Lenore Beyer is the Director of Conservation Initiatives at Kinship Foundation, where she manages Food:Land:Opportunity, a multi-year initiative to create a resilient local food economy in the Chicago region. Beyer manages a grant portfolio of $3M annually and spearheads projects in collaborative COVID response funding and innovative financing. Prior to joining Kinship Foundation, Beyer was the vice president of policy and planning at Openlands, a regional conservation land trust, where she led projects to create Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge and integrated farmland protection with local food initiatives. Beyer was previously the executive director of the Environmental Defenders of McHenry County, a citizen advocacy organization, and served as president of the Illinois Environmental Council.
Dion Dawson is a philanthropic leader who founded Dion’s Chicago Dream, a nonprofit with a mission focused on food insecurity and inequality through an innovative and transformative lens. Dawson’s goal is to challenge the traditional idea of solving food insecurity through the stabilization of quality and access. With transparent operations, consistent quality, and a deep commitment to a resident-informed process that meets residents and recipients where they are, he prioritizes the end-user experience. Dawson is an award-winning military journalist, communications specialist, philanthropist, and son of Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood. His philanthropic achievements include being named an Echoing Green Fellow and American Express NGen Fellow.
Dan Kenney is the founder and former executive director of DeKalb County Community Gardens, a nonprofit organization. He has served as a Governor appointee to the Local Food Farms and Jobs Council. He also served as a board member of Illinois Stewardship Alliance. Dan was also an appointee to the Emergency Food Working Group of the Illinois Council to End Hunger. He also serves as the convener of the DeKalb County Local Food Security Council, and the newly forming Illinois Food Systems Collaborative. He also serves on the board of trustees for the DeKalb County soil and Water Conservation District. He is one of the founders and current President of Opportunity DeKalb nonprofit Community Development Corporation. He is a published journalist, writer, and poet. He has written and spoken widely on food security and food systems issues.
Haven Leeming is a Program Officer for Builders Initiative, and her work is committed to improving food systems for urban and rural residents in Chicago and throughout the Midwest. Previously, Leeming was at The Chicago Community Trust, the region’s community foundation, and the IDP Foundation, a small family foundation. Leeming continues to establish relationships and partnerships with organizations and grantees interested in improving the health of the food system. Leeming graduated from Carleton College and earned a joint MBA and master’s degree in public policy from the Booth School of Business and Harris School of Public Policy at The University of Chicago respectively.
Jose Oliva was born in Xelaju, Guatemala. In 1985 he and his family were forced to flee the civil war and come to the U.S. Once in Chicago he became Executive Director of Casa Guatemala where he began to organize day-laborers in Chicago’s street corners. He founded the Chicago Interfaith Workers’ Center and then became the Coordinator of Interfaith Worker Justice’s National Workers’ Centers Network. Oliva served in several leadership positions at the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, the national organization of restaurant workers. Oliva was the Co-Founder and Co-Director of the Food Chain Workers Alliance, a national coalition of food-worker organizations that collectively represents over 350,000 workers. Oliva is a 2017 James Beard Award recipient and a 2018 American Food Hero Awardee and a 2020 Castanea Fellow. Currently he is the Campaigns Director at HEAL (Health Environment Agriculture and Labor) Food Alliance, a national multi-sector coalition representing over 50 organizations in food and agriculture.
Gina Roxas, Potawatomi from the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation has studied the environment through a multifaceted lens of traditional teachings from her Grandmother and family Elders as well as the humanities and science. Roxas is a Program Director for Trickster Cultural Center, where she is responsible for the day-to-day operations. She works with the Trickster team to develop and facilitate programming, events, and workshops that lift contemporary Native American first voices. Roxas manages the medicinal garden project at Trickster, fostering traditional relationships with the land.
Alexandra Sossa has more than 32 years of experience performing community outreach and education for very low-income Latinx immigrants. She has a long history of public service dating back to her work with coffee plantation workers in Colombia, where she also worked for nearly a decade with the Attorney General’s Office. She has educated low-income workers on their rights in the United States, Spain, and Colombia. Sossa first came to the Farmworker and Landscaper Advocacy Project (FLAP) in 2001. Since its inception, FLAP has filed 210 cases on behalf of workers cheated of their wages and has recovered almost $5 million in back wages and damages. The organization has secured more than $2.6 million in financial assistance to very low-income Latinx individuals in Illinois benefiting more than 25,000 family members. Sossa graduated from the University of Medellin School of Law, Colombia and is certificated as a bilingual Mediator at the Center for Conflict Resolution in Chicago. She is an alum of the Center for Leadership Innovation and holds a Non-Profit Management certification from the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Janelle St. John is the Executive Director of Growing Home, appointed after being the Chief Fund Development and Communications Officer of Growing Home Since her start at Growing Home, St. John has helped form Growing Home’s essential 3-year working plan that includes initiatives geared towards deepening Growing Home’s commitment to the Englewood community through workforce development and food access. Prior to Growing Home, St. John spent five years as the Chief Development and Communications Officer and later Chief Strategy Officer for Edgewater Health, a Community Mental Health Center located in Gary, IN. She holds a master’s degree in Public Service Administration from DePaul University and a bachelor’s degree in Political Science from the University of Chicago.
Jack Westwood is Program Director, Environmental Sustainability at the Walder Foundation. Westwood is a plant biologist by training and has experience in academic research, government, and nonprofit sectors. Throughout his career, he has dedicated himself to translating advances in science and technology and building collaborations to develop solutions for a more sustainable planet. Before joining the Walder Foundation, Westwood was the external affairs director at the 2Blades Foundation, a nonprofit focused on developing new solutions to crop disease to address global food insecurity. Prior to 2Blades, he was the head of science and innovation at the British Consulate in Chicago. Westwood holds a Ph.D. in plant sciences from the University of Cambridge and a bachelor’s degree (with honors) in natural sciences from the University of Cambridge.