Community Engagement and Leadership

The Berkeley Food Institute (BFI) Community Engagement and Leadership Fellowship supports graduate students to partner with sustainable food systems organizations to work on projects that are in alignment with BFI’s thematic areas: Promote Equitable Access to Good Food; Advance Fair and Healthy Jobs in Food Systems; and Accelerate the Adoption of Agroecology. Fellowships provide students with opportunities for leadership development and meaningful internship experiences that are also of enduring value to host organizations. Fellows complete the equivalent of at least 8 weeks of full time work during the summer. The fellowship can also be undertaken on a part time basis; however equivalent work must be completed before December 15.

The next fellowship call will be announced in early spring 2018.

2017 Fellows

Carmen Brick, 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, 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, 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.

Julieth H. Ortiz, 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.

2016 Fellows

  • Carolina Prado, PhD Candidate, Environmental Science, Policy, and Management; Designated Emphasis, Gender and Women’s Studies
  • Simone Saldanha, Masters Student, Public Health Nutrition

2015 Fellows

  • Michelle Azurin, Masters Student, Public Health Nutrtion
  • Laura Moreno, PhD Student, Energy Resources Group
  • John Romankiewicz, Masters Student, Public Policy and Energy Resources Group