Charlottesville Food Justice Network Organizational Bios

img_1845-2-e1456119994579Several members of the Charlottesville Food Justice Network.

Leadership Team 

City Schoolyard Garden, Jeanette Abi-Nader –

City Schoolyard Garden cultivates academic achievement, health, environmental stewardship and community engagement through garden-based, experiential learning and leadership development for Charlottesville youth. At City Schoolyard Garden, we have a vision: that young people thrive with the opportunity to engage with nature, to enhance their academic learning through hands-on experience, and to cultivate skills for healthy living.  We currently manage eight garden spaces at all six Charlottesville public elementary schools, Buford Middle School, and Charlottesville High School – encompassing over 26,383 square feet of diverse organic gardens with over 25,505 student interactions each year. We are a nonprofit organization operating solely on the support of generous individuals, businesses and foundations. Come help us grow!

City of Promise, Barbara Yager and Sarad Davenport –

City of Promise is an organization dedicated to improving the educational and developmental outcomes of youth in the 10th and Page, Westhaven, and Star Hill neighborhoods so that all children can succeed in school and in the future. City of Promise has implemented programs such as their Enroll to Launch program, which signs parents with young children up with parenting classes, Enroll to Connect, which uses after-school programs, tutoring, and mentoring, health services, job program placement, college guidance, and more. They also help middle school and high school students develop a “Game Plan for Success,” which has been shown to improve attendance, grades, and hope for children’s futures. They also have a garden program, and work to address issues of food justice and inequity.

Urban Agriculture Collective of Charlottesville, Todd Niemeier –

UACC is a small, grassroots organization that promotes social equity through collective gardening and produce distribution, connecting urban residents across social boundaries, and empowering people with limited financial resources to advocate for the wellbeing of their communities. We believe that working together to grow and share healthy food helps cultivate healthy communities. UACC values the cross-organizational communication and collaboration that the network fosters.

International Rescue Committee – New Roots Program, Brooke Ray –

The International Rescue Committee responds to the world’s worst humanitarian crises, helping to restore health, safety, education, economic wellbeing, and power to people devastated by conflict and disaster. The IRC in Charlottesville has resettled more than 3000 refugees since it first opened its doors in 1998. Many of the resettled families are from agrarian backgrounds, especially those from Bhutan, Burma, Burundi, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.  The office launched the New Roots program in 2009 as a gardening project which has since evolved into a multi-faceted food and agriculture initiative that helps refugees and other immigrants to make a healthy start in their new home and to participate in the local food system as farmers, gardeners and customers. As part of this initiative, New Roots manages three community gardens, an 8-acre urban farm, and a neighborhood farm stand.

Local Food Hub, Kristen Suokko and Lisa Reeder –

Local Food Hub partners with Virginia farmers to increase community access to local food, and provides support services, infrastructure, and market opportunities to connect people with locally grown food. The organization grew out of a community need for a connection between small farmers and the demand for locally-sourced food. They put a strong emphasis on food access as well as providing a fair wage for local farmers. They have created an incredibly robust local food system, with 250 accounts purchasing produce from over 80 local growers.

Trinity Episcopal Church – Bread & Roses, Maria Niechwiadowicz –

A ministry of Trinity Episcopal Church, Bread and Roses seeks to become an “edible” church: a source and sign of the Love that comes to us through the very roots, leaves, and fruit that we care for and harvest. We seek to transform the way we acquire, cook, and relate to food around us. Through the growing and gathering, preparing and sharing of food, we hope to deepen our own awareness of the sustaining presence of God in our world. We cultivate a dozen raised beds, manage a commercially licensed kitchen, and work with community partners to host events, provide nutritional outreach, and lead cooking demonstrations.

Other Partner Organizations 

Blue Ridge Area Food Bank, Katie Harris –

The Blue Ridge Area Food Bank aims to feed the hungry population of central and western Virginia through a network of community organizations, and to engage their communities in the fight to end hunger on a local and national scale. The organization currently serves 25 counties and 8 cities through distribution centers in Charlottesville and other major cities, providing nutritious food to 114,400 people each month through food pantries, soup kitchens, schools, churches, and other nonprofit groups. They also deliver food directly to particularly vulnerable populations.

Casa Alma, Laura Brown –

Casa Alma is Charlottesville’s Catholic Worker community. We host a community residence and two houses of hospitality for low-income families on a .6 acre shared urban homestead which includes extensive vegetable gardens, fruit trees, berry patches, honeybees, dairy goats, and chickens. We are an ecumenical and interfaith group of volunteers who seek to practice justice as “right relationship” – with the earth, with others, and with the Divine. We gather regularly for times of prayer, reflection, gardening, conversation, and community building. All are welcome!

Cville Foodscapes, Sarah Frazier –

Cville Foodscapes is a worker-owned, edible landscaping cooperative that transforms lawns into edible landscapes at the residential, neighborhood, and community scale. They operate under the ethics of permaculture, the idea that we can design our local environments to meet our basic needs in a sustainable and holistic way. Cville Foodscapes believes that by growing food in the spaces where we live, work, and play, we can rebuild a strong relationship between people and land and redefine the food system. Since 2010, they have helped create over 100 landscapes, growing fruits, nuts, vegetables, herbs, and flowers.

