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.
Alison Cayne, 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, Alison 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. Alison 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.
Sarita Daftary began her career in food justice work as an Americorps VISTA with Just Food in 2003, through which she was placed with United Community Centers, working on the East New York Farms! Project (ENYF). Sarita stayed on as staff with ENYF after her VISTA service was complete, and became the Project Director in March 2006, a position she held until November 2013. During her time at ENYF, Sarita helped to grow the project significantly, while maintaining a focus on developing community leadership, and led ENYF to become a nationally recognized model for youth and community engagement in urban agriculture and community markets. Sarita graduated from Georgetown University with a degree in sociology and government. She is a graduate of the Leadership New York Fellowship organized by Coro New York and the Leadership Caucus of the Community Resource Exchange.
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.
Matt McFarlane is a Principal in the New York office of Robins Kaplan LLP. A trial lawyer by training, he specializes in intellectual property rights protection, counseling and dispute resolution. He is a recognized authority on the emerging face of intellectual property issues, and serves on the Board of Directors for the New York Intellectual Property Law Association. In addition, Matt has significant pro bono experience, including working through Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts to help artists navigate a variety of legal situations, and working with the Legal Aid Society to obtain favorable settlements for clients in cases involving federal and state labor law violations. Matt lives in Brooklyn with his wife Jennifer, their son, and the dog, each a food enthusiast of different but mostly compatible stripes. He is active in the community, serving as a Director of New York’s own Target Margin Theater, and as a Trustee and Chair of the Investment Committee for The Grass Foundation.
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 Purrington Moody Weil, 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.
Jeff is Founder and Managing Partner of Ragovin Ventures, a strategic advisory group launched to help brands and startups solve problems across a wide range of business needs. He is also Co-Founder of Buddy Media and was the Chief Strategy Officer, which was acquired by Salesforce.com in August 2012. Jeff played a central role in guiding the company from a start-up to the largest enterprise social marketing platform in the world. He has over 15 years of experience building brand relationships at major technology and marketing firms and is often called upon to give his insights and knowledge on social and digital marketing to news outlets and industry events. Jeff was born and raised in Manhattan and graduated from the State University of New York at Oswego with a BA in Broadcasting and Mass Media. He is an avid gardener with a productive rooftop in Harlem and another garden at his home in the Hamptons. He is a talented and enthusiastic cook and loves to fish.
Bret Sanford-Chung is Chief Operating Officer at Siena Wealth Advisory Group and a professor at the School of Visual Arts in the Masters in Branding program. She previously served as Managing Director, Brand Innovation at The Joey Company, an integrated marketing agency in Brooklyn. An award-winning copywriter, Bret started her career as Creative Director at legendary agencies like Kenyon & Eckhardt, Grey, and Lowe and Partners. As SVP, Director of Marketing for Smith Barney Citigroup, she relaunched the dormant Smith Barney brand as a vital, progressive financial firm. Prior to joining The Joey Company, she worked at JWT as General Manager for the first-ever multi-agency HSBC team in North America. Bret was a founding member of the Chatham Food Co-op in Columbia County and hosts a very lively CSA community as the host house for Golden Earthworm Farm on Long Island. She holds a BFA from the School of Visual Arts and an MA from New York University, and she is a certified yoga teacher. She shares her life with her husband, two children, the dog, the cat, and her surfboard.
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 two young daughters.
Karen Washington has lived in New York City all her life. Since 1985 Karen has been a community activist, striving to make New York City a better place to live. Karen has worked with Bronx neighborhoods to run empty lots into community gardens, launched a City Farms Market with La Familia Verde Garden Coalition, and has stood up and spoken out for garden protection and preservation throughout the city. Karen is also a board member of the New York Botanical Gardens, a board member and former president of the New York City Community Garden Coalition, and a Co- Founder of Black Urban Growers (BUGS). Karen was the recipient of the 2014 James Beard Leadership Award.