National Planning Committee

Emily Becker, Oregon Food Bank
Karen Dreyer, Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank
Taryn Glidewell, Harvesters—The Community Food Network
Keisha Nzewi, Alameda County Community Food Bank
Robert Ojeda, Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona
Anne Palmer, Center for a Livable Future at Johns Hopkins University
Jessica Powers, WhyHunger
Laura Sugarwala, Foodlink
Sharon Thornberry, Oregon Food Bank
DeWayne Wells, Detroit Food & Fitness Initiative Collaborative

National Planning Committee Bios

Emily Becker

EmilyBeckerEmily Becker works for the Oregon Food Bank promoting and supporting the Closing the Hunger Gap network, a nationwide network of food banks and partner organizations engaging in community food security programs. Emily is excited to be coordinating the September 13-16, 2015 conference “Closing the Hunger Gap: Cultivating Food Justice” to be held in Portland, Oregon. Prior to working at Oregon Food Bank, she worked for the Community Food Security Coalition where she facilitated communication and collaboration among a nationwide network of food systems groups and helped to coordinate the organization’s annual conferences, a food policy conference, and three National Farm to School Network conferences. Outside of work, Emily serves on the board of the Portland Fruit Tree Project, enjoys harvesting and preserving fruit from city trees, and is completing a Master of Urban Studies degree at Portland State University.

Karen Dreyer 

Karen Dreyer photo in AZKaren is the Director of the Southwestern Pennsylvania Food Security Partnership, an initiative of Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank. The primary goal of the Food Security Partnership is to significantly reduce hunger in the 12 counties of Southwestern PA by increasing participation in food assistance programs such as SNAP, School Meals, and Summer Food; supporting community led efforts to improve food security; and facilitating collaborations between organizations to better serve hungry neighbors. Prior to this position, Karen spent 15 years working with children and families at a community organization on Pittsburgh’s North Side, where she was privileged to see neighborhood kids become the first in their families to graduate from college. Karen has a Master’s Degree in Higher Education, and she focused her thesis on service learning, which serves her well as she now works to educate and engage community members in eliminating hunger. In 2010, she earned her Ph.D. in Applied Developmental Psychology from the University of Pittsburgh, where she learned about effective interventions for young people living in poverty. In her spare time, she enjoys working on home improvement projects, reading stories, and baking for neighbors.

Taryn Glidewell

Taryn Glidewell picTaryn Glidewell is the Nutrition Services Manager at Harvesters—The Community Food Network in Kansas City, Missouri. Harvesters teaches nutrition and cooking classes to low-income food insecure populations. The courses teach how to be healthy on a budget to people of all ages and abilities. Taryn loves being able to give people hope and tools to empower them to make small changes that will greatly impact themselves as well as their families.  Prior to joining Harvesters, Taryn studied Family Studies and Human Development at Kansas State University. Taryn is also involved in a few local collaboratives for healthy eating and helps her family with their local farm and farm-to-table dinners featuring their grass fed beef. They have held seven dinners over the past two years partnering with local chefs and featuring local food.  Taryn believes that food affects us as individuals and as a community and we need to understand our food system and learn about food and social justice.

Keisha Nzewi

keishaKeisha Nzewi is the Advocacy Manager at Alameda County Community Food Bank, where she focuses on local, state, and federal policies that fight hunger and poverty. Previously, she worked as advocacy director for the American Heart Association, working on policy issues such as tobacco control, health care reform and menu labeling. Prior to her 8 years with the American Heart Association, she held more jobs than she can count, including working for an infamous state legislator and organizing against the over-concentration of alcohol outlets in troubled neighborhoods. Upon graduating from the University of California, Berkeley, where she was a member of the marching band, she served as a VISTA member, which kicked off her career in social justice.

Robert Ojeda

robertojeda_nineRobert is the Vice President, Community Food Resource Center at the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona in Tucson. Robert joined the Community Food Bank in April of 2010. He was born in Peru and came to the United States in 1989 to pursue his college education. He has a wide range of experience, having served in the Peace Corps; as Civics and Citizenship Program Manager, Pima Community College Adult Education; and as Program Manager-English Language Acquisition for Adults Program, Literacy Volunteers of Tucson.