PVCC Community Garden, David Lerman –

Piedmont Virginia Community College’s Community Garden has been in existence since 2007, growing food to feed the local hungry. We donate food to The Haven, the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank, and the Salvation Army. PVCC students, staff, and faculty are joined in this effort by volunteers from UVA and fantastic community members. We also seek to educate about importance of healthy eating and the process of growing one’s own food. Involvement in the Food Justice Network keeps us abreast of other ongoing community food efforts.

Growing for CHANGE, Shantell Bingham –

The Growing for CHANGE initiative was started by two UVA students, Shantell Bingham and Artem Demchenko. Their model utilizes co-design techniques to design and build individual family gardens with residents in Westhaven, a public housing neighborhood located down the street from the University of Virginia. We match Westhaven residents with a small group of students to co-design and build the gardens together. The initiative works to dissolve social barriers between the University of Virginia and the Westhaven community through collaborative design, nutritious food, and empowerment. These gardens will tackle the problem of limited space and land ownership posed by housing developments through design, provide access to nutritional foods and gardening programs, and work to empower community residents.

Virginia Cooperative Extension, Ian Pasquarelli –

As a representative of the Virginia Cooperative Extension, Ian Pasquarelli teaches nutrition and physical activity education to underserved and underrepresented populations in the Thomas Jefferson Health District. The coverage area expands over Greene County, Fluvanna County, Albemarle County, Nelson County, and the City of Charlottesville. Educational programs include cooking classes, physical activity trainings, and nutrition education for both English and non-English speaking populations spanning across all age groups.

Whole Foods, Kristen Rabourdin –

Kristen Spaulding Rabourdin has spent over 25 years concentrating on marketing, communications and community engagement with a strong focus in the food industry. Currently with Whole Foods Market as a Mid-Atlantic Region Field Marketing Team Leader, she believes in the advancement of food innovation and the creation of a sustainable, healthy and accessible food system. She has been included as a presenter for the i.Lab, the Center for Global Initiatives, and the Executive Education program at the Darden School of Business at UVA. She serves as an advisor with the Community Investment Collaborative and is a member of the Charlottesville Food Justice Network.

PB&J Fund, Courtenay Evans –

The PB &J Fund connects Charlottesville youth with the resources and knowledge necessary to help develop a healthy diet. By working with community partners to provide healthy meals and teach cooking habits, it aims to address kids’ nutritional needs at each stage of development. The PB &J Fund was created in the belief that a healthy diet should be easily accessible to all kids, just like the most famous and basic childhood food of peanut butter and jelly.

Market Central, Allison Spain –

Market Central engages the Charlottesville City Market community of vendors, consumers and administrators through programs and outreach, to enrich the local market experience. We are passionate about the roles that a local, public market can play in a community as: A source for fresh, local foods; A venue for local artisans; A social gathering place; A business incubator; and an economic driver. Market Central also sponsors the SNAP and debit program at Charlottesville City farmers’ markets, which allows SNAP recipients to use their EBT cards to purchase healthy, fresh foods from market vendors. In addition, we provide incentive funding of our own and in partnership with the IRC that allows SNAP recipients to receive matching incentives of up to $20 when they spend $20 or more at the market. We believe all people in the community should have access to the healthiest foods.

Emergency Food Network, Leslie Craig –

The Emergency Food Network ensures that people are provided with temporary hunger relief if they are struggling to feed themselves and their families. The Emergency Food Network provides three days of balanced meals, once a month, to individuals and families on the same day that help is requested. The Network aids about 1,740 individuals per month, with the greatest demand being during the winter months and holidays. This organization provides those who need assistance with one of the most basic human needs; food. Ensuring that people have the food they need allows those people to focus on their families, careers, and well-being.

Loaves & Fishes Food Pantry, Margaret McNett Burruss –

Loaves & Fishes Food Pantry provides food assistance to families and individuals in need. The organization provides no-cost groceries once per month to low-income families, allowing these families some leeway to get on their feet financially. Loaves & Fishes partners with student groups, scout and church groups, the United Way and many more. They are also the largest partner of the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank. They have developed a new “client choice” model that stimulates a grocery store setting, allowing families more autonomy and selection.

New Branch Farm, Stephanie Meyers –

New Branch Farm is located just a few miles outside of Charlottesville, and grows vegetables, herbs, and flowers.  Their small size allows them to pay attention to detail and produce high quality, healthy produce year-round.  They offer three seasonal Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs:  spring, fall, and winter.  Through tours and workshops, they enjoy sharing the farm and small scale growing with area children and groups.

Institute for Environmental Negotiation, Tanya Denckla Cobb –

The Institute for Environmental Negotiation (IEN) is a public service organization of the University of Virginia. Founded in 1980, IEN has deep experience as facilitators and mediators helping agencies, nonprofits, and businesses make decisions using a collaborative approach. IEN works on challenging and innovative projects to ensure that communities are sustained ecologically, socially, and economically. When IEN Director Tanya Denckla Cobb began teaching food systems planning in 2006, she wanted students to learn best practices for community engagement while conducting research that would support a sustainable local food system. The first-class presentation led to the formation of the community EATLocal discussion group, where community members envisioned many of the important elements of Charlottesville’s food system that have since been established – the Local Food Hub, SNAP dollars at the farmer’s market, and more. Students have studied and mapped numerous aspects of Charlottesville’s food system, including concepts of food justice. IEN continues to support the advancement of food justice in Charlottesville and participates in the Food Justice Network.