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Sarah Shaikh, NYC Healthy Communities Initiative
Sarah is the former Project Manager of the Healthy Corner Store Initiative at City Harvest, Inc. She holds a BA in Geography from the University of Denver, where she was a Keck Scholar (Environmental Sciences). She earned her MA in International Policy Studies and MBA from the Monterey Institute of International Studies. Sarah is committed to promoting a healthier New York through the vehicles of empowerment, social enterprise, and food justice for all families. Her community-based efforts center on: re-shaping WIC (Women, Infants, Children) programs, advocating reform in the 2012 Farm Bill, introducing better school food alternatives, fostering incentives for healthy food retail, protecting SNAP and other emergency food programs, promoting hydration and healthy beverage consumption, and increasing awareness for mind-body-spiritual wellness. In addition to her work with Bon Seours, Sarah is an independent fundraising consultant specializing in institutional giving. Before re-locating to New York, she worked in Central America managing rural education programs and mentoring women as visual health entrepreneurs for WorldTeach and VisionSpring. Sarah is a certified Facilitator of Communities of Practice. She holds advanced certificates in Spanish from Middlebury Languages Institute and Fundraising from NYU School of Continuing and Professional Studies. She serves as board member for Food Systems Network NYC, advisor for New Creation Cafe and Bakery, and regularly contributes to the growing literature on community food security. Recent highlights of her corner store efforts are published through the Center for Farmland Policy Innovation.
Barbara Denson, Community Gardens Coordinator
Barbara oversees all community gardening programs in our initiative neighborhoods. She holds a certificate as a Horticultural Therapist from the New York Botanical Garden, an Associate's Degree in Floral Design from Bergen Community College in Paramus, New Jersey and a Bachelor's Degree from Emory University in Atlanta.
Pilar Rendon (R.D, MS, CDN), Community Health Assessments Coordinator
Pilar is native to Mexico City, where she earned her BS in Human Nutrition and Food Science from Universidad Iberoamericana and her Masters’ in Science for Nutrition, Food Science and Public Health in New York University. Pilar has a strong background in treating eating disorders. She makes regular guest appearances in radio shows, videoconferences and symposiums. She has a passion for helping and educating New York City’s Hispanic population on the prevention of obesity and the achieving of healthy eating habits.
Vanessa Berenstein, Community Food Coordinator
Vanessa is a graduate student at New York University currently obtaining a Registered Dietitian degree and Masters in Food Systems. She has worked at the Eating Disorders Inpatient Clinic at Princeton University Medical Center and conducted nutrition research at both the Joslin Diabetes Center and the Division of Diabetes, Endocrinology and Nutrition Research at the Boston Medical Center. From May 2010-July 2011, Vanessa worked on organic farms and took permaculture courses in Mexico to learn about sustainable agriculture and food systems. Since then she has worked in the Bronx, with Youthmarkets and Youth Farms leading cooking demonstrations and community cooking classes. She also collaborated with the Food Systems Network to work on Food Action NYC, developing farmers market, CSA and food co-op databases and a Food Systems Toolkit for community leaders to improve the food system in their communities. Vanessa has a passion for improving access to fresh fruits and vegetables in low-income communities and improving community health through cooking and gardening education. Vanessa is holds her NYC certification in Food Safety Handling.
Boaz Hiilebrand, Project Manager- Community Food Assessment
Boaz has more than a decade as a professional baker, creating delicious bread, cakes, and pastries. He is currently studying at New York University toward a master’s degree in Food Systems, with the goal of working on effective food policy reform. In his work for Bon Secours, he assists with writing and editing a community food assessment covering parts of northern Manhattan and the southwest Bronx. Boaz has a deep interest in urban agriculture, its benefits for health and its potential for building stronger communities. In addition to work and school, Boaz volunteers at BK Farmyard’s egg CSA.
Elizabeth van der Els, Project Manager- Healthy Corner Stores
Elizabeth recently graduated with an interdisciplinary degree in Social Thought and Political Economy and International Relations at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. While in college Elizabeth was able to cater her major to her interest in urban renewal in connection with food insecurity and public health. While in college, Elizabeth worked with the Hartford Food System, a non-profit grassroots organization working to fight hunger and improve food quality in Hartford. With Hartford Food System she played an active role in increasing access to normal food outlets and worked to develop the connection between food consumers, agriculture production and youth. Elizabeth facilitated gardening program for elementary level children, led active discussion around proper gardening techniques, and worked with the youth to plant and maintain a small scale garden. She was the Assistant Manager at Hartford's weekly Farmer’s Market. Additionally, she was assigned to work closely with six corner stores in Hartford taking steps towards providing the stores with better quality produce. She currently also works with City Growers at Brooklyn Grange to educate youth on the benefits of urban farming and runs a CSA share in Manhattan. She is excited to work with Bon Secours on their Healthy Corner Store initiative because she feels it will enable her to continue exploring her passion for urban renewal programs that are aiming to create sustainable communities.