12 Grassroots Leaders Join Political Leadership Cohort to Develop Food and Farm Advocacy Campaigns

For Immediate Release: February 22, 2023
Contact: Shane Tan (shane.tan@berlinrosen.com); Neshani Jani (neshani@healfoodalliance.org)

12 Grassroots Leaders Join Political Leadership Cohort to Develop Food and Farm Advocacy Campaigns

HEAL Food Alliance’s School of Political Leadership provides grassroots leaders across the food justice movement a campaign incubator and movement-building support.

NATIONAL (February 22, 2023) — Today, the HEAL (Health, Environment, Agriculture, Labor) Food Alliance welcomes 12 dynamic leaders driving bold food justice campaigns in Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, and Louisiana to the fifth cohort of its School of Political Leadership (SoPL). Founded in 2017, the School of Political Leadership challenges current political structures by supporting primarily Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC), as well as leaders working on the frontlines, to develop solutions-oriented, food and farm justice campaigns that center racial, economic, and environmental justice

“There is a lack of political leadership programming for BIPOC and frontline community leaders, especially in the food justice space” said Marlene Manzo, Political Leadership Manager at the HEAL Food Alliance. “These are the leaders who actually share the values, hopes and experiences of the people most burdened by the current destructive food system and are the best advocates for driving political change. SoPL is truly a collaborative effort that honors the wisdom of long-time organizers in frontline communities and sharpens the skills of powerful people across generations and communities.”

The 2023 cohort of community activists, organizers, farmers, farmworkers, land stewards, policymakers, and storytellers includes: 

A Greener New Orleans (Louisiana)

  • Devin Wright (she/they), Research and Policy Coordinator, SPROUT NOLA
  • Mina Seck (she/her), Community Food Manager, SPROUT NOLA
  • Terence Jackson (he/him), Farm Outreach Coordinator, SPROUT NOLA

Through SoPL, the SPROUT NOLA team will strengthen their current campaign, “A Greener New Orleans,” which centers farmers and growers in a movement to redefine the city’s definition of “blight,” make water and land accessible to farmers and growers, and create the infrastructure for an Urban Agriculture liaison for the city of New Orleans. The team will also work to grow their collective base building and organizing skills to make sure that the widest possible community of growers are involved in this campaign. This campaign is about making concrete changes to the landscape of New Orleans food and farm policy, but it is also a huge opportunity to build the collective power and organizing capacity of the community.

Idaho Justice for Farmworkers (Idaho)

  • Alejandra Hernandez (she/her/ella), Member, Visión 2C Resource Council
  • Irene Ruiz (she/her/ella) Co-Director, Idaho Organization of Resource Councils (IORC)

Through SoPL, the Idaho Justice for Farmworkers team will strengthen their current campaign to protect Idaho’s farmworker community from heat stress, smoke, and pesticide usage. The campaign’s goal is to humanize farmworkers and to include their voices in the fight for climate justice using storytelling and advocacy. The team will also develop a framework to bridge the gap between advocates and healthcare communities to provide training and medical and mental healthcare to farmworkers

Nourish Colorado (Colorado)

  • Caitlin Stuart (she/her), Community Engagement & Navigator Manager, Nourish Colorado
  • Daysi Sweaney (she/her), Director of Healthy Food Incentives, Nourish Colorado
  • Laurel Smith (she/her), Farmer and Value Chain Coordinator, Nourish Colorado
  • Lonni Byrd (she/her), Double Up Food Bucks Manager, Nourish Colorado

Nourish Colorado will create a campaign to strengthen connections with and between farms, ranches, and communities so that all Coloradans have equitable access to fresh, nutritious foods. Through SoPL, the team will also create deep connections within their team and community to organize and advocate for community-led and informed policy change for the 2023 Farm Bill.

Southern Roots (Georgia)

  • Demond Timberlake (he/him), Assistant Director of Community Organizing & Operations, Hand, Heart +  Soul Project
  • Sagdrina Jalal (she/her), Owner, Sage D Consulting
  • Wande Okunoren-Meadows (she/her), Executive Director, Hand, Heart +  Soul Project

Through SoPL, the Southern Roots team will develop an advocacy campaign to demand policymakers and local leaders work with community members and other stakeholders to increase access to nutrient-dense foods, food access and ensure that residents are familiar with the benefits of SNAP, TANF, and WIC.

The 2023 SoPL Cohort joins 46 program alumni, bringing the total number of SoPL leaders to 58. A newly released alumni report from the HEAL Food Alliance also details the political and social impact that SoPL alumni are making in their communities. For example, alumni in Charlottesville, VA are acquiring city land to set up urban farms and establish food equity as part of the city’s platform; alumni in the Navajo nation are engaging Diné farmers and community members to develop and enact a policy of Diné Food Sovereignty grounded in community control and ownership of our food systems; and alumni in NYC are build a grassroots policy and advocacy – rooted in equity and food sovereignty – towards ending food apartheid and fostering resiliency in New York City. Find the full report here >>


About the HEAL Food Alliance 

The HEAL (Health, Environment, Agriculture, Labor) Food Alliance is a national multi-sector, multi-racial coalition. We are led by our member-organizations, who represent about two million rural and urban farmers, ranchers, fishers, farm and food chain workers, indigenous groups, scientists, public health advocates, policy experts, and community organizers united in their commitment to transformed food systems that are healthy for all families, accessible and affordable for all communities, and fair to the working people who grow, distribute, prepare, and serve our food – while protecting the air, water, and land we all depend on. www.healfoodalliance.org