Council members

One third of the 21-member council term out each year. Members are welcome to re-apply at the end of their term, and other interested people are encouraged to apply each year. All members serve on a volunteer basis.


Michele Beleu

Born and raised in the Alisal neighborhood of Salinas, California, Michele had an early introduction to food access issues, industrial agriculture and their impacts on communities. She has a strong interest in improving food workers’ rights, finding ways to encourage fair labor policies, and building a more equitable food system. Michele has lived in the Bay Area for 15 years, including over 10 years in Oakland. She has served as a volunteer harvester on an organic farm, used human-centered design principles to explore food and public health challenges as a student, and helped organize a Filipino pop-up restaurant with classmates Aileen Suzara, Lila Rubenstein and Joyce Liu as a prototype to counter food related diseases through community, storytelling, and healthy, traditional Filipino dishes. She has a Master of Public Health from UC Berkeley, and works in healthcare as a Senior Professional Development Consultant in Physician Education & Development for Kaiser Permanente.


havenb_DSC3243Haven Bourque

Haven Bourque founded Oakland-based HavenBMedia to bring communications expertise to food system transformation. Her media advocacy group develops communications strategies and programs, trains spokespersons, and teaches social media engagement for diverse organizations ranging from prestigious non-profits to small businesses, national corporations and community activists working to reform food systems around health and wellness, social justice and environmental conservation. Her clients have been featured in national, regional and local media including in the New York Times, Washington Post, Boston Globe, San Francisco Chronicle, Oakland Tribune, San Jose Mercury News, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, POLITICO, Modern Farmer, Al-Jazeera America, Edible Communities, Daily Candy, Newsweek, TIME, NPR, KQED and Fast Company. She is proud of her work with Impact Hub Oakland, Anna Lappe’s Real Food Media Contest, Roots of Change, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Mindful Meats and Straus Family Creamery. She is a contributor to food-issues media platform, a Good Food Awards Judge, and was a creator of the nation’s first TEDx conference focused on farmworkers. She also co-founded Bay Area Women Leaders of Food & Agriculture. She lives in Oakland with her husband and three extraordinary Maine Coon cats. Follow her on Twitter: @HavenBourque.


CPC photoCat Chang

Cat Chang leads an Oakland-based architecture and urban design firm, Andrews + Chang, focused on supporting and creating regenerative ecological, agricultural and cultural footprints within cities. As an Architecture and Community Design professor at University of San Francisco, she leads students in developing local and international community-based projects, many of which include food production and preparation. Her research seeks to understand how infrastructure in cities can incorporate sustainable measures for intermodal transportation, stormwater management, food production and increased bio-diversity while enriching neighborhoods. Recent projects include creekside parks, urban farms and propagation facilities, portions of the Bay Trail and green schoolyards. She provided residents of South Prescott in West Oakland with new landscape designs as a part of a groundbreaking EPA toxic lead treatment project. Cat also serves on advisory committees and speaks at public appearances for various Bay Area cities, media outlets and institutions.

Lisa Chen

Lisa develops long-range plans and policies at the San Francisco Planning Department. She is a co-author of the Makers & Movers Economic Cluster Strategy, which identifies policy recommendations to support the city’s food manufacturers and distributors. Previously she was a land use planner at ChangeLab Solutions, working with communities around the country to advocate for policies to support healthy, sustainable food systems and active transportation. She has also worked as an educator and project manager at organizations focused on youth development, urban agriculture, participatory urban planning, and health impact assessment.


julie_cummins Julie Cummins

Julie Cummins is the director of education at CUESA (Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture), where she manages a growing department, writes grants, coordinates educational events, and develops programs, including a youth gardening and entrepreneurship program called Schoolyard to Market and food policy advocacy efforts. Prior to that she spent 10 years leading education programs for adults and youth in ecology, recycling and composting, gardening, and urban planning. Julie believes that access to good, healthy food should be a human right. One of her personal goals is to learn to genuinely love every fruit and vegetable in the farmers market, and she only has a few left to go.

danni headshotDanielle DeRuiter- Williams

Danielle is Senior Community Development Specialist with City Planning in San Francisco,
​tasked with developing and executing effective community engagement strategies and coalition building with residents, organizations, small business and city government entities. She is also CEO and Co-Founder of The Justice Collective a consulting cooperative committed to advancing racial and economic justice by leveraging collective expertise of professionals of color on strategic projects. She is also currently earning her MBA from Mills College with an emphasis in Diversity and Inclusion Strategy. She holds graduate degrees from UCLA in Afro-American Studies and Urban and Regional Planning where she specialized in economic development through community food production and best practices in inclusion of underrepresented populations to food policy councils.


