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Rick Nahmias, Founder/Executive Director Before founding Food Forward in 2009, Rick was an award-winning professional photographer and writer whose work focused on the faces and stories of marginalized communities. His formal training as a cook, along with his exploration of California’s agricultural workforce in his body of work entitled “The Migrant Project: Contemporary California Farm Workers” gave him a deep appreciation of and involvement in both the gourmet cooking and the food justice worlds. These varied interests, along with his conviction that access to healthy fresh nutritious food is a human right, culminated in him growing Food Forward and coming aboard as full-time Executive Director in 2011. He’s spoken on food justice issues internationally, and his work has been profiled in dozens of publications including The Guardian, Sunset Magazine and The Los Angles Times. Rick has been regional a delegate to the Slow Food/Terra Madre Conference in Torino, a Ralph M. Parsons Fellow, a Food Champion by LA City Council, and was a solo presenter at the 2014 SXSW Eco Conference. A 2010 winner of the LA Social Venture Fast Pitch, in 2015 Nahmias was chosen from over 135 past participants to represent Los Angeles in the inaugural National Fast Pitch competition in Austin, TX and was awarded the Innovation and Audience awards. In 2016 he received an inaugural Trailblazer Award by the International Association of Culinary Professionals. Rick has recently begun serving on the LA Food Policy Council Leadership Board, and the Steering Committee for the Los Angeles County Food Recovery Initiative  When he’s not in the kitchen or up a tree, he’s often learning the ins and outs of vintage steel guitar with the help of his Catahoula Leopard Dog, Rufus. rick@foodforward.org

Amir Zambrano, Operations Director, considers himself a world citizen with Angeleno roots. He was raised in his family’s restaurants in Echo Park, working as soon as he was old enough to stop breaking dishes, and eventually owned his own Latin American Fast Food joint on Hollywood Blvd. He comes to us with 12+ years of accounting and finance experience, most recently with Yahoo! Inc where he lead projects in strategic partnerships and acquisitions integration, and system and process enhancements. His passions are traveling, backpacking, surfing and diving, and he recently became a Dive Master in Colombia where he also immersed himself in the Raizal culture, learning traditional farming practices. amir@foodforward.org

Emily Parker, Development Director, hails from the cornfields of Indiana. Following a picturesque childhood of running around the stalks and creeping around a giant old barn, she left the Midwest and moved to NYC for college and urban excitement. After many years of gallivanting through Manhattan, where she produced myriad works of downtown theatre, she decided to move west and, soon thereafter, discovered a new passion. She found her way to Margery Tabankin and Associates and FUNDamental (both philanthropic advising firms), from which she gleaned the knowledge she’s now using to advance Food Forward. When she is not thinking about produce and food justice, she can often be found taking long urban and canyon walks with her husband and small blind dog, Stevie Wonder. emily@foodforward.org 818.764.1022 ext. 7#

Jane Palmer Harris, Social Enterprise & Partnerships Manager, is a transplant to LA coming from strong southern roots in South Carolina.  After college at Clemson University she found herself among the redwoods in northern California where she served as an AmeriCorps VISTA member for the Humboldt County UC Davis Extension with the 4-H program.  It was there that her appreciation for food programs blossomed after volunteer work with Food for People, a local food bank.  She has worked in experiential and event marketing in Los Angeles for the last 4 years for top food and beverage brands.  When she isn’t working she is traveling, enjoying live music, tasting the newest local fare, hiking, at the beach, or cooking up some southern soul food for friends. jane@foodforward.org 818.764.1022 ext. 5#

Dani Lyons, Development Associate, grew up in the Pacific Northwest, and learned to love the delicious food and beautiful outdoors of her hometown, Seattle, WA. Dani made her way down to Los Angeles to attend Occidental College, where she majored in Urban & Environmental Policy and furthered her education in food justice and environmental health. She received her Master’s degree from Chatham University in Food Studies, with an emphasis in United States food policy. Dani’s academic background and research have largely focused on how to make school food more nutritious and just (and more delicious!). Dani is a distance runner and triathlete, and loves that she can train all year round in sunny LA. In her free time, Dani can be found reading, enjoying every flavor of ice cream, and cooking up a storm in her kitchen. dani@foodforward.org 818.764.1022 ext. 7#

