BOSTON – Vital Village Networks (VVN) at Boston Medical Center is working with a growing network of local leaders to build the capacity of communities to promote community-ownership of local food systems.

Through a grant supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), VVN has selected ten emerging local leaders from across the country to participate in the 2023 Community Food Systems Fellowship program, which was launched in 2022 with its inaugural cohort. The program serves as a leadership pipeline to increase opportunities for diverse leaders to build skills, capacity, and networks to strengthen efforts to build equitable and resilient local food systems. The Fellowship specifically focuses on strengthening community engagement and leadership of caregivers, parents and families, uplifting strengths-based narratives, and fostering collaborative leadership to scale community identified solutions and cross sector partnerships.

The program pairs peer learning and capacity building with participatory co-design principles. It was created through strategic partnership with a group of 19 local and national food systems advocates, experts, and practitioners on a National Advisory Committee. Over the course of the program year, fellows will participate in a series of capacity building and peer learning sessions. This will include: community design labs focused on participatory engagement and human centered design approaches, monthly virtual learning sessions focused on key capacity building topic areas, individualized technical assistance, as well as a culminating project stakeholder convening and showcase during Vital Village’s annual National Community Leadership Summit. Selected fellows receive a stipend and can also apply for project innovation grants. In addition, alumni from the 2022 cohort have been invited to return as guest faculty in order to support and offer guidance to fellows by facilitating presentations, holding 1-1’s, and molding program design.

Fellows will also work collaboratively as a cohort to develop a shared vision and roadmap to advance community-powered food systems, which will be published after the completion of the fellowship. The 2022 Roadmap authored by 2022 fellows will be published in early 2023.

This year’s fellows were selected from a robust pool of applicants across the United States for their demonstrated experience and commitment advancing racial equity and social transformation within the food system, centering of local community leadership, and history of effective collaboration and partnership. A selection committee of fellowship program staff and members of the project’s National Advisory Committee, participated in a multi-part review process.


2023 Fellows include:

Travis Andrews

Skyline Urban Ministries

Oklahoma City, OK

Sierra Doehr

Saticoy Food Hub

Saticoy, CA

Femeika Elliott

Rooted East Knoxville

Knoxville, TN

Jamie Gonzalez

Big Fresh Market Box and Produce Markets

San Antonio, TX

Cassandra Loftlin

Black Farmers Index

Augusta, GA

Hallie Nelson

Jefferson County Food Policy Counci

Denver, CO

Marc Peeples

Liberated Farms

Detroit, MI

Kim Ross

Mount Terra LLC

Bluefield, WV

Patricia Tarquino

Cosecha Community Development

Nashville, TN

Tacumba Turner

Oasis Farm and Fishery 

Pittsburgh, PA


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About Vital Village Networks

Vital Village Networks is a national collective of diverse change-makers and organizations committed to pioneering sustainable approaches to transforming child, family, and community well-being. Since 2010, Vital Village has fostered partnerships between residents and organizations aimed at improving the capacity of communities to optimize child wellbeing, prevent early life adversities, and advance equity through coalition building, leadership development, participatory research, data-sharing, and advocacy. Through our grassroots local network in Boston, our national network of peer communities, Networks of Opportunity for Child Wellbeing (NOW), and CRADLE, our participatory research and evaluation lab, we cultivate stronger connections between residents and community-based organizations to co-design community systems-improvement efforts and address structural inequities.

For more information about Vital Village Networks, visit

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