Roy headshot 2014Renee Roy Elias

Renee Roy Elias is a Senior Associate at the Build Healthy Places Network based in San Francisco, where supports collaboration between the community development, public health and health care sectors nationwide. To OFPC, Renee brings over a decade of experience as a community planner committed to food justice, health equity, and neighborhood revitalization. She has worked extensively with community organizations to develop grocery stores, urban gardens, and neighborhood plans in Pittsburgh, PA, Washington D.C., and the San Francisco Bay Area. Renee received her PhD in City and Regional Planning from the University of California, Berkeley. She also holds a Bachelor of Architecture and Master of Urban Design from Carnegie Mellon University, and a Master of Science in Urban Geography from the University of Oxford, England.



Susan Ellsworth

Susan works to support a more vibrant local food economy in the East Bay, including direct educational and technical support for beginning farmers and ranchers. This includes hosting workshops and field days, as well as collaborating with partners throughout the region to identify and help address some of the challenges faced by local producers. Susan comes to OFPC from the Alameda County Conservation Partnership via UC Davis where she worked for the Agricultural Sustainability Institute, the Department of Land, Air and Water Resources, and the City of Davis to help develop a plan for Community Farms. She received her Master’s Degree in Community Development from UC Davis in 2011 and is happy to be working in beautiful Alameda County.


Jacqueline Gleason

Jacqueline is an Oakland resident, avid gardener, and Executive Producer and Host of a local food justice centered podcast called Real Food Real Talk. She recently earned a Master of Public Policy, with an emphasis on food policy, at Mills College in Oakland, California. During her graduate studies, she worked with Food Chain Workers Alliance to complete her Master Policy Report, Creating an Equitable and Sustainable Food System Through Local Policy Change, an analysis of the success of the Good Food Purchasing Program in Los Angeles. This report will help to inform future Good Food Purchasing Program campaigns across the U.S. Her previous work includes expanding access to healthy, affordable food for low-income school children across Colorado through community outreach and nutrition education efforts with Oakland based Revolution Foods. She believes strongly that local policy is critical to creating meaningful change in our food system. Oakland’s food system should provide all residents with access to healthy, affordable, and culturally appropriate food that is produced as locally as possible by workers treated with dignity and paid a living wage, using sustainable techniques. She looks forward to helping that become a reality. In her spare time you can find her exploring the magical outdoors with her partner and their adventurous pup, Mala.


HankHerrera2Hank Herrera

Hank Herrera is President & CEO of the Center for Popular Research, Education & Policy (C-PREP). C-PREP serves vulnerable communities with participatory action research, training, technical assistance and policy. His work specifically focuses on food justice and building community resilience. He recently formed New Hope Farms, a network of small cooperative farms linked to a network of small corner stores selling only healthy food. He is also co-founder and Director of the Sacred Community Land Trust, devoted to conserving farmland for farming by low-income farmers and ranchers.

Jen Matthews

Jen is a pediatrician and a mama to two wonderful kids. She grew up in the San Joaquin Valley and eventually moved north to attend medical school at UC Davis and complete her pediatric residency at Children’s Hospital Oakland. Her introduction to food justice started through seeing the downstream effects of our current food system in a clinical setting and organizing with Phat Beets Produce. She is an aspiring gardner and loves to cook and bring community together around food.


Sharyl headshotSharyl McGrew

Sharyl began working with the OFPC researching municipal food policies in the US and Canada to help guide the development of a citywide food policy for Oakland. She has over 15 years of experience as a program manager and educator, including training elementary and middle school teachers to garden with their students, developing a 2-acre community garden with Hmong residents in the Central Valley, and teaching college English and Communications to inmates at San Quentin prison. She currently works as a freelance grant writer, researcher, and policy analyst in higher education and food systems. She is a California native with a Masters Degree in Community and Regional Development from UC Davis.



