored, edited and contributed to numerous books including The Hood Health Handbook: A practical guide to health and wellness in the urban community and Science of Self: Man, God and the Mathematical Language of Nature. His current focus is centered around Radical Self Care. Radical Self Care addresses generational lineages of trauma within Communities of Color, introduces Indigenous practices of collective healing and utilizes innovations of Indigenous techniques to present an optimum self in the face of the stress of modern society.

Kimberly Acosta

Kimberly Acosta is currently serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA at CTCORE-Organize Now!, a grassroots non-profit organization that works statewide to dismantle systemic and institutional racism through community building and organizing. She assists with coordinating and co-facilitating their Food Justice Network, and other food justice-related work. Her main project centers around designing the next phase of the Food Justice Guide. Kimberly is a graduate of the University of New Haven, where she received a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology with a minor in Global Studies. She decided to join the Community Work Study Program where she had the opportunity to work at community organizations in the New Haven area. For her first year, she served as a Case Management Assistant at Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services (IRIS). She then served for the following three years as a Research Assistant at a newly founded non-profit called The MILLA Project. She has always been passionate about human rights and social justice. Kimberly’s interest and work in food justice specifically is rooted in her strong belief that access to food, especially healthy food, is a basic human right. It shouldn’t be something that anyone has trouble
accessing in this country, let alone the rest of the world, and it is all the more important because of the power that food has to heal and unite people. From 2017-2018, Kimberly volunteered at New Haven Farms, and later served through AmeriCorps VISTA as a Program Assistant at the organization. While serving at New Haven Farms, she became actively involved with CTCORE-Organize Now!’s Food Justice Network, and the New Haven Food Policy Council, where she currently serves as a council member. She is also a recent graduate of Food Solutions New England’s Network Leadership Institute.

Suzanne Adely

Suzanne Adely is a labor organizer and human rights attorney who has worked in Chicago, New York, Egypt, India and other locations on a spectrum of labor and human rights initiatives. She joined the Food Chain Workers Alliance (FCWA) in 2017 and supports several of their organizing and policy initiatives. FCWA is a coalition of 31 worker-based organizations organizing at the frontlines of the food supply chain in the U.S. and Canada. Prior to FCWA, Suzanne worked with the United Auto Workers-Global Law and Organizing Institute, support a union campaign in India’s auto industry and collaborated on research and reports on conditions of precarious labor in the industry. She also participated in a global campaign to support imprisoned auto workers in India through her association with the International Commission for Labor Rights. She is the founder of the Global Worker Solidarity Network, a social media site that has facilitated bottom-up support for worker campaigns around the globe. She is the co-chair of the International Labor Justice Working Group and International Committee of the National Lawyers Guild, bureau member of the International Association of Democratic Lawyer and a long time Arab-American community organizer. 

Anthony Allen 

Anthony is a self-described idealistic pragmatic optimist committed to challenging conventional systems and thinking (including his own). He is the founder of A Tipping Point (ATP), a non-profit organization working to pioneer a replicable model for Circular Business Ecosystems (CBEs) in New Haven, CT that serves and uplifts the surrounding community and forms the basis for a more just and regenerative economy. He is also the co-founder of Formata, a New Haven-based social impact action tank.

Anthony has an MBA from Quinnipiac University and a certificate in Social Impact Strategy from the University of Pennsylvania, where he is also a Teaching Fellow. His current educational pursuits include mycology, Spanish, and design thinking.

Z Bell

Z Bell (pronouns they/them/their(s)) believes in the power of organizing, political education, poetry and spirit as the roots for growing self-love, community-care and liberation. They graduated from Barnard College in 2015 and currently work at Common Ground High School, Urban Farm and Environmental Education Center as Youth Organizer and Educator teaching a class called Race, Identity and Intersections that was co-created with Common Ground students. Z is passionate about transformative justice and building true leadership within deep community relationships – they are committed to strategizing towards a freedom future based in love and justice. Z is a poet, acoustic singer-songwriter, zine-maker and hip-hop lover. You might be surprised that Z loves fishing and rugby. You might not be surprised that Z spends a lot of time with Grandma (and Mom at the altar). Unapologetically Black, fat, (gender)queer, depressed and still here, you’ll most likely catch them wearing big headphones at the local park, sipping ginger tea and writing upside-down in their journal. 

