Skip directly to content

Our Team

 
In addition to those listed below, much of the work done by the Real Food Challenge is credited to student leaders and members of national working groups.  

 CORE TEAM

The core team does all the back-end work to keep the campaign progressing: fundraising, training and recruiting organizers, maintaining relationships with partner organizations, and strategic planning.


 
Anim Steel
Director, Real Food Generation
 
Anim Steel is the founder of the Real Food Generation and is instrumental in developing its initiatives (including the Real Food Challenge). He is also the former Director of National Programs at The Food Project in Boston, MA. Anim holds a Master’s Degree in Public Policy from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and a B.A. in Astrophysics and History from Williams College. Although his dreams of becoming an astronaut never came to fruition, he is more than happy spending countless hours working on building and bettering a just and sustainable food system.  He is also a fool for soccer and enjoys traveling back to Ghana, where he was born. Email Anim.
 
 
David Schwartz
Campaign Director
 
Originally from Boston, MA, David got involved in food justice work as a teenager, tending community farms in the city with The Food Project.  Ever since, he's been deeply invested in building truly just and sustainable food systems and building powerful youth movements to make it happen!  David graduated from Brown University, where he spent his time organizing with the Real Food Challenge (and studying history!). Raised in a Jewish household and a largely Black and Latino neighborhood, issues of economic and racial justice were common dinner table discussions. While in college David helped start a student garden, a farmer's-market based CSA distribution scheme for local produce, and a campaign to redirect over $1 million of school food dollars to “real food.” Now as a staff person with Real Food Challenge, he helps support the staff team, develop our campaigns, raise money, hold relationships with partners and generally, make sh*t happen! Other things David feels passionately about: democratic education, Szechuan Chinese food, migrants’ rights, and dancing. Email David!
 
Nina Mukherji
Director of Programs
 
Nina has been at Real Food Challenge since 2011. She manages operations, directs the Regional Field Organizing Fellowship, and coordinates organizing in the Western regions. In 2013-14, along with a team of Regional Field Organizers and student leaders, she led the successful Real Food for CSUs campaign to create a real food policy for the 23 schools in the California State University system. Nina grew up in Brooklyn, NY in a family with Jewish and Quaker and Hindu roots and a history of organizing for social change. Before coming to Real Food Challenge, she worked at Boston Mobilization, organized teenagers to take action on youth priorities. She was also part of the Boston Mayor’s Urban Agriculture Zoning Working Group, developing zoning language to support urban agriculture in Boston. She holds a B.A. in philosophy from Carleton College, where she was involved in the campaigns against the Iraq war and for renewable energy, LGBT rights, tenants’ rights and campaign finance reform. She also has an M.A. in conservation biology and sustainable development from the University of Wisconsin. In her spare time, Nina loves listening to live music, exploring urban parks and discussing philosophy. Email Nina!
 
Katie Blanchard 
Associate Director
 
Katie grew up amidst the lumberyards and orchards of Northern Michigan, and started to learn about the beauty and complexity of the food system while working on small farms there. She started to challenge corporate agriculture while living around the actually-endless cornfields surrounding Carleton College in southern Minnesota, where she became a founding student leader of Real Food Challenge. In college, Katie re-started the student-run farm and founded Eat the Lawn, a public garden in the center of campus. She also did significant organizing, and farm work with young, women, and immigrant farmers across the region. In RFC, Katie organizes in the Midwest and is at the helm of fundraising, design, and communications projects. Katie's agricultural aspirations currently exist in containers on her pack porch in Chicago, where she also spends time organizing in solidarity with food service workers, seeing live music, and trying to finish too many art projects. Email Katie!
 
 Emma Brewster
National Program Coordinator
 
Originally from the tiny town of Lyme, NH, Emma is now a very happy West Coast city dweller in Seattle, WA!  Emma first started to chew on problems in the food system at Cornell University’s College of Agriculture, where she studied Rural Sociology, Social Inequality, and Communications and Marketing—an unlikely but fascinating combination. Emma came to the Real Food Challenge through a similarly interdisciplinary interest in the intersection of food traditions and culture; community resiliency; and public health. She got her food systems sea legs in the Pacific Northwest by supporting institutions like pre-schools, senior centers, and hospitals in sourcing local food for their meal programs from family farms, and working on local food infrastructure development.  With RFC, Emma supports key national programs like the Real Food Calculator, the RFO Fellowship Program, the National Summit, and the Implementation of the Real Food Campus Commitment. Outside of RFC, Emma organizes for migrant justice and against institutional racism in Seattle and the Northwest. When she’s not organizing, Emma tries to pretend she lives in a small town again by browsing yard sales and in junk stores, stompin’ to bluegrass music, willing tomatoes to grow in Seattle’s climate, and sampling the house specials at rural roadside eateries. Email Emma
 Aleksandra Taranov
Assistant Campaign Manager
Northeast Organizer
 
