Leadership Team

MFJN’s work is building BIPOC power by holding space for leaders of color to dictate what collaborative actions take place across the local food system. A space where power is held by those most affected by our current, inequitable food system, and resources are funneled into BIPOC-led, community-based groups, and support leaders who have been steeped in this work for decades. The 26 members of the Leadership Team represent frontline communities, groups and organizations. Leadership Team members co-lead an Action Team or they participate in either the Sustainability or Engagement Teams. 

Fayise Abrahim

Youthprise

Fayise works to advance key organizational initiatives and special projects while joining coalitions, task forces, and workgroups on the president’s behalf. She also leads the advancement team and cross-sector projects both within the organization and with external collaborators. Over the last ten years, she’s been rooted in social justice, racial justice, community-based research, community organizing, and youth advocacy. Outside of Youthprise, Fayise is a published writer, poet, and songwriter. You can find her writing in The BreakBeat Poets: Volume II Black Girl Magic, the 2019 Spring Edition of the Yellow Medicine Review and printed on the sidewalks at the intersection of Franklin and East 25th Street in Seward, Minneapolis.

Hani Abukar

Cross-Campus Food Access Coalition

Passionate about colorful adornment and appreciating the earth, Hani Abukar has made it her purpose to pour beauty into everything she does. Her deepest wish is for everyone to become attuned to and in tune with nature and to live a vibrant, joyful life. She is always seeking ways to invite others to bring more color into their lives, especially through food. Hani firmly believes in the importance of fresh, local produce for all. She is deeply grateful to help bring awareness and address the issue of food insecurity on college campuses with CFAC, a collaboration between Augsburg University, Hamline University, and St. Catherine University/Sisters of Saint Joseph of Carondelet whose mission is to bring systemic change on food accessibility in higher education through service, research, and advocacy.

Hayley Ball

Urban Roots

After Hayley graduated from Augsburg University with a BA in History, her career followed a few different paths, but all of them had one thing in common: a passion for creating equitable life-long learning opportunities. Previously she was the Adult & Community Programs Coordinator for TriDistrict Community Education – serving three major school districts in Dakota County. In her spare time, she also facilitates training sessions and workshops on addressing and dismantling structural inequities and creating inclusive spaces. She is very excited to have a position where she can align her personal passion for food justice and conservation into her professional life. When she’s not working, Hayley enjoys spending time with her family, camping and baking.

Sophia Benrud

Midwest Growers of Color

Sophia Benrud is a Black multiracial queer community organizer, grower, postpartum doula and chef currently residing in St Paul, MN (Dakota territories). She is committed to transforming the current movement by organizing within communities directly impacted by these issues while building stronger movements. Sophia is the Co-Founder of: Black Visions, The Minnesota Environmental Justice Table, The Midwest Farmers of Color and leads a BIPOC farmers mapping project, is currently the MISA chair at the University of Minnesota Agricultural Systems and Divine Natural Ancestry

LaChelle Cunningham

Chef, Entrepreneur & Educator

Chef Lachelle has been a dynamic force on the Twin Cities’ food scene and is known for cooking globally inspired comfort food that thwarts unhealthy stereotypes and fuses in global flavors. She began her culinary career by launching Chelles’ Kitchen in 2012 and soon became known for her work as the founding Executive Chef of Breaking Bread Cafe (2015) in North Minneapolis, where she received many accolades for her food creativity and social justice work. In 2018, Chef Lachelle began building Healthy Roots Institute, with a mission focused on healing and social justice through food education, culinary arts and entrepreneurship.

Fernando Burga

University of Minnesota

Fernando Burga is an Assistant Professor at the University of Minnesota at both the Humphrey School of Public Affairs and U of M Extension. His research, teaching, and service focus on urban planning, particularly the incorporation of immigrant populations into planning, and urban food systems. Fernando has a background in architecture, urban design, and urban planning, having worked on an array of sustainable urbanism projects before academia. Fernando obtained his doctorate degree in city and regional planning from the University of California, Berkeley. He was a fellow at the Center for Research on Social Change at UC Berkeley and a lecturer at UC Berkeley, San Francisco State University, and San Jose State University.