Z’s background is rooted in grassroots community organizing, training/facilitation and radical political/popular education. They co-Founded The PREST Movement in 2017 and have done training, community-wellness and local anti-oppression justice work with CT-CORE. Before coming back to their hometown, New Haven, Z graduated from Public Allies New York through the Center for Neighborhood Leadership’s Organizing Apprenticeship program. They’ve led political education efforts with Brooklyn Movement Center and as a Fellow in the TransJustice program of Audre Lorde Project, they focused on community-based safety systems as well as creating leadership development opportunities for queer, transgender and gender non-conforming people of color. Further, they have worked with The National LGBTQ Task Force on immigration justice, and while in New York, they worked with Black Youth Project 100 on healing justice and political education training efforts. Z has done oral history work with the United Food and Commercial Workers though the OurWalmart campaign, and has worked with Harriet’s Apothecary regarding radical healing and spirituality.

James Bhandary-Alexander

James represents low-wage workers and their organizations before administrative agencies, in state and federal courts and in the legislature. He has litigated on behalf of immigrant workers against many restaurants and other food-related businesses in and around New Haven – he will be happy to name names upon request.  He graduated from Northeastern University School of Law in 2005, where he was a Public Interest Law Scholar, and was admitted to practice in Connecticut and New York. He subsequently worked for the National Labor Relations Board and as the Thomas Emerson Fellow at David Rosen & Associates.  James served as co-chair of Connecticut’s Low-Wage Employer Advisory Board and served on the state’s Task Force on Domestic Workers. He is also a Visiting Clinical Lecturer in Law at Yale Law School and past-President of the New Haven Association of Legal Services Attorneys. In 2016, James received the Micah Award from the Naugatuck Valley Project and the Brazilian Worker Center, and was one of four finalists for the Connecticut Law Tribune’s statewide Attorney of the Year award during that same year.   He has been interviewed about his cases and worker and immigrant rights issues by the New York Times, Bloomberg News, Sports Illustrated, In These Times, and many other media organizations.

Gerry Berkowitz

Gerry Berkowitz is a professor of plant molecular and cell biology at the University of Connecticut where he has served for over two decades on the faculty of the Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture.  He has taught courses in plant physiology, organic vegetable production, and agricultural technology and society. Research focus includes ion channel electrophysiology and function in plant cell signaling; over 100 refereed research journal articles and book chapters have been published. Prior to his appointment at UConn, he was a Professor at Rutgers University in NJ for 13 years. He has served as a Director of Programs in Cell Signal Transduction and Physiological Systems in the Biology Directorate for three years at the National Science Foundation. He also served as Department Head at UConn, and is currently leading an effort to develop a cannabis research and teaching program at UConn.Y

Raven Blake

Raven A. Blake is a seasoned hospitality professional with an undergraduate degree in Hospitality and Food Service Management from Syracuse University. She has worked in various parts of the hospitality and wine industries with her knowledge culminating from her work in various wine shops and restaurants in NY & CT, Bedell Cellars winery and Wine Enthusiast Magazine. She is a recent graduate of the health-supportive and plant-based Chef Training Program at the Natural Gourmet Institute in New York, NY.

Raven is an alumnus of Soul Fire Farm’s Black-Indigenous-People-of-Color Farming in Relationship with Earth (BIPOC FIRE — formally known as Black-Latinx Farmer Immersion) and participated as a member of the Kitchen Team for the first Soul Fire Farmer Immersion facilitated in Spanish. She is also a proud member of the Northeast Farmers of Color Network (NEFOC) as well as the New Haven Food Policy Council. Raven is currently enrolled in UCONN/Green Village Initiative’s Urban Farmer Training Program and she is the new Manager of Food Operations at ConnCORP.

