Boston, MA – Vital Village Networks (VVN), a network of residents and organizations committed to maximizing child, family, and community well-being at Boston Medical Center, is working to promote community-ownership of local food systems by increasing opportunities for local leaders to build capacity, skills and networks to strengthen these efforts.

Through a grant supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), VVN has selected 14 emerging local leaders from across the country to participate in the 2022 Community Food Systems Fellowship program. The program serves as a leadership pipeline to increase opportunities for diverse leaders to strengthen efforts to build equitable and resilient local food systems. This initiative will focus on strengthening community engagement and the leadership of caregivers, parents and families, uplifting strengths-based narratives, and fostering collaborative leadership to scale community identified solutions and cross sector partnerships.

Over the course of the program year, fellows will participate in a series of capacity building and peer learning sessions, including community design labs focused on participatory engagement and human-centered design approaches. Monthly virtual learning sessions will focus 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 in October 2022. Selected fellows will receive a stipend and have the opportunity to apply for additional project innovation grants.

Fellows will also work collaboratively as a cohort to develop a shared blueprint and capacity building roadmap to advance community-powered food systems.

Inaugural Community Food Systems fellows were selected from a robust pool of national applicants for their demonstrated experience and commitment to addressing inequities and advancing racial equity and social transformation within the food system, centering community leadership, and history of effective collaboration and partnership to develop resilient and equitable local food systems. A review committee of fellowship program staff, as well as the project’s national advisory committee, participated in a multi-part review process.

2022 Fellows include:

Yasmine Anderson
Black Women in Charge, Inc.
Indianapolis, IN

Mary Ann Buggs
Faith Food Fridays
Vallejo, CA

Tailor Coble
Washington, DC

Pampi D
Neighborhood Grow Plan
Holyoke/Boston, MA

Pantaleon Florez III
Maseualkualli Farms
Lawrence, KS

Julie Garreau / Wičhaȟpi Epatȟaŋ Wiŋ
Cheyenne River Youth Project
Eagle Butte, SD

Tevin Gray
Keepers of The Garden CCTX
Corpus Christi, TX

Erica Hall
Florida Food Policy Council / Suncoast Sierra Club
St. Petersburg, FL

Jackie Leung
Micronesian Islander Community
Salem, OR

Steph Niaupari
Plantita Power,
Washington, DC

Ashley Rouse
Captain Planet Foundation
Atlanta, GA

Nakia Sims
Taylor Street Farm
Houston, TX

Kaitlyn Walsh
Land Access Alliance
Cloquet, MN

Michelle Week
Gx̌ast sq̓it (Good Rain) Farm
Portland, OR

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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