DIRECTOR OF STRATEGIC INITIATIVES
Organization: Community Vision
Location: Oakland, CA
In her words…
“I am super excited to see my organization root itself so deeply in their original intention around economic and racial equity, and most especially to extend that work into the food sector. Finally, we have reached a stage in which the conversation of how to finance a food system is at a whole new level.”
What gives her hope…
Emerging now is a whole world of tools that not all investors and funders realize exist – working together, I am truly hopeful that we can create and tap into some incredible tools to lift communities out of the cycle of poverty. What would this look like? Greater land ownership for farmers of color throughout Central Valley; farm workers becoming farm owners; farm owners becoming an actual voice in the food system, equitable housing and labor practices…this is the time we can make this happen.
Esperanza Pallana drives investment that institutes leadership by, and honors the labor of, people of color in the food system. From her position as Director of Strategic Initiatives at Community Vision, a community development financial institution based in San Francisco, CA, she works at the intersection of food justice and social investment, seeing firsthand how colonization has been internalized by the philanthropy and investment sectors. No stranger to big thinking, her family’s roots nest in the vast agricultural region of California’s Central Valley, where her great-great grandmother settled after emigrating from Los Altos de Jalisco, Mexico, and purchased land. Esperanza’s career has spanned 20 years in food systems, environmental health, and public health advocacy, always with a deep calling to promote racial and economic equity.
She made her mark leading the Oakland Food Policy Council, where she became interested in issues of economic equity, land acquisition, use and rights as well as ownership of food and farm businesses by people of color. In her role as Executive Director, she launched successful policy initiatives and organized with the community to activate around events like the launch of the book Decolonize Your Diet and the Wine Soul Train, a clap back at a Napa Valley tourist excursion company that kicked a group of Black women wine aficionados for laughing too loudly. She shifted her focus to Community Vision, where she works across sectors to meet community needs in land ownership, equitable food systems, health, labor, wages, and environment, supporting both nonprofits and social enterprises.
Today, she leads place-based initiatives with her colleagues which includes focused impact in California communities of the Central Valley where straddling the rural/urban divide drives much of the dialogue. Esperanza believes that to be effective as a movement, leaders in economic and racial equity need to wrest power out of the hands of corporations, which exploit food system workers, the land, and consumers, alternatively supporting community ownership, political power, and economic leadership. Federal, state, and local policies must shift to support an equitable and sustainable food system. Her philosophy is that racial and economic equity are the first steps in a movement for healthy and sustainable food.