Sara Brito

An entrepreneur of ideas and avowed foodie, Sara Brito is Co-Founder and President of the Good Food Media Network, a nonprofit educational organization that produces and publishes the Good Food 100 Restaurants™. Sara is a 20-year food (Chefs Collaborative, The Kitchen, Snooze), advertising/digital media (Crispin, Porter + Bogusky, Digitas), and Fortune 100 (American Express, The New York Times, AOL) industry veteran with a successful track record leading people and change to make big ideas happen. While serving on the Board of Slow Food NYC, she co-created and launched the Slow Food ‘Snail of Approval’ program, a designation given to restaurants, bars, food and beverage artisans that contribute to the quality, authenticity and sustainability of the food supply of the City of New York. Under Sara’s leadership, Chefs Collaborative was nominated for the 2016 Taste Talks inaugural “Outstanding Nonprofit” award and three of her past clients, The Kitchen, Domino’s, and Vail Resorts (EpicMix), were named to Fast Company’s 2016 World’s Most Innovative Companies list. Her work has been featured on the cover of The New York Times Magazine (“Broccoli’s Extreme Makeover,”) and in 2015 she was invited by the U.S. Department of State and the James Beard Foundation to speak at the American Chef Rally at ExpoMilano in Milan, Italy.

Suzette Carty

Suzette Carty is currently Senior Manager Environmental Sustainability at Brown Forman, one of the largest American-owned spirits and wine companies.  She is responsible for leading environmental sustainability strategy and program implementation and collaborates across all business functions to embed a culture of environmental awareness to improve environmental performance and reputation.  For over 13 years, her work on stakeholder engagement, communications, employee engagement, policy and advocacy, and performance improvement has supported building sustainability leadership at Brown-Forman aligned with its core purpose of enriching lives and enduring forever. Suzette is a 2004 graduate of the Yale School of Forestry with a Master’s in Environmental Management and is an advocate of corporate action to leverage influence, talent, and capital to improve environmental and social conditions. 

Mary Concklin

Mary Concklin has been involved in the fruit industry for over 40 years as a grower, consultant and an Extension Educator, and holds Masters degrees in horticulture and education.  She is the fruit specialist and IPM Program Coordinator at UConn conducting research and extension programming, and teaching a small fruit production course. She previously worked at Cornell and Penn State. In addition, Mary and her husband own and operate Raspberry Knoll Farm in North Windham where they grow berries, vegetables, cut flowers and herbs.

Max Elder

Max Elder is a Research Director for the Food Futures Lab at the Institute for the Future, a 50-year-old think tank based in Palo Alto, California. Max conducts research and consults with companies on the urgent issues facing our food system. He has led work around the world with global food companies like Barilla and Campbell’s; major foundations like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; and innovative technology companies like Google and Intel. Max has written for, and been quoted in, media outlets like NPR, The BBC, Quartz, The Guardian, and Fast Company and has published in numerous peer-reviewed journals and books. His research is taught at universities across the world, including Harvard Law and Oxford University, and he speaks globally on topics related to food systems and ethics. He studied at both Kenyon College and Oxford University.

Chelsea Gazillo

Chelsea Gazillo is the Director of the Working Lands Alliance – A project of American Farmland Trust. In her role, Chelsea is responsible for directing all WLA activities, which include research and education, policy development, grassroots and direct advocacy, outreach and communications. Prior to joining WLA, Chelsea served as a Food Policy AmeriCorps VISTA member with the Bridgeport Food Policy Council and the Bridgeport Farmers Market Collaborative. While completing her Masters Degree, Chelsea worked as lead researcher for SIT Graduate Institute’s Real Food Challenge Campaign and an Intern with the Food Chain Workers Alliance. Chelsea has a B.A. in International Affairs from Humboldt State University and a Masters degree from SIT Graduate Institute in Brattleboro, Vermont in Sustainable Development with an emphasis in Policy Advocacy and Analysis. Chelsea’s Master thesis focused on the development of an Urban Agricultural Land Trust in Bridgeport, CT. 