Rodrigo Cala

Latino Economic Development Center

Rodrigo Cala grew up in a farm family near Mexico City which grew broccoli and cauliflower. The family operated a vending booth at the Centro de Abastos in Mexico City, which is a huge wholesale market. He moved from Mexico to Minnesota in 1996. After graduating from the Minnesota Food Association three-year training program for immigrant farmers near Marine on St. Croix, Minnesota, Rodrigo and his brother purchased their own farm. Rodrigo is currently an agricultural trainer at LEDC where he is responsible for developing and delivering an agricultural training program for beginning Latino farmers.

Micah Helle

The Good Acre

Micah Helle (they/he) is the Wholesale Partnership Manager at
The Good Acre, where they are excited to help institutions build equity into their purchasing decisions and buying programs. Micah previously has led initiatives related to local produce and CPG procurement for Pillsbury United Communities’ (PUC) distributed network of Food Shelves and Community Cafes and created PUC’s Hydroponic Farmer Training Program. Micah honed their expertise in food and supply chain innovation through roles at Square Roots, Kimbal Musk’s renowned Ag x Tech start-up, and Smallhold in Brooklyn, New York.

Jenny Breen

Chef, Author & Educator

Jenny Breen has been a professional chef and advocate for sustainable food systems and food justice, and has worked directly with farmers and producers in the Twin Cities area, since the mid 1980’s. She was co-owner of Good Life Cafe and Catering, a sustainable food business, from 1996-2013. She is a 2009 Archibald Bush Foundation Leadership Fellow and completed her MPH in Nutrition at the University of Minnesota in 2011, while working to build strong networks within health and food systems for greater access to food, support for sustainable farming, and understanding of cooking as a health strategy. Her first cookbook , “Cooking up the Good Life,” emphasizes local, seasonal whole foods cooking for families, and was released in April of 2011 from the University of Minnesota Press.

Queen Frye

R Roots Garden

Queen Frye is an urban farmer of North Mpls. She began strengthening her gardening skills when she was a young girl in Boston with her grandmother and in North Minneapolis growing up, always having a backyard garden. Queen began growing on a larger scale in 2016 with St. Paul Public housing and Melvin Giles as a garden mentor. In 2017 Queen was inspired during with with Ujaama Place to imagine new ways to build community, document stories and strengthen self-sufficiency. R. Roots Garden was born in January 2019 through a partnership with AFC as a way to impact north Minneapolis’ need to have more locally grown food, inspire young growers and use the garden as a place of healing and connection with all living things. Queen Frye is a Mother, distance runner and spoken word artist. She is very passionate about the present and future of North Minneapolis residents and the young leader’s ability to grow food and feed themselves.

Leah Gardner

Hunger Solutions

Leah Gardner is Policy Director for Hunger Solutions Minnesota. Prior to that she was Campaign Manager for the Good Food Access Campaign at the American Heart Association. Leah’s career has been grounded in a commitment to racial and economic justice. She previously led grassroots efforts in policy campaigns to advance economic equity for the Minnesota Budget Project at the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits. She began her career managing employment training and fundraising at Project for Pride in Living. Leah is a Voices for Racial Justice Apprentice and a graduate of the Humphrey Institute with a Master of Public Policy.

Melvin Giles

Urban Farm & Garden Alliance

Melvin Giles has extensive experience working with youth, academia, government agencies, nonprofit agencies and neighborhood groups. He is the co-coordinator for Urban Farm & Garden Alliance. UFGA is a collaboration of community gardens that collectively work to promote reconciliation, healing, peace, social and environmental justice through the cultivation and sharing of food in Saint Paul. Melvin has served as an adjunct community faculty instructor at Bethel University, is an advisor to the Diversity Committee of Ramsey County Master Gardeners and a certified Racial Sobriety Workshop facilitator and anti-racism trainer. Melvin received the Martin Luther King “Dream Keeper” Award in 2003, the McKnight Foundation “Virginia McKnight Binger Awards” in Human Service in 2005, the “Outstanding World Citizen” Award in 2008, Bethel University’s “George K. Brushaber Reconciliation Award” in 2009, and the Morrill Hall/Rachel Tilsen Social Justice Award in 2011.

