By Berkeley Food Institute
The Berkeley Food Institute is growing! This spring, we are delighted to announce three new members to our staff. As BFI expands its reach, we are excited to bring along more team members whose key efforts and diverse perspectives and experiences will allow BFI to grow in more ways than one. Please join us in welcoming a new Agroecology and Wellness Coordinator, Communications Coordinator, and Project Scientist.
Lekeisha Simpson joins the team as BFI’s new Agroecology and Wellness Coordinator. Lekeisha is a graduate of Jackson State University and has received 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.
As Agroecology and Wellness Coordinator, Lekeisha will serve as a professional staff liaison between Berkeley Student Farms, Berkeley Food Institute, Basic Needs Center, and supporting campus departments. They will also integrate principles of agroecology and wellness into student-led programming.
BFI would like to introduce Austin Price as our new Communications Coordinator. Austin 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 the Berkeley Food Institute, he worked as an editor for Earth Island Journal. Aside from his work as a journalist and science communicator, he has enjoyed working on several diversified farms in Georgia and Canada’s Northwest Territories.
At BFI, Austin will coordinate comprehensive communications activities for BFI’s programs, including written and visual print and digital communications.
Finally, Francisco Benítez will serve as BFI’s new Project Scientist. Francisco hails from Quito, Ecuador, where he earned an engineering degree in agro-industry from the National Polytechnic School. During his academic career, he has developed a strong multidisciplinary background specialized in food value chains. He is interested in understanding the challenges farmers face and the complex interactions between socio-economic and context characteristics that shape the transition towards sustainable food value chains.
At BFI, Francisco will work with a Stakeholder Advisory Group and be integrated into a collaborative research team of BFI-associated faculty with strong disciplinary connections and active agroecological research and extension programs. He will start July 1, 2022 and be based at the Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Parlier, California.
The Berkeley Food Institute is ecstatic to introduce these new members to our team! Their experience and interests will allow BFI to amplify its commitment to working toward a more healthy and just food system.