Kapi`olani Laronal

Kapi`olani A. Laronal is the Assistant Director of the Native American Cultural Center (NACC) at Yale. Laronal has served Indigenous students from places that range from tribal colleges, language immersion schools and top tier colleges and universities. Through her experiences living and working in Native communities, she has learned the critical role that culture and identity play in creating a connection to our environment and the people around us. Laronal received her B.A., in Sociology at the University of Washington, Seattle and M.A., in Higher Education at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Kapi`olani’s work specializes in outreach, recruitment and retention of Native American and Indigenous students. She assisted students and the Yale Farm with the development of Three Sisters gardens creating mutually-beneficial partnerships to support student and community growth.

Dan Moccia-Field

Dan Moccia-Field is an MBA-MEM joint degree candidate, a 2017 Schmidt-MacArthur Fellow, and a 2017 EREF Scholar. His focus is on business strategy and circular economy in the consumer goods industries. In 2018, he interned with Closed Loop Partners, an investment fund for recycling and waste management infrastructure.

Before Yale, Dan worked in fine dining as a line cook at Blue Hill at Stone Barns, Betony, Manresa, and Bar Tartine. He was the opening sous chef at High Street on Hudson in New York City. He holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Williams College.

Dan Giusti

Raised in a large, food-loving Italian family, Dan Giusti attended the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, and quickly rose the ranks of the culinary world. He served as Executive Chef of 1789 in Washington, D.C., then crossed the pond to work at Noma in Copenhagen, Denmark. After three years as Head Chef, he returned to the United States to tackle another challenge: school food.
In 2016, he founded Brigaid, which recruits trained chefs to lead institutional kitchens under the premise that students deserve real, wholesome food, cooked from scratch with care and passion. This guiding principle continues to inspire Dan’s work as he leads his teams in the schools of New London, Connecticut, and the Bronx.

Jeff Jourdain

Jeff Jourdain has been working as a consulting/field forester in western Massachusetts, Eastern New York and Southern Vermont for the last 34 years primarily working on Non-Industrial Private Forests. He is a licensed forester in Massachusetts as well as a NRCS Technical Service Provider in Massachusetts and New York. Silvopasture/Agroforestry work has spanned about the last 10 years helping farmers bridge the gap between forestry and agriculture.

Ed Harwood

Ed invented AeroFarms technology and works on projects in the strategic partnerships section where the future is explored. He has over 40 years of agricultural and engineering experience in the dairy and horticulture industries. He is a thought leader in the world of indoor agriculture with several patents in the field. Ed was Associate Director for Agriculture at Cornell Cooperative Extension from 1994 to 2003. He has a B.S. in Microbiology and B.S. and M.S. in Animal Sciences from Colorado State University and Ph.D. in Dairy Science minoring in Artificial Intelligence from University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Kip Kolesinkas

Kip’s current projects include assisting agencies, NGO’s, and private individuals with farmland protection, land access and affordability for new and beginning farmers, farmland restoration, and climate change adaptation strategies. He is a member of the Working Lands Alliance Steering Committee, and the Connecticut Council on Environmental Quality. Formerly USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service State Soil Scientist for Connecticut and Rhode Island, where he worked extensively with farmers, educators, government and nonprofits to help them protect soil, water and other natural resources, and to use soils information to make better informed land use decisions. Kip received an A.A.S. in Plant Science from SUNY Cobleskill, a B.S. in Soil Science from Cornell University, and completed additional coursework at Texas A&M and Lancaster University and Schumacher College in the UK. He is an avid cook, gardener, and fisherman.

Jenna Martin

Jenna Martin is currently the Lead Chef Instructor at The Connecticut Center for Arts and Technology, in New Haven.

I acquired a love for Culinary Arts when I was in high school. It has taken me to an array of different places, and through so many experiences. I graduated with my Bachelor’s Degree from Johnson & Wales University, Providence Rhode Island Campus. Before my current position as an instructor I worked for the last 15 years for schools such as Quinnipiac University dining services, and Hopkins School dining services, among some other ventures. I am a certified proctor and instructor for Servsafe as well.

