Diasporic Foods: An exploration of ongoing food relationships and connections

April 5-6, 2024
Hybrid Conference: Zoom (Friday, April 5) and in-person in Berkeley Way West Room 1102, UC Berkeley Campus or hybrid via Zoom (Saturday, April 6)

Conference registration is now open, and is free and open to all.

The Food Institute Graduate Council (FIGC) at Berkeley is excited to invite students, scholars, community members, and artists to the fourth annual FIGC Food Systems Conference, titled “Diasporic Foods: An exploration of ongoing food relationships and connections.”

The objective of the conference is to connect scholars, community members, educators, artists, practitioners, and policy makers through narratives and discussions of the histories, existence, impacts, and futures of diasporic events and communities through the lens of food.

Diaspora refers to the dispersion of a group of people from their homelands. Traditional food cultivation, preparation, and consumption can be strong sources of connection and grounding to both ancestral and current lands of diasporic peoples. The migrations of ideas and practices due to diasporic events has impacted the food system across the globe.

To view details about previous conferences, please see the FIGC page on the Berkeley Food Institute website.

If you have any questions, please email

Conference Schedule

Friday, April 5th, 2024

Online via Zoom

11:15 am – Zoom Webinar Opens
11:30 – Opening Remarks
11:40 – [Panel] Holding and Communicating: diasporic food sharing practices (Speakers: Eric Himmelfarb, Phalika Oum, Stephen Stresow)
12:40 pm – Break
12:45 – [Panel] Narratives of Migration: identity, belonging, and survival (Speakers: Laura Gabriela Linares, Grecia Marquez-Nieblas, Sierra Hampton, Sheyda M. Aboii)
2:00 – Break
2:05 – [Panel] Tracing Histories and Power (Speakers: Carmela Wilkins, Evan Hazelett, Orven Mallari)
3:05 – Break
3:10 – [Panel] Cultural Foods, Health, and Wellbeing (Speakers: Nicole Karongo, Matthew Kekoa Lau)
3:55 – Break
4:00 – [Keynote] Rupa Marya, MD – Associate Professor at UCSF, executive director of Deep Medicine Circle
5:00 – Closing Remarks

Saturday, April 6th, 2024

In-person at Berkeley Way West Room 1102 and online via Zoom

9:45 am – Check in begins
10:00 – Opening Remarks
10:10 – [Panel] Exploring Diasporic Identities through Ancestral Storytelling (Speakers: Amanda Palacios, Jensen Villaflor, Mairi Creedon)
11:10 – Break
11:15 – [Pane] Cultural Preservation and Transformation (Speakers: Natasha Bunzl, Nicholas Newman, Paolina Lu, Queer & Trans Việt Cafe Collective [Hải Võ, Lan Ngo, Amanda Linh Vong])
12:30 pm – Lunch
1:30 – [Panel] Reclaiming Identities and Food Practices (Speakers: Fabiola Santiago, Phoebe Wu, Alba Tomasula y Garcia)
2:30 – Break
2:35 – [Panel] Cultivating Food and Empowerment (Speakers: Nisha Marwaha, Meiko Krishok, Dakota Hafalia)
3:35 – Break
3:40 – [Keynote Panel] Ali Anderson (Feed Black Futures), Adrionna Fike (Cooperation Richmond), Jeneba Kilgore (Agroecology Commons)
4:40 – Closing Remarks
4:50 – 6:00 – Reception

Holding and Communicating: diasporic food sharing practices

Eric Himmelfarb

Eric Himmelfarb is a PhD candidate in Food Studies at NYU Steinhardt. His research, writing and teaching explore the impact of poetic practices and methods on efforts for food system connection and transformation. He has taught a course in the Department of Nutrition & Food Studies that explores these methods, entitled Food in the Arts: the Poetic Voice. He also earned an M.A. in Food Studies from NYU and previously worked at City Harvest, a nonprofit anti-hunger organization in New York City.

