Who We Are

Our Team

Faculty Directors

Charisma S. Acey

Faculty Director


Charisma Acey is an Associate Professor of City and Regional Planning and a member of our Executive Committee. Her work focuses on local and regional environmental sustainability, with special attention to poverty reduction, urban governance, connections between food justice and environmental justice, urban agroecology, and access to basic services.

Timothy Bowles

Co-Associate Faculty Director


Timothy Bowles is an Assistant Professor of Agroecology and Sustainable Agricultural Systems in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management. His research focuses on how increasing reliance on biodiversity can create productive, healthy and resilient agricultural systems, drawing on agroecology, soil ecology, and biogeochemistry.

Susana Matias

Co-Associate Faculty Director


Susana Matias is a Cooperative Extension Specialist in the Department of Nutritional Sciences and Toxicology. Her research concentrates on food security, as well as obesity and diabetes prevention, through nutrition education and behavioral change interventions. Dr. Matias’ research is particularly focused on women, children, and immigrant and farmworker populations.


ab banks

Agroecology and Wellness Coordinator


ab is a healer and a farmer. They graduated from UC Berkeley in 2016. They’re a deep advocate for complete self sustainability. Born in Oakland, they embody the heart of the Black Panthers and serve as a part of the central committee for People’s Programs, an organization in West Oakland that serves the people through a host of programming. They care about creating sovereignty from an intersectional stand point, pushing folks that are last to go first and letting love lead the way.

Francisco Benítez

Project Scientist


Francisco Benítez Altuna was born in Quito, Ecuador, where he earned an engineering degree in agro-industry from the National Polytechnic School and managed the yellow corn value chain at the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Aquaculture and Fisheries. He received a dual MA in agribusiness and rural development from the University of Göttingen in Germany and the University of Talca in Chile. He holds a PhD at Wageningen University, where he focused on food value chains. His research addresses the policy and socioeconomic barriers to sustainable food systems. He is interested in analyzing governance mechanisms, contracting, market orientation, innovation, and equity.

Scott Chang-Fleeman

Administrative and Finance Director


Scott Chang-Fleeman is a UC Santa Cruz Environmental Studies alum, vegetable farmer, and Santa Cruz Center for Agroecology alum. His farm, Shao Shan Farm, specializes in growing certified organic Asian vegetables for Bay Area AAPI chefs, grocers, and farmers markets. As a member of the farmer collaborative Second Generation Seeds, he also grows, saves, and distributes rare and climate adapted varieties of Asian vegetables. Prior to BFI, he worked at the Claremont Colleges managing operations, finances, education, and undergraduate employment at their educational farm and food waste recovery program. Outside of work, he volunteers time lobbying for increased resources for farmers of color and leads educational and cultural events around food, farming, and seed sovereignty for various community groups.

Nina F. Ichikawa

Executive Director


Nina F. Ichikawa is the Executive Director for the Berkeley Food Institute. She previously served in the office of US Senator Daniel K. Inouye and with the US Department of Agriculture’s “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food” Initiative. She received a BA in Interdisciplinary Studies/Food Policy from UC Berkeley and a MA in International Relations/Food Policy from Meiji Gakuin University in Tokyo. She volunteers for the California Farmer Justice Collaborative, Saba Grocers, the Sustainable Pest Management Workgroup, and Japanese American Women Alumnae of UC Berkeley.

Nathalie A. Muñoz

Community Engagement Program Manager


Nathalie A. Muñoz is a 2018 UC Berkeley graduate with a BS in Environmental Sciences. Before joining the Berkeley Food Institute team, she was the Contracting and Purchasing Agent for the Berkeley Student Cooperative where she procured the food and supplies for 1,300 student-members. As a first-generation transfer student at Cal, she was a student researcher for BFI, working on the Berkeley Foodscape Mapping Project to help collect data on campus gardens, student food groups, and UC Berkeley food course historical trends. As the descendant of a Bracero farmworker, she is passionate about uplifting the marginalized voices of our food labor force.

Austin Price

Communications Coordinator


Austin Price is a writer and editor focused on environmental justice, climate change, biodiversity, and food and agriculture. He has a degree in history from Emory University and a master’s in journalism from the University of Texas at Austin. Before coming to BFI, he worked as an editor for Earth Island Journal and maintained a small market garden in the Northwest Territories, Canada. His writing and photography have appeared in Edible East Bay, Sierra, Bay Nature, Yale Environment 360, the Texas Tribune, and others. Aside from work, he enjoys spending time outdoors with his wife, son, and dog, and making music with his guitar and mandolin.

Sakeenah Shabazz

Policy Director


Sakeenah Shabazz was born and raised in Southeast San Diego, CA. She earned a bachelor’s degree in Philosophy from Georgetown University and a Master of Public Policy degree from the Goldman School at the University of California, Berkeley. In the District of Columbia, Sakeenah was deeply involved in anti-hunger and anti-poverty research and advocacy with D.C. Hunger Solutions and the Congressional Hunger Center, where she was a 23rd class Emerson National Hunger Fellow. She supported BFI’s policy, research, and educational advocacy efforts as a policy assistant for two years while pursuing her MPP and completed graduate internships with the California Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO) and the San Francisco Human Services Agency (SFHSA). Outside of work, you can find Sakeenah exploring East Bay farmers’ markets, traveling, and spending time with her friends and family around Oakland.

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