My interests in the culinary field range from vegetarian/vegan cuisine, healthy cooking, international cuisine, and I even have acquired a love for baking and pastry. 

Lori Martin

Lori Martin is a New Haven resident. She has been working in the food recovery space for more than 3 years. She is the founder of Haven’s Harvest- an environmental non-profit organization. She is committed to working towards a just food system and a just world.

Kate McFarland

Kate MacFarland is the Assistant Agroforester for the USDA National Agroforestry Center (NAC). She is part of the technology transfer team at NAC, serving as the liaison to the northeastern and northwestern regions. Her work focuses on providing leadership for national and regional workshops and trainings, developing outreach materials for science delivery to a range of technical and general audiences, and supporting the integration of agroforestry into USDA programs. Kate is also involved with NAC’s human dimensions work.

Steve Munno

Steve Munno is the Farm Manager at Massaro Community Farm in Woodbridge, a non-profit, certified organic farm, which operates a CSA, sells to local markets, offers on-farm educational programs and events, and donates a portion of its harvest to hunger relief organizations. Prior to coming to Massaro, Steve worked as an environmental educator and farmed in both Massachusetts and California. Steve was a co-founding member of the New CT Farmer Alliance and currently serves as Board President for CT NOFA (Northeast Organic Farming Association).

Nadine Nelson

Chef Nadine Nelson, Green Queen of Cuisine, is the eco-chef and social entrepreneur of Global Local Gourmet, a roving community supported kitchen. Chef Nadine was born in Toronto, Canada of Jamaican Heritage. She has always loved cooking and her vegetables. She has studied the culinary arts in Paris at the Ritz Escoffier, has a certificate in food styling from the New School and a certificate in Philanthropy and nonprofit management from New York Universtiy in New York, and earned a teaching degree from Tufts University in Boston, consequently, she brings a worldly perspective to seasonal food.

She is a social activist, cooking instructor, chef, writer, recipe developer/tester, food consultant, experiential epicurean event producer and culinary artist. She is an expert in interactive cuisine and has worked with such clients as Yale, Harvard University, The Apollo Theater, the City of New Haven, Boston Office of Conventions and Tourism, The National Park Service, The Food Project, Disney, Bain and Company, Columbia University, International Association of Culinary Professionals, and the Tobago Jazz Festival designing and delivering cooking classes, culinary team building, wellness workshops, culinary tours, and epicurean event planning.

Nadine is dedicated to advancing and promoting effective food policy and empowering community activism and serves as has served as the chair of the New Haven Food Policy Council’s Cooking and Food Education Working Group for the last five years. Her work has been featured in the Boston Globe, Boston Herald, The New Haven Register, New Haven Independent, Yale Daily amongst media. Nadine enjoys teaching clients how to cook like a star in their own kitchen where they can cook up delicious adventures far from expected yet close to home. She lives with her daughter in New England. They enjoy traveling, swimming, creating art, and finding adventures in their free time.

Oghenekome Onokpise

Dr. Oghenekome U. Onokpise is a Professor and FAMU Distinguished Researcher and former Associate Dean of the College of Agriculture and Food Sciences, Florida A&M University where he has been teaching, conducting research and outreach activities for almost thirty years. He also holds a courtesy professorship in the School of Forest Resources and Conservation at the University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida. He obtained his Ph.D. degree in Forest Biology and Wood Science (specializing in Tree Breeding and Forest Genetics) from Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa, his M.S. in Plant Breeding and Genetics, from the University of Guelph, Guelph. Ontario, Canada, his B.Sc.(Hons.) in General Agriculture from the University of Ife (Obafemi Awolowo University), Ile Ife, Nigeria. Dr. Onokpise is a member of several professional organizations such as the Society of American Foresters (SAF), American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), American Association for Industrial Crops (AAIC), Society of Economic Botany (SEB).

