Solano Local Food System Alliance Members
Mary Ann Buggs is an enrolled member of the Caddo Nation and also of Cheyenne-Arapaho descent. Originally from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, she is an active participant in her indigenous heritage in the city of Vallejo. She has spent her life educating the public on Native American culture, dispelling myths and bringing to light the many contributions from the hundreds of unique tribal nations in the U.S. In 2011, Mary Ann and her husband, Benjamin, began a nonprofit food pantry called Faith Food Fridays that serves more than 600 families weekly with free groceries and other necessities.
Robin Cox, MPH, CPH is a Senior Health Services Manager for Solano County Public Health, where she has 23 years of experience administering primary prevention policy, systems and environmental change programs and initiatives. She is passionate about preventing chronic diseases and encouraging community partners to incorporate health and health equity into their policies and plans. She spearheaded VibeSolano.com to create a friendly, interactive way to engage Solano’s diverse populations in more dialogue with Public Health. Robin is the Principal Investigator for Solano’s Partnerships to Improve Community Health grant from CDC and is a California Department of Public Health Lifetime of Wellness grantee from CDC. She served as the project director for Solano’s CA4Health Community Transformation Grant (CTG) funded by CDC through the Public Health Institute. Robin is a past co-president of the California Conference of Local Directors of Health Education and was a contributing author to CCLDHE’s Framework for A Comprehensive Chronic Disease Prevention Movement in California. Robin was successful in incorporating a Public Health perspective into Solano County’s General Plan Update, and assisting with the City of Vallejo’s General Plan Health Chapter. From 2008-2011, Robin was a Governor’s appointee to the Statewide Public Health Advisory Committee, advising to the California Department of Public Health. She holds a Master’s degree in Public Health, Health Promotion and Education, from Loma Linda University School of Public Health, an undergraduate degree from UC Davis, and is Certified in Public Health from the National Board of Public Health Examiners.
Gail Feenstra is the Deputy Director of the University of California ANR Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (SAREP), a program of the Agricultural Sustainability Institute at UC Davis and the UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources (ANR). SAREP’s Food Systems Program encourages the development of regional food systems that link farmers, consumers and communities. Feenstra’s research and outreach has focused on farm-to-school and farm-to-institution evaluation in California and nationally, regional food system distribution, and values-based supply chains. She also works with Cooperative Extension and community groups on food systems assessments and local food policies. Feenstra holds a doctorate in nutrition education from Teachers College, Columbia University with an emphasis in public health.
Mike Ioakimedes is the Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer of the Solano County Fairgrounds. Mike is a lifelong resident of Solano County, where he and his wife Gayle operated a popular Benicia restaurant (Mike & Gayle’s Neighborhood Café) for 33 years. He has been active in local government serving on various City of Benicia boards and commissions including Benicia’s City Council, Planning Commission, and Economic Development Board. Mike is a 30-year plus member of Benicia’s Chamber of Commerce, has served on the board of the Benicia Historical Society, and has been very active in the Benicia Main Street Program serving as President multiple times. At the regional level, Mike has served on the boards of Solano Transportation Authority, Solano Economic Development Corporation, and was a founding board member of SolTrans. At the state level, Mike was very active in the California League of Cities serving on their state-wide Environmental Quality policy committee. Mike has also been a legislative advocate for the California Teachers Retirement System. He resides in Benicia, is a father to three adult children and recently became a first-time grandfather.
Kristin Kiesel is Assistant Professor of Teaching Agricultural and Resource Economics in the Agricultural and Resource Economics Department at the University of California, Davis. She received her Ph.D. from UC Berkeley. During a joint postdoctoral appointment with Stanford University and UC Berkeley, she helped develop the SIEPR-GIANNINI Data Center, for which she served as director for several years. Kristin has a passion for education and addresses health, environmental, and social aspects of the US food system in her research. More specifically, she has performed food demand analyses evaluating the effects of changes in labeling policies on consumer purchase decisions and welfare. She further applies experimental and behavioral methods to the evaluation of food related school-based interventions and educational programs. Finally, in collaborations with community partners, she evaluates the feasibility of creating local food incubators and food hubs in her most current research.
Ed King is Solano County’s Agricultural Commissioner. He is responsible for leading the county’s agriculture department and fulfilling its mission to protect and promote agriculture. He oversees a variety of programs coordinated with the Department of Food and Agriculture, Department of Pesticide Regulation and other county agriculture departments focused on invasive pest prevention, export certification, apiary protection, organics, certified farmers markets, safe use of pesticides, and regulation of commercial weighing and measuring devices.
