Student Fellows

BFI supports student fellows across disciplines to research pressing policy issues and undertake community engagement projects. BFI also convenes the UC Global Food Initiative Student Fellows. Any open calls for student fellowships are listed here.


Emily Altman

Emily Altman, Food Access and Security Fellow

Master’s Student, Public Health Nutrition. Emily’s passion lies at the intersection of nutrition and food security. Originally from North Carolina, she attended Emory University where she graduated summa cum laude as an Anthropology and Global Health major. She then spent two years as a Child Hunger Corps member at the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County where she evaluated child nutrition programs. As the UC Global Food Initiative Food Access and Security Fellow, Emily will work on implementation and growth of the new UC Food Security Model. The Food Access and Security Fellowship is funded through the UC Global Food Initiative.

Carmen Brick, Community Engagement and Leadership Fellow

PhD Student, Sociology. Carmen is a third-year doctoral student who has held positions with the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Congressional Research Service, and the New York State Legislature. Carmen studied Sociology at Mount Holyoke College and Public Administration at the State University of New York at Albany, and hopes to use her sociological training and governmental experience to contribute to policies that improve the economic security and social inclusion of low-income people. Carmen’s current research examines how US work institutions can be reformed to reverse contemporary job polarization. During her fellowship, Carmen will partner with a workforce training program, Kitchen of Champions, which provides culinary training, professional development support, industry certification, case management, and job placement support to individuals facing high barriers to employment. As a fellow, Carmen will assist the program in building capacity in several areas, including professional development, case management to address barriers to employment, and job placement with the goal of improving access to living-wage employment in the food system. She is pleased to be putting ideas into action through the Community Engagement and Leadership Fellowship.

Erika Brown, Community Engagement and Leadership Fellow

PhD Student, Epidemiology with an emphasis in Public Health Nutrition. Erika originally hails from San Diego, CA. She completed a BA in American Studies and Community Health at Tufts University and an MPH in Epidemiology/Biostatistics at UC Berkeley. As an undergraduate, she nurtured an interest in improving access to social safety net services working as a client advocate at LIFT. Ever since, she has conducted public health research that takes a system-focused, data-driven approach to improving wellness through program and policy development. Since coming to graduate school, Erika has narrowed her focus to resources that support food security, in particular. As a community engagement and leadership fellow, Erika will return to Southern California to work with the San Diego Hunger Coalition on the Hunger Free San Diego Initiative. She aims to identify barriers that prevent marginalized populations from accessing different forms of food assistance and working with community partners to create multi-sectoral approaches that address them.

Jim LaChance, Community Engagement and Leadership Fellow

PhD student, Environmental Science, Policy, and Management. As a PhD student in ESPM, Jim focuses on sociological and ecological food systems research. He is interested in working with farmers and fishermen to solve problems they face as producers, while also supporting the health of their communities and environments—particularly in coastal regions like New England, where he grew up. As a Community Engagement and Leadership Fellow, he will be collaborating with BFI and the Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance (NAMA), which is based in Gloucester, Massachusetts. Broadly, his work as a BFI fellow aims to build support for socially, economically, and environmentally just fisheries within our food system. Through his work with NAMA, he will identify areas of alignment between farmers and fishermen in the upcoming reauthorizations of the Farm Bill and the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (a.k.a. the Fish Bill).  His work will include policy research, communications and outreach, and participating in community events with NAMA on both the East and West Coasts.

Grace Lihn

Grace Lihn, Experiential Learning Fellow

Undergraduate Student, Cooperative Urban Food Systems. Grace Lihn is an ever-curious social science student with a background in critical pedagogy, urban planning, and environmental activism. She has served as the Communications Director for the Berkeley Student Food Collective, where she continues to work with other students to create a more equitable storefront and community space. She has also mentored first-year students in a residential sustainability program, facilitated gardening classes for the Student Organic Gardening Association, and trained as a middle school educator with Breakthrough Collaborative in Oakland, California. When she’s not immersed in research on cooperatives and food systems, Grace enjoys traveling and painting watercolors. As the UC Global Food Initiative Experiential Learning Fellow, Grace will advocate for experiential learning opportunities across UC Berkeley, with a specific focus on hands-on campus food production. The Experiential Learning Fellowship is funded through the UC Global Food Initiative.