Raquel Rivera Pablo

Chef Raquel Rivera-Pablo, owner of A Pinch of Salt, graduated with highest honors from the culinary program at the Institute of Culinary Education (ICE) after completing her externship at Le Bernardin in NYC. While she has worked for well-known catering companies, Chef Raquel has a passion for teaching. In 2011 she served as the chef instructor at the West Side Campaign Against Hunger providing patrons of the food pantry with a 12-week hands-on cooking program teaching how to prepare healthy, budget-friendly meals incorporating pantry staples, rescued food, and donated farmer’s market produce. After moving to Bridgeport, Chef Raquel brought a similar culinary training program to Bridgeport. A Pinch of Salt: The Restaurant Edition is a voluntarily ran, 12-week, free, hands-on culinary training for low-income Bridgeport residents aspiring to be chefs and food entrepreneurs.

Kamuela Plunkett Jr.

Growing up in Hawaiʻi Kamuela witnessed his town and Island home undergo much change, change most noticeably induced, but not limited to development. Learning in adulthood that Hawaiʻi’s dependency on imported food leaves its people in a perpetual state of food insecurity, Kamuela became increasingly interested in how his ancestors supported themselves in a closed ecological/ biocultural system.

For the past ten years Kamuela has investigated Polynesian Migration, Hawaiian Archaeology, Cultural Anthropology, and Cultural Landscapes. He has a B.A. in Anthropology from U.H. Mānoa with a focus in Hawaiian archaeological food systems. Kamuela also has an M.A. in Heritage Management from U.H. Hilo, a program in which he created a land-use planning model that would spatially enable communities to participate in governmental land-use allocation processes as a means of dealing with issues of food security, cultural revitalization, socio-economic equity, and environmental stewardship.

Jamilah Rasheed

Jamilah is a Muslim for life; mother; wife; community activist; freelance writer; self- employed entrepreneur; member City Farm and Garden Working Group of New Haven Food Policy Council; director of The New Haven Inner City Enrichment (NICE) Center; health enthusiast; and lover of all that is natural.

Rachel Sayet

Rachel is a Mohegan tribal member from Uncasville, Connecticut. She received her bachelor’s degree in restaurant management from Cornell University in 2007. While attending Cornell, Rachel worked in kitchens and took many culinary classes. Upon graduation, Rachel worked as a personal chef in upstate New York. She later went on to receive her masters in anthropology at Harvard University, where she studied under Prof. Lisa Brooks (Abenaki).

Rachel has been working for the Mohegan Cultural Department since 2013. Since then, she has also been researching indigenous foods in New England. She has also begun food sovereignty initiatives at the Mohegan Tribe; partnering with the health department on gardening events, cooking and storytelling workshops for Mohegan youth, and a Native cooking show. Her most recent project is the Native Food Discussion Group, created in order to share knowledge about seasonal eating, harvesting, growing and fishing practices. Most recently, Rachel completed the Food Solutions New England Leadership Institute which is a regional network of chefs, farmers, and activists focused on building a sustainable, equitable food system. This fall, Rachel taught the Native American Cultures class at the University of Hartford. 

Baljeet Sandhu

Baljeet Sandhu is a UK human rights attorney, a Visiting Fellow of the Information Society Project at the Yale Law School, and Innovator in Residence at the Tsai Center for Innovative Thinking at Yale (CITY). She is founding partner of the 2027 Project, an exciting new collaboration with leading UK organizations seeking to diversify decision-making in the UK philanthropic sector by bringing community power into grant giving. In 2018, Baljeet launched the Knowledge Equity Initiative at CITY, a ground-breaking global project bringing together a team of Knowledge Equity Associates from across Yale to design and develop an interdisciplinary program of research, education and practice pilots, as well as a broad range of local, national and global partnerships to support knowledge equity around the world.

Before joining Yale, Baljeet was the founding director of the Migrant & Refugee Children’s Legal Unit (MiCLU) and founding partner of Kids In Need of Defense UK, successfully leading a wide range of national and global legal, policy and access to justice strategies to protect the rights of vulnerable migrant and refugee children. She served as a Special Adviser to the UK Children’s Commissioner, the UK Home Office and to the Strategic Legal Fund for Vulnerable Young Migrants, where she helped shape and inform the design of an innovative funding program for strategic litigation and policy work in the UK. She credits the success of her legal and policy work to the insights and knowledge shared by young people she’s worked alongside.