Ed started his career in the agricultural commissioner system as an agricultural biologist in Nevada County, and prior to moving to Solano served as Placer County’s deputy commissioner/sealer. Ed holds a BA in Geography and an MS in Natural Resource Management, both from Central Washington University.
Maggie Kolk is a Sustainable Solano Board Member. She is a dedicated food safety and quality professional with diverse experience in training, auditing and consulting across the food supply chain. She has developed and implemented food safety programs for a variety of food processing, manufacturing and retail facilities preparing for FDA and USDA regulatory compliance. She is an enthusiastic, experienced trainer with a background in instructional design and has developed and delivered accredited courses in HACCP, Advanced HACCP, GMPs, Internal Auditing and related topics. Maggie is an approved training provider for Global Food Safety Initiative standards and is a certified trainer for Seafood HACCP. She is also a lead trainer for the Food Safety Modernization Act’s Preventative Controls course and Produce Safety.
Maggie has volunteered with a many U.S. food and agricultural organizations, including Global Growers, Clarkston, Georgia, and Slow Food Atlanta – Farm to School programs. She was the SQF International Conference chair from 2013-2017. Maggie is the current co-manager of Sustainable Solano’s Avant Community Garden in Benicia with her husband, Jack. Her degrees and certifications: A.S. Business Administration, Peirce College in Philadelphia; B.S. Food Science and Nutrition, M.S. Food Science, SJSU in San Jose; CP-FS, National Environmental Health Association; ATD Instructional Design Certification.
Ben Lyons & Denise Lyons are Farmers/Owners of Lockewood Acres, located north of Vacaville, CA in Solano County. The farm was inspired by an old 1954 publication which talked about the benefits of earthworms, and featured a farm (“Serenity Acres”) focused on self-sustenance. Originally planning to build a property that would sustain their family with wholesome and natural food, the Lyons went above and beyond the original goal, and now operate a full-service farm providing fresh vegetables, fruit, eggs, meat and honey. Lockewood Acres is certified organic by CCOF and is designed upon the Community Supported Agriculture model, serving Vacaville and surrounding towns. Striving to grow the best food in the most responsible way, the Lyons focus on Heritage seeds and breeds – carrying on agricultural traditions of the past – and sustainable agriculture practices. With a location in the Sacramento Delta Watershed, their water table is static at only 18’ below the surface, so contaminants can easily enter the water supply. Their outlook on the land and how to take care of it carries over into their farming methods, where they strive to control runoff, nurture the soil, and ensure healthy and delicious food for their community.
Jahniah McGill is a Registered Environmental Health Specialist (REHS) who works with the regulated community to advance public health through educating and assisting facilities to comply with various laws and apply best management practices to better serve the public. She knows that a strong Environmental Health presence within the community and society in general makes for a knowledgeable consumer base which is interested in the wellness of all people regardless of their socioeconomic status, race or gender. Jahniah has recently become a Supervisor for Environmental Health in Solano County; however, she has been in the field of Environmental Health for more than 10 years working in the following programs: water systems, food facilities, recreational health, special events, plan check, wells, body art, and solid waste. She is a certified pool operator (CPO), certified health education specialist (CHES), and is currently the President-Elect of the California Environmental Health Association (CEHA).
Jahniah holds a Master’s degree in Public Health form Walden University, a Bachelor’s of Science in Biology, and a Minor in African American Studies from the University of California, Riverside.
Elizabeth Monteadora is a Public Health Advocate/Consultant who has partnered with various nonprofits, community organizations, community clinics/health centers, public health departments, school districts and individuals in the arena of health equity: chronic disease prevention/early detection and HEALE (Healthy Eating Active Living Environment). She is passionate about making a difference by creating healthy change for our communities and environment, especially for our children and future generations.
Elizabeth also has a corporate wellness background, having partnered with countless executives, empowering their workforces to adopt healthier lifestyle choices. While she has received awards for her work in the corporate arena, one of her chronic disease prevention projects, which impacted over 10,000 lives at a major northern California health system, received a nationally recognized Excellence Award.
Elizabeth has been part of Sustainable Solano’s Community Conversation series, where she has spoken on Water Equity, Access and Safety. She holds a master’s degree from the University of California, Berkeley.
Greg Morrison is a Board Member for Cultivate Community Food Co-Op. He grew up in Marin County on a small street on Mt. Tamalpais where all the neighbors knew each other and the sense of community was strong. Working as the neighborhood paper boy, baby sitter, and running a home delivery beignet business with his brother, Greg came to appreciate that local communities foster local economies and local economies strengthen local communities.
