Published: May 18, 2020 By

We wanted to highlight food system leaders who are rooted in racial equity, now more than ever. These leaders work in different capacities to connect food to culture as a means of practicing liberation, health, community-building, and bringing people closer to the roots of what food means to us as people. This list was curated by Castanea Fellowship and makes up their 2019 Fellows list. The Castanea Fellowship provides opportunities for transformative leaders to thrive. See their mission here 

They are (and represent) the many organizations and vital services right now led by poor, women-identified, Indigenous, Black, Latinx, Asian-American, Pacific Islander, and people of color leaders. Each of these leaders is responding to the current COVID-19 crisis in creative ways:


Aileen Suzara

Aileen is the founder and manager of Sariwa. Aileen is converting commissary kitchens into places to prepare culturally conscious pay-as-you can food as medicine meals, while growing a network of support for young Asian American farmers in Northern California. 


Eduardo Rivera 

Eduardo is a farmer/owner operator of Sin Fronteras Farm and Food. He is providing free produce to elders and single parents, growing more robustly to feed those most in need, while mentoring and supporting the next generation of Latinx farmers through his farmers incubation program in the Midwest.


Emily Moose 

Emily is the Director of Communications at A Greener World, and is currently providing immediate assistance to a national network of small farmers and ranchers with climate-conscious solutions to benefit from recent policy changes.


Erika Allen 

Erika the Co-founder and CEO of operations at Urban Growers Collective. Erika is providing no contact farm fresh produce pick up and matching orders with donations of food bags to Claretian Homes for Seniors and Thresholds in Chicago.


Dr. Geeta Maker Clark

Dr. Clark is the Director of integrative medical education in the Culinary Medicine Pritzker School of Medicine at the
University of Chicago. Dr. Clark is close to the frontlines, protecting families, and ensuring long-term prevention through nutritious regional food diets are seen as a long-term strategy to fight this pandemic nationally.


Leonard Diggs 

Leonard is the Director of operations and farming at Pie Ranch and is working to organize regional farmers to be able to distribute free, ready-made, nutritional, healthy, culturally appropriate food at school meal distribution sites for vulnerable families in San Mateo County, California.


Lilian Hill 

Lilian is the Executive Director of the Hopi Tutskwa Permaculture Institute. Lilian is delivering delicious and healthy food safely to elders, while raising funds to support an indigenous-led effort to grow, provide, and support food sovereignty for the Hopi Nation. 


Ma’Raj Sheikh 

Ma’Raj is the Director of the Chicago Policy Council and is working with the Chicago Food Policy Council to respond to this moment by helping coordinate a regional food systems response focused on strengthening local networks with a commitment to equity.


Mark Winston Griffith 

Mark is the Executive Director of the Brooklyn Movement Center and is continuing to respond and build the first Black-owned food cooperative in Brooklyn while organizing a collective response to those most in need.


Martin Lemos 

Martin is the Deputy Director of the National Young Farmers Coalition. He is learning the ins and outs of the stimulus package and what it means for small, new, young, and people of color farmers - and how the package can do better.


Rowen White

Rowen is the National Program Coordinator for the Indigenous Seedkeepers Network. She is seeing the seeds of her labor fulfill incredible needs as she continues to store, multiply, and share indigenous seeds and starter kits across the nations.


Shorlette Ammons 

Shorlette is an Equity in Food Systems Associate/CORE Team Leader for the Center for Environmental Farming Systems. She is continuing to root in the resilience of country folks while innovating ways mutual-aid networks and resources can grow Black land ownership in the South and nationwide.