Erika Allen is the Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Operations for the Urban Growers Collective. She received her BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and her MA in art psychotherapy from the University of Illinois at Chicago. Integrating the creative and therapeutic techniques with food security and community development have enabled Erika to establish multiple urban farms and agriculture training and education programs. She is passionate about social justice and working with multicultural groups in the elimination of racism and oppression. Erika served as Commissioner for the Chicago Park District from 2012 – 2017 and also serves on the board of Neighbor Space, as well as a founding member of the Growing Food and Justice for All Initiative. Erika is a visual artist and consults with individuals and organizations to support visioning and planning of social change objectives. Erika Allen founded and was the Director of Growing Power – Chicago for 15-years prior to the closing of the organization in 2017.
Daniel Block is a professor of geography at Chicago State University and the coordinator of the Fred Blum Neighborhood Assistance Center, as well as an adjunct professor in the Department of Preventive Medicine at Northwestern University and the School of Urban Planning at UIC. He has completed many food access studies, including the Northeastern Illinois Community Food Security Assessment, a large-scale food access study of the six-county Chicago metro area. He is a past president of the Agriculture, Food, and Human Values Society. In 2018, he was named a fellow of the American Association of Geographers and is the co-author of Chicago: A Food Biography, a history of Chicago told through its food system, published by Rowman and Littlefield.
Rodger Cooley, Executive Director of the Chicago Food Policy Action Council, has worked for 18+ years in urban agriculture and sustainable urban food systems developing policy and projects. Rodger previously spent 9 years with Heifer International, supporting the development of urban farming projects in Chicago and the mid-western United States. He has a Master's degree in Urban Planning and Policy from the University of Illinois at Chicago and Bachelor of Arts from Oberlin College and has served as adjunct faculty at DePaul University and the Illinois Institute of Technology.
Jose Oliva is Co-Director of the Food Chain Workers Alliance after starting as the Associate Director from August 2013 to December 2014. He is from Xelaju, Guatemala. Jose founded the Chicago Interfaith Workers’ Center in 2001 and then became the Coordinator of Interfaith Worker Justice’s National Workers' Centers Network. In 2008 he went on to run the Center for Community Change’s worker justice program. From 2009-2014, Jose held a number of leadership roles at Alliance member Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, the national organization of restaurant workers. He also served as Board Chair of the FCWA Board of Directors from 2010-2012. He is a member of the Chicago Food Policy Action Council. Jose has been awarded the 2017 James Beard Foundation Leadership Award and the 2018 American Food Heroes Award from Eating Well magazine.
L. Anton Seals Jr. Organizer, educator, community connector, filmmaker and entrepreneur. Anton’s work has been dedicated to service and active engagement through the use of media arts, community organizing and empowerment to dismantle oppressive system impacting divested and oppressed communities.
Anton is the Lead Steward (Executive Director) of Grow Greater Englewood a social enterprise focusing on building a equitable and resilient local food system that fosters protections of vacant land in divested communities and focuses on connecting those residents with community wealth building opportunities.
Kim Wasserman is the Executive Director of the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization (LVEJO), where she has worked since 1998. Kim joined LVEJO as an organizer and helped to organize community leaders to successfully build a new playground, community gardens, remodel of a local school park and force a local polluter to upgrade their facilities to meet current laws. As Executive Director of LVEJO, she has worked with organizers to reinstate a job access bus line, build on the recent victory of a new 23 acre park to be built in Little Village, and continue the 10 plus year campaign that won the closure of the two local coal power plants to fight for remediation and redevelopment of the sites. Mrs. Wasserman is Chair of the Illinois Commission on Environmental Justice. In 2013, Mrs. Wasserman was the recipient of the Goldman Prize for North America. Her biggest accomplishment to date is raising three-community organizers aged 18, 11, and 8.