Richard Gordon

LUV Microgreens

Richard Gordon, farmer and owner of LUV Microgreens created his business to build and spread avenues of collective health, wealth and freedom throughout Black Communities in the Twin Cities Metro. His humble beginnings for LUV Microgreens started in South Central Los Angeles in the backyard of his Grandmother’s home. He started his first garden to become healthier by establishing a direct relation with the food he was putting into his body; this led him to exploring different ways of growing food and ultimately starting his journey of indoor farming. One of Richard’s goals is to create a more equitable food system; through his effort he is helping his community grow and take back control of their own health, access to wealth and economic mobility.

Terese Hill

M Health Fairview

Terese Hill is the Supervisor, Community Advancement Food Systems Strategy with M Health Fairview working to address food security in both patient populations, as well as the broader community we’re connected to. With over 17 years of community engagement and program management experience, she’s been able to establish, implement, and grow programs within the sustainable food systems, environmental justice, and healthcare sectors. Terese is passionate about dignified, sustainable, food security and systems because every human being deserves access to high-quality, culturally meaningful, and delicious food produced in a way that takes care of our planet and people.

Michelle Horovitz

Appetite for Change

Minnesota native, Michelle is one of the co-founders of Appetite For Change (AFC), a nonprofit social enterprise organization dedicated to using food as a tool to build health, wealth and social change. Michelle grows networks, opportunities, and advocacy efforts as VP of Innovation. She has worked as a public defender in Miami-Dade, FL and in the kitchen of a James Beard award-winning chef. Michelle’s father’s family is from the Northside, and she has a passion for building racial and social equity in this community. Michelle enjoys growing food, biking and spending time with her family and friends. She lives in Minneapolis with her husband, two children and three dogs. 

Robin Manthie

MN Kindred Kitchen/Second Harvest

Robin has led Minnesota Central Kitchen (MCK) from a temporary COVID-19 response organization to a permanent program of Second Harvest Heartland Food Bank. Before joining MCK, Robin launched new products and developed marketing and operational strategies at General Mills, Feeding America, 3M, and Boston Consulting Group and received an MBA from Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Business. Robin believes in the power of food to connect people and is especially fond of meals built around small plates, which allow her to try as many new foods and talk to as many people as possible. Robin lives in Minneapolis with her family.

Theresa McCormick

The Good Acre

Theresa McCormick is the Executive Director of The Good Acre. Her previous position, she spent nearly a decade at Second Harvest Heartland, most recently as their Director of Programs and Healthcare Partnerships. During her time there, she led initiatives to increase access to food, including scaling the Midwest Region Produce Cooperative, efforts to boost federal nutrition program participation, as well as connecting food-insecure patients to nutritious food and education to improve health. The COVID-19 pandemic only further underscored her belief: access changes everything. Theresa is an active community volunteer and lives in Northeast Minneapolis with her family.

Reuben Moore

Minnesota Community Care

Reuben Moore, EdD, MBA, is president and executive officer for Minnesota Community Care. As a health industry leader, Mr. Moore has championed consumer experience, innovation, and fundamental execution throughout the healthcare eco-system, adapting to changing industry dynamics to help organizations in the public and private sector rethink strategies, execution methods, and value concepts. As a community leader and former chair of the MNsure health industry advisory committee, he has driven strategies and policies that improve health care access for all Minnesotans

Fatima Muhammad

Community Member

With over two decades of working with and on behalf of young people and families from historically marginalized backgrounds, Fatima Z. Muhammad is a strategic leader that develops and leads innovative strategies to help organizations and communities thrive. Motivated by a desire to achieve racial justice, Fatima has a strong track record of collaborating and coordinating with institutional and community stakeholders to leverage and align systems that eliminate systemic barriers. The passionate change agent is a native of North Minneapolis and the proud mother of two amazing girls that enjoys gardening, traveling, and serving her community.

