Announcing the 2020 Castanea Fellows!

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Media release: For Immediate Release, April 28, 2020

Castanea Fellowship Selects 12 Visionary Food Justice Leaders as its 2020 Cohort

Leaders respond to COVID-19 with food system and racial equity expertise, defending an essential resource for our nation’s most vulnerable communities

Berkeley, CA (April 28, 2020) The Castanea Fellowship today announces its new 2020 cohort, 12 leaders who are working to transform the food system and serve communities on the frontlines. The cohort includes rural, urban, and tribal leaders from nine states across the U.S. who are building a healthier, sustainable, climate-friendly, and equitable food supply for children, families, and all vulnerable communities. Chosen from among hundreds of applicants for a two-year fellowship, the 2020 cohort is the second to be launched since the Fellowship’s founding in 2019, bringing the total to 24 leaders actively fighting for food system transformation. 

As the COVID-19 crisis is making ever more visible, food supply work is essential to the nation’s health, economic vitality, and well-being. Black, Brown, Asian, and Indigenous community leaders have exemplary skills in self-determination, traditional foodways, and resilient business practices, yet continue to bear the oppression of structural inequity. Even as successful policymakers, organizers, and entrepreneurs, these leaders are burdened with a legacy of economic disenfranchisement that impedes their efforts. 

Workers who plant, harvest, fish, pick, transport, stock, sell, cook and deliver food are exempt from stay-at-home orders, risking their personal health and their families’ health to feed the nation. The devastation facing these workers and their communities is profoundly increased in communities of color, which are always the hardest hit when disaster strikes, whether climate-related in exposed coastal areas, rooted in historic inequities in urban and rural areas, or tied to a global pandemic. 

The 2020 Castanea Fellows were selected as leaders who are ready to take steps to build local and regional food sovereignty, addressing urgent and systemic flaws in the food supply system, which, although most visible in times of crisis, were embedded in centuries-old structural racism and colonization, initiated with the nation’s founding. 

“We are witnessing a profound shift and revealing of the nation’s priorities around the food system. True community-builders and visionaries see possibility in this moment. This is a time when long-time leadership that has been committed to a more healthy, racially just, economically, and environmentally sustainable food system, must continue to work across multiple sectors to provide us their wisdom for a more promising future ” said Farzana Serang, Executive Director, Castanea Fellowship.  

Castanea Fellows will have two years to deepen their impact and will receive a $40,000 award in honor of their leadership. 

Meet the 2020 Castanea Fellows: 

  • Alex Askew, Chef Provocateur, BCAGlobal, New York, NY
  • Tavia Benjamin, Systems Healer, Independent consultant & facilitator, Durham, NC
  • Shane Bernardo, Culture Keeper, Food as Healing, Detroit, MI
  • Shantell Bingham, Community Organizer, Charlottesville Food Justice Network, Charlottesville, VA
  • Kelly Carlisle, Local Activator, Acta Non Verba, Oakland, CA
  • Anthony Chang, Farmer Champion, Kitchen Table Advisors, Oakland, CA
  • Helga Garza, Systems Weaver, Agri-Cultura Network, Albuquerque, NM
  • Deepa Iyer, Farmer-Educator, Ayeko Farm, Enumclaw, WA
  • Chris Newman, Farmer, Sylvanaqua Farms, Montross, VA
  • Jose Oliva, Alliance Builder, HEAL Food Alliance, Chicago, IL
  • Esperanza Pallana, Strategic Investor, Community Vision, Oakland, CA
  • Bren Smith, Ocean Farmer, GreenWave, New Haven, CT

Launching its first cohort in 2019, the Castanea Fellowship is inspired by the W.K.Kellogg Foundation Food and Community Fellowship Program (2001-2013). A Steering Committee of philanthropic and nonprofit leaders came together in partnership with founding Executive Director Farzana Serang to launch the Castanea Fellowship. 

Follow Castanea on social media: #Castanea2020  

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Media contacts: 
Haven Bourque, 415-505-3473
Farzana Serang,, 510-676-1772

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