Just Food Board Members
Luis Garden Acosta
Luis Garden Acosta is a leading voice for human rights and environmental justice. He is founder and president of El Puente, a community human rights institution that promotes leadership for peace and justice through the engagement of youth and adults in the arts, education, scientific research, wellness and environmental action. Under his leadership, New Yorkers have built parks and open spaces as well as mapped one hundred Brownfield sites focused on human rights. For his lifetime commitment to integrating community building and political work, Garden Acosta received the Heinz Award for the Human Condition in 1998.
John is a County Extension Agent at Cornell University’s Cooperative Extension. As Horticultural Specialist for Cornell's NYC Programs since 1976, John has specialized in soils, vegetable crops, and fruit production. His efforts to promote urban agriculture have resulted in several successful projects and market farms including: Rikers Island Farm Project, Wheatfield Project and the Gericke Farm Project. As part of his a contribution to extension, he has piloted a program to develop urban space to produce food crops locally for 25 cities nationwide, thus increasing access to fresh food for many. John has authored several articles on food, ranging in topic from food production to topsoil preservation. John is a founding member of Just Food, a partner in the City Farms Project, and is the recipient of several awards for his work.
Lorrie Clevenger is a former Just Food staff member and the current Capacity Building Coordinator for the Grassroots Action Network at Why Hunger. At Why, Lorrie provides resources, information and networking opportunities to strengthen and support thousands of community based organizations across the country. Lorrie is an active member of the Executive Committee for Farm School NYC, a community gardener at Taqwa Community Farm in the Bronx and a founding member of Black Urban Growers (BUGs), where she served as the Volunteer General Coordinator for their first annual Black Farmers & Urban Gardeners Conference in 2010.
Helena Rose Durst is the Public Affairs Director, Corporate Liaison and Assistant Vice President for The Durst Organization, a company that owns, manages and develops real estate and is known for pioneering work in implementing environmental design. Helena studied real estate at Baruch College , and is involved in several non-profit organizations. She is a member of the Board of Voices Unbroken and Citizens Union . Voices Unbroken provides under- heard voices with the tools and opportunity for creative self- expression, through creative writing workshops. Citizens Union of the City of New York is a 100- year old nonpartisan, good government organization, working to ensure that local and state government values its citizens, addresses critical issues, and operates in a fair, open, and fiscally sound manner. Helena is also the Real Estate advisor for her sister's non- profit arts organization, Chashama, which supports the development of art by awarding grants, producing shows and providing subsidized studio, rehearsal and performance space. Great granddaughter of Joseph and Rose Durst, Helena continues a family tradition of leaving places better than when she found them.
A seasoned technology and eCommerce executive with deep business management experience, Jeff has been Chief Information Officer of Equinox since 2002. Prior to joining Equinox, Jeff founded the digital music company RipDigital and was the CIO of Referral Networks, an early social networking company focused on enterprise recruiting. Before that he was an Internet Strategist and Technology Architect at Viant. Jeff holds a BA in International Relations from the University of Pennsylvania and a combined Masters of Computer Science and MBA from NYU's Stern School of Business and Courant Institute of Mathematics.
Joan is the Mary Rose Professor Emerita of Nutrition and Education at Teacher’s College, Columbia University (NYC), where she formerly headed the Nutrition Education Department. She has a B.A. from Pomona College and earned her M.Ed. and Ed.D. from Teacher’s College. She is author, coauthor or editor of a number of articles and several books – most recently This Organic Life. From 1980 to 1983, Dr. Gussow served on the Diet, Nutrition and Cancer Panel of the National Academy of Sciences followed by two terms on the NAS Food and Nutrition Board. She has also served on the FDA's Food Advisory Panel and most recently on the National Organic Standards Board. She is a founding member of Just Food.