 

PROGRAM STAFF

Laura Jellum, Outreach & Communications Manager  Laura’s roots are in small-town Michigan where her taste for fruit began with the apple and pear trees in her backyard. After eating a lifetime’s worth of homemade applesauce, she headed off to college in Kalamazoo, MI only to find a budding career in music marketing, which brought her out to Los Angeles for five years. She spent another five years in Chicago coordinating special events and nurturing her zeal for cooking before the allure of sunshine and citrus all year long called her back to Los Angeles. Her growing passion for combatting food waste and meeting like-minded individuals led her to volunteer with Food Forward and the rest is history. She is Vice President of Membership for Directors of Volunteers in Agencies – Los Angeles (DOVIA-LA) and has served on Occidental College’s Community Partner Advisory group. The rest of her time is spent hiking in her neighborhood of Altadena, traveling to places near & far, and eating her way across the greater Los Angeles area. laura@foodforward.org 818.764.1022 ext. 2#

Samantha Teslik, Harvest & Education Manager, is a Los Angeles native who moved back to California after a 6 year stint living in NYC. While she enjoyed her time living in the big apple earning a Masters Degree in Food Studies from NYU, operating a youth education program at farmers markets by day and crafting cocktails behind the bar by night, she always knew (particularly during the winter months) Southern California would eventually be where she called home again. She is thrilled to bring her experience educating students about the importance of eating fresh, local produce to Food Forward to help Southern Californian’s further appreciate and engage with the bounty of regional fruit trees we are blessed to live among. When she isn’t advocating others to harvest fresh fruit, Samantha enjoys camping and hiking, eating mexican food, petting her 5 cats, and finding new ways to enjoy the beautiful outdoors afforded to her here in California. samantha@foodforward.org 818.764.1022 ext. 3#

Gunther Schulz, San Gabriel Valley Harvest Coordinator, grew up in Southern Brazil where most summers were spent at his grandparents’ farm in the town of Paraiso do Sul (try finding that on a map!). Here he developed a rudimentary understanding of where food comes from and how hard those working to produce it really work. In 1998 he moved to Newark, NJ where the natural setting was a considerably different, and the understanding of where food comes from, more foreign than himself. He worked in the food industry for those first years in both coasts before attending the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign where he majored in Earth, Society, and Environmental Sustainability. Gunther lives in the San Gabriel Valley with his wife,  daughter, and boxer, Charlie.  When he is not leading a pick or assisting at the farmers’ markets, he enjoys gardening and quail farming, and is passing his passion for sustainability on to his daughter, who can be found by his side in the backyard at all times. He is proud to be able to apply his knowledge to the great work and philosophy at Food Forward. gunther@foodforward.org 818.764.1022 ext. 0#

Jason Landers, Los Angeles Harvest Coordinator. Bio coming soon. jlanders@foodforward.org 818.764.1022 ext. 0#

Luis Yepiz, Wholesale Produce Market Recovery Program Manager, has early memories of the Sonoran Desert, Yaqui Valley. Tumbling through “mountains” of wheat, sorghum, soy and millet — juxtaposed against the harsh realities of food politics, artificial shortages, and price fixing — is where he learned first hand how fresh grown produce is such a vital commodity and so precious. Growing up Angeleno, he split his time between the family diesel mechanic business and volunteering in public radio. His family’s prolific garden in the San Gabriel Valley made overcoming food insecurity, sharing abundance, and working with those fighting hunger a natural fit. Luis brings to Food Forward his business management background as well as years working with wholesale market recovery, food banks, farmers markets, and charities throughout Southern California. He is also an award-winning poet and operatic tenor. luis@foodforward.org