Maywa Montenegro de Wit

Maywa Montenegro de Wit, Center for Diversified Farming Systems Fellow

PhD Candidate, Environmental Science, Policy, and Management. As Communications Coordinator for the Diversified Farming Systems Center, Maywa manages a growing listserv of academics, community organizers, and policymakers who share articles, research opportunities, and collaborative ideas online. Bringing her background in science journalism to meet agri-food issues, she enjoys fostering dialogue at the interface of media and research, and to those ends, occasionally publishes Friday Food Links. Maywa also serves as the graduate student representative on the Berkeley committee for the UC Global Food Initiative, and has been part of the team helping to design the Center for Urban Agroecology and Food Justice. Maywa’s own dissertation work focuses on seeds, agroecology, and food system diversity, with writings on these topics appearing in the journals Agriculture and Human Values, Globalizations, and Gastronomica, as well as popular venues such as the Earth Island Journal, Ensia, Seed Magazine, and the Boston Globe.

Julieth H. Ortiz, Community Engagement and Leadership Fellow

Dual Master’s Student, City Planning and Environmental Planning-Landscape Architecture. Julieth is from Barranquilla, Colombia and holds a degree from Baruch College (CUNY) in Public Affairs. Her research mostly looks at food accessibility and health disparities in low-income communities. As a fellow, Julieth will be collaborating with the Mayor’s Office at the City of Richmond in efforts to improve access to healthy foods and strengthen health equity for local residents. She is interested in understanding the decision-making process behind ‘eating choices,’ and exploring how access to locally grown, healthy foods affects those choices. This can only be accomplished co-producing knowledge with the community. Julieth hopes to influence how disadvantaged communities are identified. She is particularly interested in connecting food equity to AB 2227, Transformative Climate Communities. Findings from her fellowship will link to the ongoing health, food and environmental equity work in Richmond, in particular the Food Census Project, and also inform her Master’s joint thesis.

Melina Packer

Melina Packer, Equity and Inclusion Fellow

PhD Student, Environmental Science, Policy, and Management (ESPM). Melina takes an intersectional feminist approach to agri-food studies. She is particularly intrigued by the embodied effects of industrial/technological food production, including how “nature” and “culture” become mutually constitutive. Melina is also an active member of the ESPM Graduate Diversity Council and the ESPM union steward for UAW Local 2865. As UC Global Food Initiative Equity and Inclusion Fellow, Melina will serve as co-leader, along with Hortencia Rodríguez, of the ongoing project “Building Equitable and Inclusive Food Systems at UC Berkeley.” The Equity and Inclusion Fellowship is partially funded through the UC Global Food Initiative.

Hortencia Rodríguez

Hortencia Rodríguez, Equity and Inclusion Fellow

Dual Master’s Student, Public Policy and International and Area Studies. Hortencia is from San Juan, Puerto Rico and graduated from Wesleyan University with a degree in Anthropology. Her research has primarily focused on studying innovative anti-poverty initiatives to understand the possibilities and limitations of different social service models that address the barriers making it difficult for individuals to lead healthy and fulfilling lives. Her current research explores established and emerging female-led food justice movements in Puerto Rico that are working to revive and reclaim food production on the island. These movements aim to create sustainable food systems that decrease dependence on imports, provide island-wide access to healthy food products, and include community members in production and distribution systems. She hopes to design responsive and equitable policies that support the transformation of local and regional food systems in Puerto Rico to secure greater economic and political autonomy for the island. As UC Global Food Initiative Equity and Inclusion Fellow, Hortencia will serve as co-leader, along with Melina Packer, of the ongoing project “Building Equitable and Inclusive Food Systems at UC Berkeley.” The Equity and Inclusion Fellowship is partially funded through the UC Global Food Initiative.

Agnes Zhu

Agnes Zhu, UC Global Food Initiative Student Ambassador

Undergraduate Student, Business Administration. Agnes, an Indiana native and third year student, has always had a passion for food. During her junior year of high school, she was introduced to the world of food justice at The Mountain School in Vershire, Vermont. There, she learned about farm life, food production, and food’s importance to the environment. At Berkeley, Agnes is currently researching different aspects of the food industry and hopes to continue pursuing her passion for the next four years. She interns at the Edible Schoolyard Foundation and teaches her own class on innovative solutions to the problems within our food systems. As the UC Global Food Initiative Student Ambassador, Agnes serves as the GFI student engagement go‐to person for UC Berkeley. The Student Ambassador is funded through the UC Global Food Initiative.