Aleksandra graduated from Princeton University in 2015, where she studied Anthropology and Environmental Studies and conducted ethnographic fieldwork on a variety of topics including public perceptions of GMOs, the health food movement, intentional communities, and labor conditions in the sex industry. She approaches the world with endless curiosity, ample respect for personal narratives, and a strong passion for social justice, which she channels into her work at RFC. When she's not coordinating national campaigns and fighting for a more just and sustainable food system, she can often be found playing the fiddle, blues dancing, or cooking vegetables with her housemates in Allston, MA. Email Aleks!
 
 Anna Hankins
Calculator Assistant
 
Anna is a current student at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, as well as a national staff person with Real Food Challenge. She is studying food systems, both in the classroom and far outside its walls. More accurately, Anna is living in the youth food movement and finds herself enthralled with every facet of this work. Within Real Food Challenge, she focuses on the Real Food Calculator, a student-designed and -led auditing tool.  Anna is also actively involved in campaigns for affordable (free) higher education in MA, anti-racist organizing, as well as labor justice initiatives in the Pioneer Valley. She often finds herself daydreaming about the salty air of the Bay Area, imagining the apple orchard where her father grew up, and thinking about a new food economy. In her spare time she enjoys eating aged cheddar, cooking food for friends, buying too many books (reading them all) and listening to spoken word poetry.

FIELD STAFF

The regional coordinators do on the ground organizing work, coordinate student campaigns in different regions and act as liaisons between the core team, RFOs and student leaders.


 
Estefanía Narváez, West Regional Coordinator
Seattle, WA

Estefania graduated in December 2010 from Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas, which she mobilized to become one of the first Fair Trade Universities in the country. Being born and raised in Ecuador nurtured her lifelong concern for justice. She is an organizer and activist passionate about making real changes to build sustainable food systems, alleviate poverty and hunger, and to let our world breathe some clean air. After a long time of shifting from one home to another, she is now settled in Seattle supporting student food justice initiatives in the West. When she is not organizing she is dancing salsa, eating Ecuadorean food and riding her bike in the sun. Email Stefy.

 

Tlaloc Vasquez, Northeast Regional Coordinator
Boston, MA

Tlaloc hails from the endless sunshine and palm trees of southern California. Many of Tlaloc's formative life experiences are related to growing up as part of a large Mexican-American family in and around the neighborhoods of Long Beach, CA. He brings a wealth of organizing experience from his tenure at the University of California Los Angeles, where he received his B.A.'s in International Development Studies and Chicana/o Studies. While in school, Tlaloc involved himself as an active advocate of student/labor solidarity, Chicana/o Studies, Latina/o students in higher education, environmental justice, Raza Studies for K-12, transfer students, undocumented immigrants, and food justice. Partly as a product of how and where he was raised, Tlaloc feels passionately that access to real food is a necessity, not a privilege. When he's not busy coordinating the Northeast region of RFC, Tlaloc enjoys Dodgers baseball, jamming out to good music, hiking, and getting to know the local food and bar scene. Email Tlaloc!

 

Amanda Jacir, Northeast Regional Coordinator
Boston, MA

Born in Boston, raised in JerZ, Amanda is happy to be back in Massachusetts organizing with RFC. She grew up in a multicultural family where both sides mainly munch on olives and eggplant and sweets. Amanda has been an environmental and social justice activist from an early age. She studied politics and environmental studies at Oberlin College, where she spent her spare time keeping things out of landfills by hauling refrigerators, clothes, and all sorts of knick-knacks into a Free Store (where she'd blast early 90s music for whoever was browsing.) She coordinated solidarity and divestment campaigns and took turns cooking and cleaning for peers in Third World Co-op. In her spare time she travels to give presentations on environmental justice issues, especially water issues in the Middle East. She also enjoys dancing silly and playing outside.  Email Amanda!