Robert has a master’s degree in international agriculture and rural development, as well as a doctoral degree in adult and extension education, focusing on leadership and community development, from Cornell University.

Anne Palmer

Anne PalmerAnne Palmer is the Food Communities and Public Health program director at the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future at the Bloomberg School of Public Health. She is responsible for directing the food and nutrition work of the Center. She directs the Food Policy Networks project which seeks to improve the capacity of new and existing food policy councils and similar organizations to advance food system policies.

Jessica Powers

jess-powersAs Director of WhyHunger’s National Hunger Clearinghouse, Jessica is responsible for leading a team of advocates on the National Hunger Hotline and developing capacity building resources for emergency food providers through the Clearinghouse on topics such as nutrition education  and food sourcing. Prior to joining WhyHunger, Jess managed an emergency feeding program that planned and responded to disasters affecting people in NYC and the lower Hudson Valley for the American Red Cross in Greater New York. She responded to federally declared disasters in New York, Alabama, Iowa and Louisiana. She worked as a foodservice professional for over ten years: she was a chef and pastry chef at restaurants in New York City, managed teams for large event caterers, cooked on several yachts and consulted at a former state bakery in Russia. Jess holds a B.A. in English literature with honors from the University of California at Berkeley.

Laura Sugarwala

Laura SugarwalaLaura Sugarwala, RD is Nutrition Resource Manager at Foodlink in Rochester, NY. Foodlink is the regional food bank serving Central and Western New York State. Laura works closely with 185 emergency food program providers in 10 counties to ensure access to and use of nutritious foods. She also oversees the BackPack program, SNAP Outreach and assists menu planning at Freshwise kitchen. Laura has worked at Foodlink for 4 years and started the nutrition education program, partnering with Share Our Strength in the first year. Laura graduated from Cornell University with a Bachelors of Science in Nutrition and completed the Cornell Dietetic Internship. She serves as a member of the board for Hunger Action Network of New York State (HANNYS).

Sharon Thornberry

Sharon ThornberrySharon Thornberry is Oregon Food Bank’s community food systems manager. Sharon has been a grassroots organizer, trainer and advocate for community food systems, rural communities, and anti-hunger work in Oregon since 1986. Prior to food banking, her work experience includes food service, retail grocery, and union activities. In 1979, she experienced homelessness as a single mother of two small children.

Sharon was a member of the Oregon Hunger Task Force, served on the board of the Community Food Security Coalition for six years, and currently serves on the board of Bread for the World and Bread for the World Institute. Much of her work in the past seven years has been focused on the most rural areas of Oregon. She initiated both the RARE AmeriCorps partnership and the FEAST community organizing program, and has spearheaded the growth of Community Food Systems work at Oregon Food Bank and served as a leader for the CFS movement locally and nationally.

Sharon has lived in Philomath, Oregon for over 25 years. She is an avid gardener and working to permaculture her small lot making it a sustainable model for her seven grandchildren. She loves to share the cooking traditions learned in the farm kitchens of her youth with friends and family.

DeWayne Wells

DeWayne_Wells_photoDeWayne Wells is the Project Director of the Detroit Food and Fitness Collaborative. He formerly served as the President of Gleaners Community Food Bank of Southeastern Michigan.

DeWayne is a native Detroiter who has worked tirelessly to support his community. DeWayne served as Chief Operating Officer at Starfish Family Services, Director of the Capuchin Soup Kitchen , and Vice President of Finance and Administration at Mercy Health Services (now Trinity Health). He is a founding member of Detroit Food Policy Council, the Michigan No Kid Hungry steering committee, the Michigan Good Food steering committee, and co-chair of the Michigan Nonprofit Association Southeast Michigan Public Policy Council.

DeWayne’s personal interests include horticulture (certified by MSU Extension as a Master Gardener), international travel, music of all types, and photography.

(Bio gleaned from Food Bank Council of Michigan and Crain’s Detroit Business)