Armando Y. Nieto

Armando is the executive director of the California Food and Justice Coalition. He has served as C.E.O. of Redefining Progress, Managing Director at the Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment, and Executive Director with Eagle Eye Institute in Somerville, Massachusetts, Earth Share of California and the Environmental Defense Center. Since 2005 he has served as organizing member of Summit 2007: Diverse Partners for Environmental Progress, and facilitator and report co-author for the related Western Regional Roundtable in Oakland and Southwest Regional Roundtable in Albuquerque, NM. He is president of the Tulare County Community Water Center and has served on the Advisory Boards of Just Communities, the PG&E ClimateSmart External Advisory Group, and the Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy.


Alyssia Plata

Alyssia Plata is a Marketing Specialist for Pacific Coast Farmers’ Market Association (PCFMA), working to promote CalFresh and Market Match use at local farmers’ markets, while also fostering relationships with community groups throughout the Bay Area. She has previously interned on a small organic farm in her hometown of Palmdale, CA, as well as with the Santa Monica Farmers Markets, where she began to understand the importance of community building to improve public health through local agriculture. She earned her BA in Public Relations from CSU, Bakersfield, graduating with honors in 2012. Alyssia began her relationship with OFPC as a Food Access intern, conducting research and composing a report on innovative policy-related and programmatic food access strategies that have been implemented by city governments and other organizations. Now a council member, she is excited to work with OFPC to rally the community to influence policies that will empower Oakland residents to liberate themselves from the health disparities created by our food system.

AllisonPratt2014Allison Pratt

Allison has been working as the Director of Policy and Services at the Alameda County Community Food Bank since 2005. In this position, she implements the Food Bank’s public policy agenda, which includes working closely with elected officials and their staffs to promote policies that address the root causes of hunger and poverty. Allison also works with local and statewide coalitions — including the California Hunger Action Coalition – to empower community members to become advocates. At the Food Bank, she oversees a multilingual food stamp outreach program that serves as the blueprint for food banks nationwide. Allison is the author of Hunger: The Faces & The Facts 2010, one of the most comprehensive local reports on hunger in the Feeding America network of food banks.


FarzanaSerang2Farzana Serang

When Farzana was young she gardened with her grandmother working to grow the spiciest chili they could. She’s still on that quest and in the meantime serves as the Executive Director of CoFED (The Cooperative Food Empowerment Directive) a nonprofit committed to supporting community-owned food systems with campus communities to build healthy, thriving, resilient, and equitable communities. Farzana is committed to equity and working with low-income communities and communities of color to build a more just world. She is currently a LeaderSpring Fellow and a Democracy at Work Institute (DAWI) Fellow. She is an equity advocate, policy nerd, community organizer, business advisor, coalition builder, facilitator and an occasional childcare provider. Farzana holds an A.A. in Early Childhood Development from Chabot Community College, a B.A. in Political Science from U.C. Berkeley and a Masters in City Planning from MIT where she specialized in community and economic development.


NeilThaparNeil Thapar

Neil is a staff attorney at the Oakland-based nonprofit Sustainable Economies Law Center, where he focuses on legal research, education, advice, and advocacy to build the legal infrastructure for a local and resilient food economy. He also maintains a small private practice advising small food businesses and farms. Prior to joining SELC, Neil apprenticed on a teaching farm at UC Santa Cruz where he also researched and authored several case studies on social justice in agriculture. Neil is an active community gardener and amateur seed saver. As an OFPC member, Neil offers his skills and experience in service to the Council’s mission to establish an equitable and resilient local food system in Oakland.


SapnaThottahillSapna Thottathil

Sapna E. Thottathil, PhD is the author of India’s Organic Farming Revolution: What it Means for our Global Food System. Currently, she is a Senior Associate of Supply Chain Programming at School Food FOCUS, a national collaborative that leverages the procurement power of large school districts to make school meals nationwide more healthful, regionally sourced, and sustainably produced. Sapna earned her BA from the University of Chicago, where she was awarded the Udall Scholarship for environmental leadership, before going on to receive an MSc from Oxford University and a PhD from the University of California at Berkeley, where she was the recipient of a Fulbright fellowship. In her spare time, Sapna enjoys cooking, gardening, hiking, and identifying wildflowers and birds.