David is a partner at The Purrington Firm, where he represents investment managers and investors in connection with the structuring of investment funds. A highly experienced corporate legal generalist, David was formerly General Counsel for Ziff Brothers Investments for five years and was previously associated with Cleary, Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton in New York. David graduated magna cum laude from Cornell Law School, where he served as Note Editor on the Cornell Law Review. A longtime member of a CSA farm, David has been assisting Just Food on a variety of legal issues since he was first introduced to us by Lawyers Alliance.
Liz Neumark, the Founder and CEO of Great Performances catering and event company, is a culinary visionary and a longtime trendsetter in bringing food politics to the table, with great taste and memorable flavors. She conceived of Great Performances in 1979 as a waitress service for women in the arts; today the company is the largest-off premises catering company in the city, serving a wide range of corporate, social, and non-profit clients including Jazz at Lincoln Center, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Apollo Theater, Sotheby's, and The Plaza Hotel. Katchkie Farm, the company's organic farm in Columbia County, provides ingredients of unmatched freshness and is the site of The Sylvia Center, a non-profit that brings the farm experience into the lives of at-risk children. A Barnard graduate, Liz serves on the 2009 Cooking Light Nutrition Advisory Board and the Governor’s Food Policy Council, is the 2008 recipient of the Food Arts Silver Spoon Award, and blogs about food politics for the Huffington Post.
Alison Schneider, founder of Haven’s Kitchen, a bi-level recreational cooking school, specialty food shop and event space, is passionate about teaching people how to cook with sustainable and local ingredients. Before founding Haven’s Kitchen, Schneider began working towards her Masters in NYU’s Food Studies program. This led to a growing passion for creating a more sustainable food system and educating people about the connection between eating and agriculture. Schneider worked with GrowNYC, educating school groups and visitors about the importance of regional ingredients and farming practices. She has been teaching classes in her home for several years, and has created CSA’s for her children’s schools.
Melissa Kasper Shapiro
Melissa Kasper Shapiro is the Chairperson of the Board of Directors. She began volunteering for Just Food in 2009 with a focus on development work and joined the Board in 2010. Melissa feels strongly about giving all New Yorkers access to a just and sustainable food system and reconnecting people with the farmers and land which produce their food. Melissa helped start the Lenox Hill CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) group where she acted as coordinator for two years and is now a member of the Jan Hus CSA. Melissa manages a private investment portfolio and prior to this was a partner at Dawson Capital Management. She also worked at J.&W. Seligman & Co. and for Cramer and Co. Melissa graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a B.A. in English and Political Science. She lives on the Upper East Side with her husband Stephen and their 2-year old daughter.
Karen Washington has lived in New York City all her life, and has been a resident of the Bronx for over 26 years. Since 1985 Karen has been a community activist, striving to make New York City a better place to live. As a community gardener and board member of the New York Botanical Gardens, Karen has worked with Bronx neighborhoods to turn empty lots into community gardens. As an advocate, she has stood up and spoken out for garden protection and preservation. As a member of the La Familia Verde Garden Coalition, she helped launched a City Farms Market, bringing garden fresh vegetables to her neighbors.Karen is a Just Food board member and Just Food Trainer, leading workshops on food growing and food justice for community gardeners all over the city. Karen is a board member and former president of the New York City Community Garden Coalition, a group that was founded to preserve community gardens. She also Co- Founded Black Urban Growers (BUGS), an organization of volunteers committed to building networks and community support for growers in both urban and rural settings. Professionally Karen has been a Physical Therapist for over 30 years, and she continues to balance her professional life with community service.
Sharon Wong has over ten years of experience leading programs in non-profit organizations that focus on arts education, positive youth development, sustainable agriculture, and environmental justice. Sharon started the New Museum of Contemporary Art’s first Youth Council, managed New Settlement Apartment’s Bronx Helpers Program (an award winning afterschool youth leadership and community service program) and Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York’s Emergency Food Programs. More recently, Sharon has focused on writing grants for grassroots organizations addressing social justice issues while working with community residents and organizations to develop community health projects.