 

Katie LeBlanc
Bardstown, Kentucky

Growing up ​along the muddy river banks of the Ohio River in ​rural Kentucky, Katie worked on her family's farm;​ skinning catfish and rabbits,​ growing food to put away for the long winters​ and raising cattle to sell ​on the local auction block. Watching the river​​ ​grow dark with runaway soil​, taking jobs downstream as well, it sparked her curiosity to learn about soil conservation​ and regional economies​. After earning her B.S. in Agronomy and Soil Science from Murray State University in 2012, Katie went on to complete her M.S. in Environmental Studies from the University of Montana in 2015 where she focused on the cultural, economic, environmental, and political impacts ​of beef market concentration on Montana's hardworking ranchers and​ ​farmers. Now working for the Real Food Challenge, Katie is Regional Coordinator for the Midwest and Southeast. ​You can find still find Katie ​working on farms and ​putting up food ​for those long winters. Email Katie!


Regional Field Organizers (RFOs)

The regional field organizer fellows do on the ground organizing, extending the network and providing support to students running campaigns on campus. They also act as liaisons between the core team, field staff and student leaders.

View the Regional Field Organizers from your home region: 

West Coast | Midwest | Southeast | Northeast


 

WEST

Megan Walker
Steamboat Springs, CO

Megan is a recent graduate of Colorado Mountain College where she majored in Sustainability Studies and Outdoor Education. On campus, she coordinated sustainability initiatives, campus food projects, beekeeping, and community outreach. In her local community she works to promote local food system development, food security and educational outreach with a passion for building community well-being and resiliency and a desire to see the local food movement grow to support a healthy, equitable, and more sustainable world. She is excited to have the opportunity to be organizing with RFC to connect to a national movement for justice for all. Megan is at home in the Yampa Valley raising her family, tending a micro-urban homestead, dancing, and exploring the backcountry of the west by foot and by horseback.

 

Erin Olschewski
Salt Lake City, UT

Erin grew up in Moab, Utah where she lived between the red rock cliffs and the stream with her mother, brother, dogs, cats, rabbits and many chickens. Growing up in a vegetarian, animal-loving family that spent most evenings outside tending the large vegetable garden, watering the abundant orchard, playing with the animals, and sharing food with friends and neighbors were just a few of the formative experiences that drew her to food work. Her interest in food continued to grow and expand through high school and intensified dramatically in college, where as a vegetarian with a mandatory meal plan she was given very few options. Her experiences in Moab and negative food experiences at school led her to pursue involvement with food issues both on and of the University of Utah campus, including hunger and food justice service trips, a summer internship with Slow Food, working at the university farmers market, writing her Honors Thesis on food issues, etc. As a Communication major, she deeply values the importance of people and relationships in the food movement. With those connections in mind, she helped the University of Utah sign the Real Food Challenge Campus Commitment her senior year. Post-graduation days are usually spent reading food books, stockpiling vegan recipes, soaking up the Salt Lake City sunshine, and rafting the Colorado River as often as possible.


MIDWEST

Bridget Burns
Norman, OK

Bridget grew up in Utah and Oklahoma. The daughter of a sociology professor, she was raised in college towns with a strong sense of a global community and was always encouraged to ask questions. Her road to activism began through global awareness and international aid work in high school. She met the food justice movement at the University of Oklahoma, where she majored in International Studies. In her time at OU, she founded a food justice student group that went on to get the Real Food Campus Commitment signed this past April. Working with Real Food Challenge has been an incredible and life changing journey. What started out as a side project has now become a central driving force in her life. She is excited to have the chance to organize on the regional and national level. In her spare time, Bridget enjoys dancing, cooking, gardening, hiking, and eating good food.

 

Laura Kington
Columbus, OH

Laura grew up in Columbus, Ohio, where she recently graduated from Ohio State University with a degree in community development and food systems. Laura’s interest in food issues was sparked on OSU’s student farm, and through her coursework and time traveling, her interest grew into a passion for improving social conditions so often defined by food and agriculture. Laura helped begin a Real Food Challenge campaign at Ohio State, which has yielded many positive changes but as of yet no commitment. After a summer of farming in eastern Iowa, Laura is excited to return to Ohio and continue working with Real Food Challenge at her alma mater and throughout the Midwest. When she’s not organizing around, reading about, or talking about capitalism and the food system, Laura enjoys taking long walks, consuming full-fat dairy, and enthusiastically completing crosswords.

