HEAL Welcomes our 3rd School of Political Leadership Cohort!

Press Release: For Immediate Release


Kara Watkins-Chow, kara.watkinschow@berlinrosen.com
Neshani Jani,

14 BIPOC Leaders Join Political Leadership Cohort to Develop Democratic Food & Farm Programs

HEAL Food Alliance School of Political Leadership brings together food and farm justice leaders from across four states to develop blueprint for inclusive, democratic food and agriculture systems 

OAKLAND, CA – As the pandemic and climate chaos continue to threaten food security and working people’s safety–especially in communities of color–the HEAL (Health, Environment, Agriculture, Labor) Food Alliance is redoubling its support for a new generation of grassroots leaders developing inclusive, sustainable solutions for our food and farm systems. Today, the HEAL Food Alliance School of Political Leadership (SoPL) welcomes 14 leaders from four states across the U.S. to a six-month long virtual program designed to equip them with the tools, knowledge, and skills they will need to lead campaigns and drive political change. 

“For too long, the people who determine our food and farm policies have exploited people and the planet for profit, and with the triple threat of COVID-19, white supremacy, and climate chaos bearing down on us this year, we can’t afford to continue this status quo,” said Marla Karina Larrave, Political Education Director at the HEAL Food Alliance. “We must empower the farmers, organizers, and people working across the food chain who are most burdened by these threats to lead our food system and to decide what policies are best for them and for the planet.”

“Many of us have been organizers for a long time, but right now we’re operating at a critical moment, one where more people are making connections between the corporatization of our food system and the blatant disregard for our lives, our planet, and our future” said Zoe Hollomon, Organizing Co-Director at for Pesticide Action Network North America and member of the 2021 HEAL SoPL cohort. “Our communities are coming together to fight in different and creative ways and HEAL’s School of Political Leadership will offer a support network and resources to BIPOC and grassroots organizers who are experts in food justice to make our movement more powerful and connect us with other leaders fighting for system change.” 

The 2021 cohort is composed of four teams from Minnesota, Idaho, Virginia, and California who are leading campaigns at the intersection of climate and agriculture; racially just food systems including land access and food procurement policy; and uplifting traditional food practices. This year’s cohort includes:

Communities Uniting for Farmer Health & Justice. Based in Minnesota; working for health, environmental and economic justice for rural communities in a region dominated by industrial agriculture.

  • Zoe Hollomon, Organizing Co-Director in Minnesota for Pesticide Action Network North America who has been organizing with BIPOC communities for over 17 years. Zoe is part of the Twin Cities Good Food Purchasing Coalition. Zoe co-founded the Midwest Farmers of Color Collective, 60+ urban, rural and suburban farmers of color organizing for racial justice in food and farming in MN. 
  • Beverly St. John, Adjunct Faculty, White Earth Tribal Community College & Advisory Committee Member of Toxic Taters Coalition. Beverly is a member of the Red Rock Band of Ojibwe’ and is active with Toxic Taters, a native and non-native coalition working for the reduction of pesticides on corporate farms.
  • Vera Allen, Farmer Activist & Co-Founder of the Midwest Farmers of Color Collective, who works on food policy initiatives affecting Indigenous peoples. Specifically Vera is working on ways to serve BIPOC people in the quest for land rematriation and food autonomy. 

Idaho Food Sovereignty Project. Based in Idaho, working on traditional food cultivation and food sovereignty for local communities.

  • Samantha Guerrero, Bilingual Community Organizer for Agriculture and Food, Idaho Organization of Resource Councils (IORC). Samantha is an elected official for Idaho’s largest community college and co-founded the Idaho Immigrant Resource Alliance, a coalition of eight nonprofits, to bring together resources for immigrant and migrant families during the pandemic.
  • Sidney Fellows, Member, IORC, who is working to help implement native plants onto Indigenous farm and ranch land to increase native pollinators and biodiversity.
  • Marielena Vega, Visión 2C Resource Council (V2C) Chair, IORC, who has committed to organizing her community to take action on policies that affect the land, food, water, and health of community members. 
  • Benjamin Trieu, Board Member, IORC, who has organized a sustainable farming film festival, assisted running a victorious city council campaign, and co-founded the Treasure Valley Community Garden Cooperative.

Cultivate Charlottesville: Land, Liberate, Reparate. Based in Virginia, working on urban agriculture, access for Black and Brown farmers in Charlottesville, and food as a human right.

  • Richard Morris, Urban Agriculture Collective Farm and Foodroots Program Director, Cultivate Charlottesville, a former software designer, descended from farmers and committed to urban agriculture and land access as a key to liberation.
  • Tamara Wright, Community Advocate Lead, Cultivate Charlottesville, who has been involved in food justice for nearly a decade. Tamara serves on the board of the Urban Agriculture Collective of Charlottesville, and founded and leads the Community Advocate program which amplifies grassroots leaders in conversations around food justice.
  • Leon Nunez, Garden Associate, Cultivate Charlottesville, started as a youth food justice intern in 8th grade. Leon is passionate about showing youth that they have power to change the food system and make a difference in their communities. 
  • Jeanette Abi-Nader, Executive Director, Cultivate Charlottesville, whose work focuses on farming as a tool for community development and building a healthy and just food system.  

Good Food Oakland. Based in California, working on passing climate and racial justice-related food purchasing policies in Oakland.

  • Asia Hampton, Special Projects Manager, HOPE Collaborative, who comes to the table with 10 years of experience working  to increase equitable access to food, cultural relevance in food education and economic opportunity.
  • Elizabeth Esparza, Food Justice Community Organizer, HOPE Collaborative, who specializes in public policy and making information about how to address systemic injustice in our food system accessible for all. 
  • Tiffani Patton, Co-Director, Real Food Media, Tiffani brings years of active engagement in food system transformation, storytelling for change, communications strategy, and the connection of art, music, and culture to food in the Bay Area and beyond. She co-produces and co-hosts the Real Food Reads and Foodtopias podcasts. 

The 2021 HEAL SoPL leaders are community activists, organizers, educators, farmers, students, land stewards, non profit leaders, and strategists. The four teams that compose the 2021 cohort were selected for their commitment to racial, economic, and environmental justice and their campaign ideas, which center the knowledge, wisdom, and leadership of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) who have been on the frontlines of the fight for food sovereignty, racial justice, climate justice, food security, worker justice, land justice, and environmental justice for decades. Through participation in SoPL, these visionary leaders will gain the tools, skills and knowledge to grow grassroots political leadership in their communities while addressing urgent and systemic flaws in our current food and agricultural system. The 2021 SoPL Cohort is the third to be launched since SoPL’s founding in 2017, bringing the total number of SoPL leaders to 34.


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