Sarah Sax

Sarah Sax is a freelance environmental writer and investigative journalist focusing on the next of food, forests and human rights. Most recently she worked as a researcher/reporter for VICE News Tonight on HBO. A Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies Alumna, Sarah researched palm oil expansion and land conflicts in the Amazon and co-chaired the 4th Yale Food Systems Symposium. She has worked previously as an environmental consultant for the WWF, the WCS, and as a food security program manager for the Christian Children’s Fund of Canada in Nicaragua. She is a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and the Society for Environmental Journalists (SEJ). 

Vanesa Suarez

Vanesa Emely Suarez is a Peruvian community leader living in New Haven, Connecticut. She has helped lead campaigns on worker rights, tenant rights, immigrant rights, and women’s rights, and has put in countless hours organizing the sanctuary movement in Connecticut. She works closely with undocumented workers helping them recover unpaid wages, organize strikes and boycott unjust labor practices to build immigrant community power across the state.

Stacy Spell

Stacy R. Spell is a son of New Haven, a community activist educated at New Hampshire College and a retired homicide detective from the New Haven Police Department. He is a community organizer specializing in violence reduction, economic development, environmental justice, and urban agriculture. He is the vice president of the West River Neighborhood Services Association and  current program manager of Project Longevity New Haven, a group/gang gun violence reduction initiative out of the United States Attorney’s Office and has received numerous awards for his work. He is the founder of the Little Red Hen Community Garden and resides in the West River section of the city with his wife Virginia. He is the father of five children and grandfather of five. His mantra is that a good man serves his God, family and community.

Rafi Taherian

Rafi Taherian is the Associate Vice President for Yale Hospitality. Rafi is an innovative food industry leader with a passion for creating new and exciting concepts that support health and wellness.  Rafi believes that campus dining operations provide an ideal setting to develop memorable experiences for students and guests while being a testing ground for positive and pragmatic change. He has forged collaborative partnerships within Yale University and in the food industry that have created a benchmark reputation in hospitality for one of the most prominent institutions of higher learning. 

Since 2008, Taherian has guided the continual development of Yale Hospitality’s well-known sustainability initiatives and robust, viable, culinary concepts.  He has done so by merging principles of a healthy plant-based Mediterranean diet with an operational approach that promotes regionally-based and sustainable food systems. He is a member of many industry councils and advisory boards promoting the integration of manufacturers and distributors to address the key issues facing the industry. Rafi has been an active leader in promoting menus and food that are culturally based, plant based and plant centric. 

Before joining Yale, Taherian was the Executive Director of dining at Stanford University. Prior, to that he held various management positions in the hospitality industry. As an undergraduate, he studied architecture at IUAV in Italy and later earned a hospitality degree at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY.

Owen Taylor

Owen Taylor recently launched Truelove Seeds, a seed company offering rare, open pollinated, and culturally important vegetable, herb, and flower seeds grown by urban and rural farmers committed to community food sovereignty and sustainable agriculture. He also grows open-pollinated seeds, herbs, and flowers at Mill Hollow Farm in Edgemont, Pennsylvania, west of his home in Southwest Philadelphia. On the farm, growers from Philly, NYC, and beyond practice keeping seeds and building sovereignty. Part of his focus on the farm is growing crops from southern Italy and Ireland as a way to connect to his ancestors and plant relatives from those places. He runs the Philadelphia Seed Exchange, facilitating seed swaps and workshops in partnership with the Free Library of Philadelphia and other groups. Before all of this, and following a decade of working with food justice organizations in San Francisco, New York City, and Philadelphia, Owen Taylor managed William Woys Weaver’s historic Roughwood Seed Collection in Devon, Pennsylvania for four years.

Victoria Zigmont

Dr. Victoria Zigmont is an Assistant Professor at Southern Connecticut State University in the department of public health. Her specialties are on health promotion, disease prevention, and epidemiology methods. Among other projects, her current research focuses on the experiences of college students who experience food insecurity and how that qualitative research can better inform policymaking.