Team

Charisma S. Acey, Faculty Director

Charisma Acey (she/her) 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 (he/him) 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 (she/her) 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.


 

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Francisco Benítez, Project Scientist

Francisco Benítez Altuna (he/him) 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 holds master’s degrees in agribusiness and rural development from the Georg-August University of Göttingen in Germany and the University of Talca in Chile. He is currently a PhD candidate at Wageningen University & Research in the Netherlands. During his academic career, he has developed an interest and speciality in understanding the complex challenges farmers face in their transition to sustainable food value chains.

Victoria K. Chang, Educational Programs Director

Vicky Chang (she/her) is an experiential teacher and scientist, farmer and environmental land steward. She is passionate about equitable access to nutritious food for all. She earned a PhD in Biochemistry, Molecular, and Cellular Biology from Cornell University and was an Assistant Professor at Drew University and other liberal arts colleges. Vicky started an organic farm in the Sierra Nevada foothills selling at local farmer’s markets and working to bring nutritious produce to under-served communities. At Joshua Tree National Park, she served as Director of Citizen Science, creating a community participatory education program that brought together scientific experts, educators, and the public to collect biodiversity and climate change data. Outside of work, she loves communing with nature, hiking and rock climbing in the outdoors, growing food and cooking, and playing music on her mandolin and piano.

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Scott Chang-Fleeman, Administrative and Finance Director

Scott Chang-Fleeman (he/him) 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.

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Nina F. Ichikawa, Executive Director

Nina F. Ichikawa (she/her) 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.

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Nathalie A. Muñoz, Community Engagement Program Manager

Nathalie A. Muñoz (she/her) 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.

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Austin Price, Communications Coordinator

Austin Price (he/him) 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 has 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 (she/her) 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.

Lekeisha Simpson

Lekeisha Simpson, Agroecology and Wellness Coordinator

Lekeisha Simpson (they/them) is a graduate of Jackson State University, the University of Phoenix graduate studies program in Rehabilitation and Counseling, and has a Permaculture Design Certification. They are a land steward, committed to the principles of food sovereignty and land justice to BIPOC and marginalized communities. Their work focuses on uplifting the importance of holistic wellness and creative expression to healing the people and land. By restoring and regenerating the land and protecting the environment (including restoring human networks), they hope to connect and honor ancestral traditional wisdom that exists in nature. They stand on the shoulders of their grandparents and other ancestors with many years of service in food production and distribution. They volunteer as a platoon leader for the Bay Area branch of The Mission Continues, a veterans service organization.