Ethan Neal

Second Harvest

Ethan Neal is a 7th generation farmer and laborer born in Iowa and raised in Northfield, Minnesota. Despite being surrounded by agriculture throughout his life, it wasn’t until he started working with Pillsbury United that he grew food for the community. Since that first growing season in 2011, connecting people to food, soil, and their farmers has been his life’s work. Ethan studied at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities and earned a Certified Professional Project Management certificate from the University of St. Thomas. He is a member of the Twin Cities Leadership Cohort of 2021, a charter member of the Twin Cities Rotary Ecoclub, and a former Rotary Youth Exchange Student and program ambassador.

Derek Nicholas

Division of Indian Work

Derek Nicholas, Red Cliff Band Ojibwe, has been working within the food systems in many critical ways, including but not limited to work around food security and sovereignty, language revitalization, seed saving, food cultivation, culinary arts, and youth engagement. Derek is currently employed in Minneapolis, working at the Division of Indian Work as the Nutrition Program Coordinator. He has his BA in Economics and Global Business Management from the University of Minnesota Morris. Derek is also the owner of Wiisining LLC, an organization focused empowering communities by reclaiming indigenous food ways. Wiisinig LLC aims to practice and conduct valuable research around traditional practices such as sustainable food production, seed saving, wild food identification, culinary practices, and stories. Their work will help preserve indigenous wisdom and create resources for families and community.

Tim Page

Holistic Health Farms

Holistic Health Farms is an urban farm and aquaponics site in St. Paul. The farm specializes in greenhouse grown microgreens, lettuce and other “light-feeding” greens as well as garlic, ginger and turmeric. In addition to food production, Holistic Health Farms provides a variety of services for the community, including: Developing gardens for organizations, creating market gardens, Soil building/composting, Healthy meals for groups, educating youth, adults, seniors, Garden design, Workshops, raised bed construction and collaborate with developers to integrate food production gardens into the landscape of planned developments.

David Peeples

The Food Group

David has over 25 years of leadership experience in nonprofit community-driven collaboratives, entry-level workforce coaching, and various healthcare and corrections industries. He has built and cultivated effective teams, created and managed innovative programs, and led inclusive community outreach. His areas of expertise also include change management, motivational interviewing, mental health and wellness, and relationship management. David’s personal vision is to develop community partnerships that produce generational excellence in well-being. He sees himself as a connector – helping individuals see their inner greatness and collaborating on transformative strategies that benefit themselves and their communities. He has supported awareness of new possibilities while celebrating past community strengths.

GillEtte Kinnon-Williams

West Side Community Organization

GillEtte Kinnon-Williams is a diverse community leader who has lived and worked alongside many different communities. She has been a resident of Minnesota for 26 years and has made family security and community her mission and focused passion. The West Side St. Paul resident is currently an active member of West Side Community Organization (WSCO) where she utilizes her skills and experience to create equitable changes for her community. She possesses many different roles in leadership from Social Service Director with low-income housing to working in education for over a decade. GillEtte has championed on many boards including Hennepin County Northwest Suburbs, Community Action for Suburban Hennepin Board and the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act Board.

Rhys Williams

Community Member

Rhys studied landscape architecture, served in the peace corps in Kenya and has worked in almost every aspect of the food system. over 20 years. From farming, to wholesale buying for Co-Op Partners (organic wholesaler) he knows what it takes to have a thriving and more equitable, local food system. Rhys believes creating market opportunities for independent, minority, and immigrant farmers is key to strengthening the Twin Cities food system. In his most recent employment as the founding ED of The Good Acre until 2022, Rhys helped build programs that connect and strengthen farmers, food makers, and communities through good food.