Phalika Oum

Phalika’s background in sociology and anthropology informs their interests in migration and diasporas, food anthropology, and decolonization work. Previously, Phalika stewarded the Grantham Community Garden in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, and trained with the Multinational Exchange for Sustainable Agriculture (MESA), which deepened their appreciation for plant wisdom, food practices, and anti-oppressive discourse. Born and raised in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, they currently reside in Delaware on the lands of the Lenni-Lenape peoples and work remotely at Pasa Sustainable Agriculture, a nonprofit committed to healthy and sustainable farms and food systems.

Stephen Stresow

Stephen Stresow (he/him) began gardening as a middle schooler in El Paso, Texas – in the heart of the Chihuahuan Desert. He is currently a first-year PhD student in the Hayden Lab at Michigan State researching ways to sustainably provide enough nitrogen on organic vegetable farms. He hopes that this will reduce nutrient runoff, give farmers more tools to manage their soil fertility, and reduce the yield gap in organic agriculture. Prior to this, he earned an BS and Masters in horticulture from Cornell University, where he worked in plant pathology and organic vegetable production.

Narratives of Migration: identity, belonging, and survival

Laura Linares

Founder of Conuco bookshop & research center specialized in food systems. Outreach coordinator at U-Tópicas bookstore and publishing house. Master in Applied Linguistics with more than 8 years experience in the cultural and publishing industries. Food Research Methodology professor at UCAB and Terminology professor at UNAM. Director of the Gastronomic Dictionary of Mexican Mushrooms project. Winner of the Iberculturas 2022 Good Practices in Migrant Cuisine Award.

Grecia Marquez-Nieblas

Grecia immigrated from Mexico with her parents and grew up hearing about her ancestral land and Raramuri heritage through food stories. She earned a Bachelor’s in Psychology from the University of California San Diego and her Master’s in Marriage and Family Therapy from Hope International University in Fullerton, CA. Grecia then pursued her passion for community wellness and food sovereignty by completing a Certificate in Agroecology from UC Santa Cruz’s Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems. Grecia currently works with SPUR to create a Bay Area where everyone has enough food to lead a healthy life. Prior to joining SPUR, she worked with the County of Riverside Department of Mental Health and at the University of California Riverside implementing emergency support programs for student basic needs while advocating for policy change to qualify students for Calfresh.

Sierra Hampton

Sierra Hampton is an enrolled member of the Chickasaw Nation and has a B.A. in Political Science from UC Berkeley, and an M.S. in International Development and Management from Lund University, Sweden. She did her master’s thesis in Aotearoa New Zealand on the role of the United Nations’ Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples’ role there, from the perspective of Māori activists. She also worked with the New Zealand Human Rights Commission on their Indigenous Rights Team and in conjunction with the Independent Indigenous Rights Monitoring Mechanism, and her masters research has been published by the MAI Journal in Aotearoa. She has been engaged in the food system as a farmer, seed keeper and cook. As a UC Berkeley third year doctoral candidate and Chancellor’s Fellow, her research combines agroecology and Indigenous food sovereignty to analyze challenges and supports for food sovereignty and traditional food systems among the Chickasaw Nation. After completing her PhD, she will continue to support Chickasaw food sovereignty through research and a youth education food system NGO she intends to create.

Sheyda M. Aboii

Sheyda M. Aboii grew up in Central Texas where she first discovered an interest in humans and their environment while studying river water quality and serving on the city Parks and Recreation Commission. She graduated from Harvard University in 2014 with an A.B. degree in Government and served as a political appointee in the Obama Administration before beginning her current studies in Medicine and Medical Anthropology in 2017 at the University of California, San Francisco and Berkeley. A M.D./Ph.D. candidate now in her seventh year, she is interested in exploring what occurs when race, immigration, urban shifts in land use, and the environment collide—when people, toxins, and policies merge to form bodily and social narratives. Her current dissertation research follows the intertwined stories of toxic exposure and subsistence fishing in the Anacostia River in Washington, D.C., amidst standing fish consumption advisories and rapid urban redevelopment.