 

SOUTHEAST

Ashley Na
Suwanee, GA

While earning her B.S. in Ecology at the University of Georgia, she roamed the city streets, deciduous forests, and student organizations of Athens, Georgia in search of her true identity. While exploring her passions (and taking too many pictures of her cats), she was exposed to the ecological shortcomings of the dominating food systems and institutions. This drew her into the Southeast Youth Food Activism Summit where she was then introduced to: (1) all of the other ethical implications of the food industry and ta-da~ … (2) The Real Food Challenge! She then entered the world of organizing and fought with her peers to get the Real Food Campus Commitment signed. Needless to say, her identity has been grounded in the call for justice ever since. She’s beyond grateful to be a part of the RFO Class of 2015-2016 and can’t wait to see which school signs the commitment next!!

 
 

NORTHEAST

Laura Kakalecz
Boston, MA

Laura grew up in northern New Jersey and graduated from Boston University in 2015, where she majored in Cultural Anthropology and used the major to explore cross-cultural experiences around agriculture, environmental justice, and health. As a student, Laura was involved with a magical rooftop greenhouse on campus, coordinated service-learning for students to engage with urban environmental and food justice work, and organized with Real Food Challenge. She went on to work alongside folks living with developmental disabilities on a small organic farm on the South Shore of Massachusetts, finding a passion for disability justice that added to deepening reflections on race, class, gender, and sexuality. Working on farms both rural and urban has fostered a deep appreciation for the labor that goes into production and a sense of agitation around access to land, real food, and fair wages and working conditions. Laura now lives and works in a former catholic worker house turned intentional living community that runs a soup kitchen, community cafe, and urban farm in Boston and is grateful to begin this next step organizing with students! Laura loves dogs, heirloom tomatoes, spoken word poetry, lounging in sunny city parks, and spontaneous dance parties.

 

Christina Ocampo
Morristown, NJ

Christina grew up in Colombia and later immigrated with her mother, grandmother, and brother to New Jersey. Her immigrant story, culture, and family (including her dog!) are at her core.Food is at the intersection of her deepest motivations and passions – labor, producers, immigration and justice. She sees food as the access point to tangibly dismantling systems of oppression. Christina graduated from Drew University with a double majorin Environmental Studies & Sustainability and Anthropology, with a minor in Italian. While at Drew, she was an active leader in the real food campaign on campus and was involved in RFC in different capacities, including serving on their steering committee. At the same time, she interned with CATA, the Farmworker Support Committee, where she led a community-based research project that focused on exposing food and environmental injustice experienced by Latina/o immigrant farmworkers. Since graduating, she has dedicated herself to working with farmworker organizations along the East Coast. She is extremely excited to be working with RFC again in her new role as a Northeast RFO. In her spare time, she enjoys eating abuela’shome cooked meals with family, going on last minute adventures with friends, and daydreaming about traveling (and living) out of her backpack again. 

To learn more about our past RFO's follow the links below:

Learn about the 2012-2013 RFOs here!
Learn about the 2011-2012 RFOs here!
Learn about the 2010-2011 RFOs here!
Learn about the 2009-2010 RFOs here! 

STEERING COMMITTEE

The Steering Committee sits at the center of the organization to address organizational priorities on a national level. They offer guidance on campaigns, programs and operations of the organization. The Steering Committee has student, alumni, staff, and regional field organizer members.  



Steph Yee
California State University Monterey Bay

Stephanie is a student at California State University Monterey Bay pursuing a degree in Environmental Studies.  As a San Francisco native and the  daughter of foodies, she grew up appreciating the different ethnic cuisines and celebrating food. ​She dived in head first with RFC by starting a calculator account on her campus and working other Cal State students and RFC to form the Real Food for CSUs campaign.  Real Food for CSUs is a campaign for the system of CA state universities to sign a real food commitment.  She is really excited to take on the role as a student representative for RFC on a national scale.  When she is not working on campaigns, you can find Stephanie cooking in the kitchen with her housemates or hanging out at the farmers market. Email Stephanie

Sawson Gholami
University of Utah

Sawson is a lover of mathematics, music, animals, and people. He was born to an Iranian family in Salt Lake City, Utah, and had originally planned to pursue neurosurgery. After discovering his goals were to improve the conditions of animals used in the food system, Sawson found Real Food Challenge. Since then, he has had the opportunity of serving as the University of Utah's RFC co-chair and is currently working with his school's administrators to improve their dining contract. Outside his work with RFC, Sawson loves to sing with the Utah Opera Chorus, geek out on popular-physics videos, go on morning runs, and make smoothies. Email Sawson