SarahTing2014Sarah Ting

Sarah, a native of Oakland, currently leads a community food storytelling project, TableShare. She previously worked in public policy research at the Urban Institute focusing on national health, education and employment, and anti-poverty program evaluations for the Department of Labor and Department of Health and Human Services. After UI, she worked in India for a year conducting food systems fieldwork and community-based participatory research with a grassroots women’s empowerment organization, Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA). She recently returned to her hometown to work on a district-wide farm to school initiative and garden education for Oakland Unified School District’s Farm to School program through FoodCorps. In 2014, she was honored for her service with an invitation to meet First Lady Michelle Obama at the White House and help plant the spring kitchen garden there.


SabrinaWu2013Sabrina Wu

Sabrina Wu is the Project Director of the HOPE (Health for Oakland’s People and Environment) Collaborative, a community collaborative working to transform the food and fitness environments in Oakland’s neighborhoods with the greatest health disparities.  She has worked in public health, nutrition, and sustainable food systems for over 12 years.  She holds a MS in Agricultural, Food, and Environmental Policy from Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University, where she was a USDA Sustainable Science Fellow, and a BA from Barnard College of Columbia University.  She is also a graduate of the Natural Gourmet Institute’s Professional Chef Training Program.


Reyna Yagi

Reyna is the new Program Associate & Executive Assistant at Acta Non Verba: Youth Urban Farm Project. She grew up in the Easy Bay, but wandered upstream toward rural mountain communities in California and Colorado, working directly with the public, community groups and businesses on water quality and conservation issues. Much of her training and experience is in sustainable landscaping with an emphasis on water management and a certification as a Landscape Irrigation Auditor. After becoming involved with the urban farming scene in Colorado, she transitioned her focus to edible landscapes and obtained her Masters in Food Security in the UK. There she visited and interviewed 40 urban farm sites across England for her research project on urban ag and water use. Having recently returned to the Bay Area, Reyna hopes to meld her past experiences to promote urban ag and good food policy in Oakland.


jennifer lebarreJennifer LeBarre

Jennifer is the Director of Nutrition Services for the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD). Jennifer joined the OUSD in July 1998 after working in university dining for a private company. Jennifer supervises the day to day operations of the district’s school meal program including K-12 breakfast, lunch, and snack, CDC breakfast, lunch, and snack, and a la carte program ensuring compliance with Federal, State, and local meal program regulations including the Nutrition aspects of the Wellness Policy.


RobBennatonRob Bennaton

Bennaton has over 18 years of experience in horticulture/community development, habitat restoration and youth programming. Prior to UCCE, he was a Community Coordinator at the NYC Housing Authority’s Garden & Greening Program where he increased program participation to over 3000 members supporting 743 gardens citywide, leveraged >$4.5 million in-kind resources, and spearheaded the installation of NYCHA’s first rainwater harvesting system. Previously, Bennaton worked as a Forester for NY’s Department of Parks and Recreation on frontline ecological restoration of the Bronx River and local deciduous forests. Working with various non-profits, he has also taught youth/adult staff/volunteers stream bank/forest restoration, led AmeriCorps teams in organic vegetable production for donation to the homeless/AIDS patients and managed a farmer’s market. He also spent 16 years supervising programming and staff on weekends at an interactive organic children’s farm called the Howell Family Garden at the NY Botanical Garden.



Doug Bloch

Doug Bloch is the Political Director with Teamsters Joint Council 7, which represents over 100,000 workers in Northern California, the Central Valley, and Nevada. In California, over 75,000 Teamsters pick, process, package, and distribute food and beverages. Doug has twenty years experience as a community and labor organizer both here and abroad.


Robyns-Bio-Pic1-150x150Robyn Kumar works for the Alameda County Public Health Department in Nutrition Services. She works with school and school based health center staff, families, and students to develop and sustain the implementation of nutrition-focused initiatives and programs at select middle schools in Oakland Unified School District. Her areas of focus include access to healthy foods, peer-to-peer nutrition education, and garden-based education. Robyn is a Registered Dietitian with a Master’s Degree in Public Health from the University of Washington.




Talia Rubin, City of Oakland Human Services Department