Tracing Histories and Power

Carmela Wilkins

Dedicated to Black geographies and foodways, Carmela Wilkins is a systems designer who merges the Griot tradition’s rich storytelling with her work to challenge Eurocentric design ideologies and advocate for decolonization. Her innovative contributions to the emerging field of Human-Food Interaction (HFI) aim to dismantle food apartheid by developing a new HFI framework that acknowledges colonial power structures and historical narratives. With a background in art direction, graphic design, and strategy, Carmela has contributed to national social justice campaigns and pivoted her expertise towards strategic foresight and systems design. This shift has fueled her passion for creating Counter Culture, a food design research hub focused on equitable food solutions. During her internship at NASA, she explored the intersection of food, equity, and aviation, enriching her multifaceted approach to design and justice. A graduate of Parsons School of Design and UC Berkeley, outside of her work, Carmela enjoys playing video games and crafting elaborate meals, sharing her culinary explorations with friends and family.

Evan Hazelett

Evan is a PhD candidate in human geography in the Department of Geography and Planning at the University of Toronto. Originally from western Massachusetts, he went to Wesleyan University for undergrad and holds a master in urban planning from the Harvard Graduate School of Design. Outside academia, he worked for six years in food, sustainability, and education, including four years for Bay Area food organizations working on food waste, youth culinary education, food insecurity, and food sourcing. His undergraduate thesis was on California water rights and his master’s thesis unpacked the political ecology of nonprofit prison garden programs. For his dissertation, he is studying the political economy and cultural politics of California’s alternative food systems, specifically issues around land access/tenure, markets/resources, and farm operations for direct market farmers. In this work, he attends to the intersections of race, class, and agrarian ideologies/norms in shaping power, access, and political strategy.

Orven Mallari

Orven Mallari is a doctoral student in anthropology at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Their research interests are in the intersection of environmental anthropology and science and technology studies, situated in the discourses around development and transgenic rice in Luzon, Philippines. From their background in sustainable engineering, as well as experiences in the food industry, they seek to ask questions broadly touching on themes of hybridity and commodification.

Cultural foods, health, and wellbeing

Nicole Nyasha Karongo, MPH, RDN

Nicole Karongo is a Registered Dietitian and PhD Student in Public Health with a concentration in Health Behavior. She received her BS in Dietetics and MPH in Nutrition from the University of Minnesota and is currently working with Dean Cheryl Anderson at the UC San Diego Herbert Wertheim School of Public Health. Nicole is a Graduate Research Assistant who is involved in the design and implementation of randomized clinical trials in nutrition (feeding studies and behavioral interventions) and subsequent data analysis. She is passionate about examining relationships between structural and social barriers as exposures for various long-term nutrition-related chronic diseases in underrepresented communities.

Matthew Lau

Matthew Kekoa Lau is a kanaka ʻōiwi born in Southern California and raised part-time in Redondo Beach and in Honolulu (Nu‘uanu). Matt earned his doctorate in Ecology from Northern Arizona University and was a Postdoctoral Fellow and a Research Associate at Harvard University. He is currently an Associate Professor of Indigenous Knowledge and Practice at the University of Hawai’i West O‘ahu, where his role is to expand food systems research, education and application, focusing on Hawai‘i and the Pacific.

Exploring Diasporic Identities through Ancestral Storytelling

Jensen Villaflor

Born and raised in Washington DC, Jensen is now pursuing a BA in American Studies, along with a minor in Philippine Language and Literature at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. They were drawn to Foodways studies because of a lifetime of cooking, eating, and feeding others. Jensen is fascinated by the centrality of food to the construction of lands, peoples, cultures, and identity, and wants to explore how food can heal beyond the body. They have a background in creative writing and visual arts, so Jensen likes to incorporate poetry into academia and put a creative spin on their work.

Mairi Creedon

Mairi is a doctoral student in UC Berkeley’s Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management’s Society & Environment Division, with a designated emphasis from Berkeley’s Folklore Graduate Group. She is a data driven storyteller, seedkeeper, writer, and researcher working at the intersection of food systems, capital, land, natural resource management & governance, and community-based economic development. Mairi works with methods from the social sciences and humanities, including archival, ethnographic, and community-based, participatory applied anthropological methodologies, as well as socio-ecological systems, econometric, and network analysis. Prior to UC Berkeley, Mairi led and collaborated on research projects for community-based organizations across the United States, with a focus on regional food systems development, traditional ecological knowledge and ecosystems management, environmental higher education at tribal colleges and universities, and equitable finance. Her work currently explores ocean governance, access, property rights, and capital in relation to multi-species justice, marine aquaculture, and the seafloor.