Leah Boyer, Farmers Market Recovery Program Manager, grew up by the Mississippi River in southeast Minnesota in the “Barn House” (a 100-year-old remodeled dairy barn) with a backyard that would make most naturalists green with envy. She developed her love of nature in this yard, catching water bugs in the creek, chasing butterflies in the prairie, and creating imaginary worlds in the woods. She went to UW-Madison to study conservation biology and cultural anthropology and then transplanted to SoCal and studied urban planning at UC-Irvine. She practiced environmental planning at a firm in Orange County, where she got to know the ins-and-outs of city and regional government. Here, she also realized she was more interested in healthy food access instead of writing environmental impact reports. When she isn’t working, she’s traveling the world, being crafty, cooking delicious food, and enjoying the vibrant neighborhoods of Long Beach, where she lives with her husband and cat, Zonker. leah@foodforward.org 818.764.1022 ext. 6#

Jason Reedy, Farmers Market Recovery Program Coordinator, was born in Newport News, VA, but grew up around the world in countries like Bolivia, Morocco, Thailand, and Pakistan. It was in these places that he saw how important it was to lend a helping hand to those in need and through his parents’ constant selflessness, he decided that giving back was his career path. He went to the University of Central Florida and graduated with a degree in Political Science. Shortly after graduating, he moved to Los Angeles and started working at the Ace of Hearts Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to rescuing dogs that would otherwise be euthanized. He later joined SOVA’s Community Food & Resource Program, where he was the Pantry Manager at their West location. When he isn’t working, he’s running the streets of Los Angeles, walking the hallways of museums, and enjoying the delicacies of Roy Choi with his girlfriend, Jessica and handsome pup, Samson. jason@foodforward.org 818.764.1022 ext 6#

Joe Bobman, Volunteer Coordinator, comes to Los Angeles by way of Central Connecticut and Western Massachusetts. He spent five years working with food and environmental justice programs up and down the Connecticut River Valley, including farmers markets, community and school gardens, and a bike advocacy program. Shortly after moving to Los Angeles, he began working at SOVA’s Community Food & Resource Program, where he developed an incredible appreciation for Southern California’s abundance of fresh produce and passionate volunteers. He is also a professional baker and has worked at bakeries, food trucks, and one of L.A.’s top restaurants. When he’s not working, he is cooking at home, riding around on his bike, or reading anything written by Ursula K. LeGuin. joe@foodforward.org 818.764.1022 ext. 2#

Jill Santos, Ventura County Branch Manager, comes to us from the City of Ventura where she led community and school outreach programs promoting water conservation, food waste composting and recycling. Jill has worked for over 20 years in the environmental field, and was instrumental in starting a water conservation rebate program and a food waste composting program for the City of Ventura. Prior to working for the City, Jill managed place-based education programs, enhanced business and residential recycling services and was appointed to the Lake Tahoe Federal Advisory Committee for communities in Lake Tahoe. She graduated from West Virginia University with a degree in Parks and Recreation and is currently working on her master’s degree from Green Mountain College in Resilient and Sustainable Communities. Growing up in rural north central Pennsylvania on 3 acres gave her lots of wild woods to explore, along with vegetable gardens to cultivate and chickens to raise. She loves to mountain bike, hike and backpack for fun and currently lives in Ventura with her son, Ziggy and her dog, Chulo. jill@foodforward.org 805.630.2728

Ally Gialketsis, Ventura County Branch Coordinator, grew up in the garden with her mom in the small farm town of Santa Paula near Ventura. Ally has always had an appreciation for very fresh and local food which blossomed into a passion during her college years at UC Santa Barbara. Between trips to the farmers market, participating in environmental action clubs, and playing in the dirt at her community garden plot, she was drawn even more to food issues and activism. Since graduation, she has coached youth rock climbing and worked at an eco-bath store on addition to her community involvement with the Ventura Food Co-op and other local organizations. She spends her free time in the outdoors – climbing and gardening any chance she gets. ally@foodforward.org 805.630.2728

Zachariah Jobe, Facilities Coordinator, born and raised in the heart of Denver Colorado, his interest in food conservation began in high school where he spent five years volunteering at a local food bank. It was there that he gained an understanding of the positive effects of food justice and the real need for providing access to healthy meals. After graduating from the University of Colorado Denver, Zach moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in comedy. Being from Colorado, Zach has always had a love for all things outdoors. When he isn’t working or performing, he is an avid cook, hiker and beach fanatic. zach@foodforward.org