Greg spent his adult working years as a Systems Analyst developing global systems for multi-national companies such as General Electric, General Motors, and Levi Strauss & Co. Now that he’s retired, he’s eager to get back to his roots and explore the possibility that technology can enhance both the local economy and the local community of Vallejo and Benicia. Cultivate Community Food Co-op is a perfect vehicle for making this happen as it brings people together in the one economic enterprise that everyone loves to participate in – the growing, preparing, and sharing of delicious, healthy food with friendly, helpful, fun, and interesting neighbors. As an Advisory Board member for Sustainable Solano’s USDA LFPP project, Greg will be involved with data analysis, distribution strategies, and examining ways in which the two projects can partner and benefit each other.
Tim Murrill is the Director of the Solano Small Business Development Center (“SBDC”) and is passionate about using his business experience to serve and support small business owners throughout Solano County and to lead his team of Business Advisors to do the same.
Prior to leading the SBDC, Tim served in senior management roles including the Director of Global Sales for FedEx, and Executive Vice President of healthcare company Ramsell. He also is also the former business owner and partner of Prediction Analytics that was acquired by Experian corporation within three years of its inception. He is a member of the Board of Directors for Travis Credit Union and sits on two locally based faith-based organizations (New Vitality Ministry and Boundless Grace Church).
Lisa Núñez-Hancock is a culinary arts instructor and food activist. After graduation from UC Berkeley, she traveled extensively throughout Europe and the Americas, later working in broadcasting and as a print journalist.
After leaving the corporate world of broadcasting, Lisa has worked for over 12 years as a healthy cooking teacher in diverse culinary programs from La Plaza de Culture y Artes museum in downtown Los Angeles, to plant-based culinary workshops at the Napa Library, to a successful cooking series, in partnership with Sustainable Solano, at the JFK Library in Vallejo.
Always stressing good nutrition, farm-to-table and Slow Food philosophies, and the work of Michael Pollan, Lisa has taught her UR what U eat classes to children, teens, adults and families in English and Spanish. Her hands-on and demo workshops stress the garden-to-fork concept, sustainability, cooking with natural, organic foods, basic concepts of plant-forward eating, and artisanal food traditions from different cultures. She is currently working on a “garden to table” book with friend and master gardener Rick Perrillo.
Paula Schnese is Board President of Cultivate Community Food Co-op. She grew up in a small Wisconsin town surrounded by farms. She learned at a young age the value of locally produced, healthy, fresh foods. Longing to spread her wings as she grew older, Paula set her sights on California, specifically Santa Barbara where she earned her BA degree in professional photography. Following graduation, she moved to the Bay Area where she established a successful commercial photography studio.
Following the birth of her third child, Paula formally closed her studio to focus on nurturing her children. Living near Berkeley at the time, she had access to a variety of natural food stores where she could get the foods she wanted for her family. However, moving to Benicia in 2013, she immediately noticed a food void and decided to do something about it!
In 2016, Paula shared the idea of starting a food cooperative with her community. She then attended the Up & Coming Food Cooperative Conference in Indiana, learning that community organizing to support local food systems and economies has been happening all over the country with great passion and success. Cultivate Community Food Cooperative was incorporated in July 2017.
Passionate about the food co-op, Paula educates herself on best practices and reaches out to the communities in an effort to grow ownership. She envisions Cultivate Community Food Co-op’s grand opening in the Benicia/Vallejo area with 1,200 owner members.
Dayna Sykes is a mother of two boys and a MSW graduate from UC Berkeley (GO BEARS!). She has been working with youth for the past 8 years at schools, in a group home, within juvenile hall, and now with children and families as well. She attended undergrad at Arizona State University and when she returned home, she was disappointed to see the lack of progression in the city of Vallejo. Through an effort to improve Vallejo’s food scarcity and lack of access to affordable, quality food, Dayna teamed up with Krechona Westbrook and Sustainable Solano with the intent to increase grassroot efforts by teaching gardening, cooking and composting to youth in the community. Dayna is a firm believer in fairness, equity, equality and the concept of TEAM: Together Everyone Achieves More. African Americans are disproportionately affected by the American systems (i.e. education, health, criminal justice). Dayna believes we can help ourselves through education and collaborative community efforts by incorporating food sustainability not only to heal ourselves but to heal our families. She enjoys being creative, reading books, watching TV, exploring the world and teaching her children new things so they can continue to keep the positivity going in this world.