Amanda Palacios

Amanda Palacios is a graduate student at NMSU pursuing a degree in Cultural Anthropology with a minor in Food Studies and Graduate Public Health Certificate. As a trained ethnographic researcher her research explores traditional foodways, borderland health disparities, and place-based knowledge of the Chihuahua Desert. Currently, she works with the TEAL—Tobacco Exposure and Activity in LGBTQIA+ individuals in New Mexico—Study, part of the Partnership for the Advance of Cancer Research (PACR). She is recipient of NMSU College of Arts and Sciences Dean’s Graduate Award for Excellence and La Semilla fellowship, working on a cookbook of local stories and recipes from Mexican abuelas. She completed her BA in Middle Eastern Languages and Cultures with minors in Anthropology and Arabic at the UT Austin. She served as an AmeriCorps member, has a background in refugee resettlement, and is Spanish fluent.

Cultural Preservation and Transformation

Natasha Bernstein Bunzl

Natasha Bernstein Bunzl (she/her) is a PhD student at NYU in the Department of Nutrition and Food Studies. She received an MA in Anthropology of Food at SOAS University and a BA in Comparative Literature and Italian at Cornell University. Natasha’s current research focuses on food access and inequality in New York City. She has worked at food non-profits in London and New York. She can be reached at

Nicholas Newman

Nick Newman is a second-year in the Master of Development Practice program and the chair of the Food Institute Graduate Council. Nick also co-leads the Critical Agrifoods Working Group, where graduate students share research and collaborate on critical topics in food, agriculture, and land. Before starting graduate school, Nick worked for several years on farms, in restaurants, and on community-based research. His current thesis project examines the practices, successes, and challenges of a large farmers union in West Africa. He uses mixed-methods practices to study agrarian questions, land access, and food systems in order to better understand how smallholders express sovereignty and resilience in this era of polycrisis.

Paolina Lu

Paolina Lu is a PhD candidate in American Studies at New York University. An interdisciplinary ethnographer, her research and teaching bridge food studies, histories of immigration and labor, and the environmental humanities.

Queer & Trans Việt Cafe Collective (Hải Võ, Lan Ngo, Amanda Linh Vong)

The QTViệt Cafe Collective is a creative cultural hub of Queer and Trans Việt people dedicated to liberation through ancestral practices, the arts, and intergenerational connections.

– Lan Ngo (she/her) graduated Cal in 2012 studying Environmental Sciences & Southeast Asian studies. Lan is an artist/culture-bearer supporting intergenerational healing within the Vietnamese community. She runs her small business, Earth Orchid, where she teaches edible gardening as a way to tune into the ancestral wisdom of following our earth’s cycles. Lan lives with her partner & 2 dogs in Fairfield, CA.

– Hải Võ’s family lineage is from the deltas of southern Việt Nam. Hải is a queer Việt cook, cultural artist, and writer passionate about ancestral food and life ways and organizing community towards justice, sovereignty, and freedom.

– Amanda Linh Vòng (they/she) is a local chef & community gardener. They are a member of bitter cotyledons, a qtapi (queer trans asian pacific islander collective), that is focused on centering and sharing stories through the lens of ancestral foodways, food growing, and community as creative resilience for the queer asian community. They also own and operate a Vietnamese food pop-up called, Auntie Manna’s, which celebrates and honors family recipes through locally sourced and seasonally grown produce.

Reclaiming Identities and Food Practices

Fabiola Santiago

Fabiola Santiago (she/they) is from Santiago Matatlán, Oaxaca, Mexico and belongs to the Indigenous Zapotecs of the Central Valley. Her experiences as a formerly undocumented person and her connection to Oaxaca’s rich culture–particularly as a descendant of mezcal producers– anchors her commitment to community, equity, and possibility. She’s the founder and Director of Mi Oaxaca, a binational start-up organization, which combats the myriad of intentional and unintentional Indigenous erasure efforts by testing narrative change strategies and by designing cultural education programs for the hospitality industry.

