Kresge among funders giving community farm and food advocates a chance to work with national organizations

Three-year program places fellows from Louisiana, Michigan, New Jersey and Texas with groups like the Union of Concerned Scientists.

September 23, 2012

The Jessie Smith Noyes Foundation has selected four community-based activists from Louisiana, Michigan, New Jersey and Texas as the foundation’s first “Everybody at the Table for Health” fellows.

“Our goal is to bring about better food and farm policy by supporting community-based leaders who will help bridge the gap between grass-roots community organizing and national advocacy,” says Kolu Zigbi, director of sustainable agriculture and food systems at the Noyes Foundation. “Ultimately, we hope this will lead to enactment of federal food and farm policies that support environmental, economic and food justice for all,” says Zigbi, who created the fellowship program, also known as EAT4Health.

Each fellow will work with a Washington-based advocacy group and his or her sponsoring community organization to build and leverage the power of grass-roots leadership and the national organization’s expertise.

The three-year fellowships begin this month.

The fellows and their community-based organizations are:

  • Charity Hicks, Food Justice Task Force program coordinator, East Michigan Environmental Action Council, Detroit.
  • Nelson Carrasquillo, general coordinator of the Farmworkers Support Committee, also known as El Comite de Apoyo a los Trabajadores, Glassboro, N.J.
  • Diana Lopez, coordinator of environmental justice, Southwest Workers Union, San Antonio, Texas.
  • Dana Parfait, member of the Grand Caillou/Dulac Band of Biloxi-Chitimacha Confederation of Muskogees, which is part of the Coastal Communities Collaborative, Grand Caillou, La.

Three members of Everybody At the Table for Health fellows class of 2012.

“The fellows will work together to develop skills, talk with and learn from policy experts, share experiences, explore areas of common interest and plan collaborative campaigns,” says Zigbi.

Each community organization will receive $100,000 annually to support the fellow’s salary and expenses, the expenses of a mentor group, and related activities. 

In addition to the Noyes Foundation, funders include the Compton Foundation, The Kresge Foundation, Lawson Valentine Foundation, New York Community Trust, Schmidt Family Foundation’s 11th Hour Project and Surdna.

The Union of Concerned Scientists is among the national organizations slated to work with a fellow. 

Ricardo Salvador, director and senior scientist in the organization’s food and environment program, says the fellowship program fits well with the organization’s interest in addressing a broader range of issues.  

“We’ll learn from the fellow’s perspective, and we will be able to provide a platform for the fellow to learn about policy work inside the beltway,” he says. “We think science-based policy analysis can strengthen advocacy efforts nationally and address a wide range of concerns,” Salvador says.

The Rural Coalition, an alliance of 70 grass-roots member organizations representing farmers, farm workers, indigenous, migrant and working people, also will work with a fellow. “We really believe that we can get many more people who work at the grass-roots level engaged in the policy process” says Lorette Picciano, executive director. “Everybody at the Table for Health is a great investment in linking community leaders to policy centers and forming a network of relationships that will inform policy and strategy for years to come.”  

Kresge’s Stacey Barbas says Everybody at the Table for Health fits in well with the foundation’s commitment to improve food systems and policies nationally, especially those that affect disproportionately poor communities.

“Too often the people who bring food to us -- farm workers and fast-food restaurant employees -- don’t have access to good food or a role in determining policies and processes related to food production and distribution,” says Barbas, a senior program officer in Kresge’s Health Program, which provided grant support for the fellowship program.

“Everybody at the Table for Health promises to strengthen community-based organizations’ involvement in federal food policy work and give the fellows a taste of what it is like to work on the federal level and with national media,” Barbas says.

Everybody at the Table for Health received a three-year, $450,000 grant from Kresge.

Noyes hopes to find additional financial support to expand the initiative to as many as 10 community-based organizations in its second and third years, Zigbi says.