 

Sunny Kim
Johns Hopkins University

Sunny was born in Seoul, South Korea and spent her childhood in Kansas City, Missouri. She is a farmer at heart, rooted in the fields of New England, where she won the first real food campus commitment on a high school campus. Now at Johns Hopkins University, she has led multiple product shift in the school's implementation process and finds the narrative of the producers and the regional community the most rewarding part of her campus work. In her free time, she likes to learn how to cook things from scratch or develop recipes for her restaurant in Korea which she runs with her mother.  Email Sunny

 

Abby McIntosh
Indiana University

Abby is a Washington D.C. native and a junior at Indiana University studying Human Geography with a concentration in Food and Agriculture. Growing up in a food-obsessed family, cooking and eating quickly became Abby’s favorite pastimes. She got hooked on food justice work during her freshman year at IU, which eventually led her to find Real Food Challenge—she hasn’t looked back since! When she’s not bugging her administration to sign the Campus Commitment and otherwise agitating for food justice on her own campus, she enjoys watching bad movies, going to the park, anything that involves chocolate, and dancing around the apartment with her roommates. Email Abby

Emily Evans
Ohio State University

Emily grew up roaming the wild forests and sandstone cliffs of southeastern Ohio, where she enjoyed taking long walks with her mom, reading and writing fantasy stories, and going on adventures with her cat Sage. Raised a vegetarian from birth, Emily was always encouraged to think about her relationship with food and the world around her—but it wasn’t until high school that she truly began to consider the impact that food had on the health of the people and planet she loved. Although she will always return to her home in the hills, she now explores the urban jungle of Columbus Ohio, where she is studying sustainable community development and food systems at the Ohio State University. She has been an organizer of OSU’s RFC campaign for two years now and is excited to finally be escalating toward a commitment! Emily’s work with the Real Food Challenge has given her the best friends she could ask for, and has inspired her to pursue a career in organizing for food justice. She can’t wait to give back as a member of the 2016-17 steering committee! Email Emily

Elizabeth Wilkes
University of Georgia

Growing up in Atlanta, with relatives in North Carolina, Elizabeth always loved the southern summer harvest: heirloom tomato sandwiches, cucumber salad, peaches... now at the University of Georgia, she is working toward majors in Geography and Ecology to think about the food system and how to make it more just and sustainable. Real Food Challenge hooked her since she set foot on campus, and she’s looking forward to getting the South on the map! As a lifelong composting enthusiast, she’s researched food waste reduction policy and helps run campus composting. You might also find her researching anti-fracking activism, teaching young folks about food and gardening, or at church. In her free time, Elizabeth enjoys biking down hills, reading, and talking with friends and strangers alike about random and exciting topics (which somehow always end up relating to food). Email Elizabeth

 

 
Directors Anim Steel, David Schwartz, Nina Mukherji, and regional coordinator Tlaloc Vasquez also serve on the steering committee. 
 

BOARD

Greg Gale, former Director of Programs (and founding staff member) of The Food Project; now with VISIONS Inc., a multicultural consulting firm.

Tim Galarneau, Program Coordinator at Center for Agroecology & Sustainable Food Systems, Statewide Advisor at the California Student Sustainability Coalition and member of UC Santa Cruz's campus Food Systems Working Group.
 
Karla Van Praag, Executive Director of Jewish Organizing Institute and Network (JOIN for Justice) where she oversees grassroots training programs for aspiring community organizers, rabbinical students and Jewish organizations. 
 
Amara Foster, consultant, former Senior Program Associate at Surdna Foundation.
 
Yoojin Janice Lee, Senior Trainer and Manager, Health Resources in Action
 
Anim Steel, Executive Director, Real Food Challenge
 
 

ADVISORY COMMITTEE

Michael Pollan, professor and best-selling author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma and In Defense of Food.
  
Vandana Shiva, physicist, feminist, activist, Director of The Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Natural Resource Policy.
 
Anna Lappé, advocate, co-founder of the Small Planet Institute, best-selling author of Hope’s Edge: The Next Diet for a Small Planet.
 
Daveda Russell, educator, consultant, Senior Project Manager at Pyramid Communications.
 
John Turenne, former Executive Chef at Yale University, co-designer of the Yale Sustainable Food Project, President of Sustainable Food Systems, LLC.
 
Tom Kelly, founding member of the Northeast Campus Sustainability Consortium, Director of the University Office of Sustainability at the University of New Hampshire.