Phoebe Wu

Phoebe Wu is a second-year undergraduate student studying Economics and Food Systems. As someone who’s passionate about food systems and art, Phoebe has worked on projects like unpacking what the holistic framework of regenerative foods looks like on an individual basis, creating a zine that provides a guiding toolkit for college students wishing to eat more sustainably, and a plant-based food & art gallery that spotlights emerging discussions regarding food and climate change. Phoebe is also a huge culinary enthusiast and has hosted several tastings/pop-ups, crafting menus that celebrate local ingredients, global techniques, and flavors from my heritage. Phoebe is excited to discuss cultural resilience in sustainable food practices and share experiences as someone who is new to the US food system and whose perspectives of eco-conscious and accessible eating have deviated from familiarity through encountering new values and discourses.

Cultivating Food and Empowerment

Nisha Marwaha

Nisha is currently the Operations Manager at Kula Nursery, a grassroots urban nursery working with heritage foods within and for BIPOC communities. She is also a researcher in the Golden Lab at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health focused on nutrition-sensitive agriculture. Nisha previously worked in international agricultural development and received her master’s degree at UC Davis in biological and agricultural engineering.

Meiko (May-ko) Krishok

Meiko Krishok is the co-founder of Guerrilla Food, a farm-to-table catering company, and operator of the Pink Flamingo restaurant in Detroit. Her focus is on seasonal, sustainable food using locally-grown produce. Since 2015, she has been the caretaker for the Field St Community Garden. Krishok is the recipient of the Food Power Award for business from the Detroit Food Policy Council and was one of FoodLab Detroit’s inaugural fellows for fair labor practices and sustainability in the food industry.

Dakota Freeze Hafalia-Yackel

Dakota Freeze Hafalia-Yackel is a masters student in the geography department at the University of Hawai’i – Manoa. He will be presenting on his ongoing research project on diasporic Filipino foodways in Oahu. He is interested in the interconnection between food, culture, and wellbeing and agroecological principles can be applied to these interests in urban areas. He will present an overview of his masters research project, framing his study, his chosen methods, the research sites, and some of the experiences and stories that have come from the project.

The Feeling is Mutual: Diasporic Foodways as a Source of Intimacy and Ritual

Ali Anderson

Ali Anderson (she/they), with over a decade of experience in public health, doula work, and environmental justice, is the founder and Co-Executive Director of Feed Black Futures. As a community organizer with Black Youth Project 100 NYC, Ali led direct action organizing campaigns alongside communities facing carceral violence and environmental injustice in New York City. She has been a keynote speaker on topics related to food justice and land sovereignty at Harvard School of Public Health, University of California Los Angeles, and Pitzer College. A recipient of the Black Women Green Futures Award and the Echoing Green Social Innovation Challenge, Ali’s work has been recognized in TIME and People Magazine. She holds a Master of Public Health from Emory University and serves as a board member for Acta Non Verba Youth Community Farm and SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Health Collective.

Adrionna Fike

Adrionna Fike (she/they) is a dedicated cooperator with organizing roots in free play and team sports. They currently work as the communications organizer for Cooperation Richmond, supporting worker cooperative development in Richmond, CA. She is an active board member with Agroecology Commons and People Power Solar Cooperative. Prior to these roles, she was a member of Mandela Grocery Cooperative, a Black worker-owned grocery store in West Oakland, for over a decade. Adrionna holds a BA in Anthropology from Barnard College and an MPA from the University of San Francisco.

Jeneba Kilgore

Jeneba (jen-uh-buh) Kilgore is a food systems organizer with over a decade of experience in cooperative organizing. She is a co-founder and co-director at Agroecology Commons and currently on the advisory board for Feed Black Futures. Before Jeneba’s shift into non-profits she was a worker-owner at Mandela Grocery Cooperative, a black worker-owned grocery store. Jeneba received a BA in Economics from the University of Massachusetts Amherst with a focus in Cooperative Enterprises. Jeneba was born and raised in Oakland, CA to a mother from Sierra Leone, West Africa and father from Gary, Indiana.