The Symposium: October 2nd-3rd, 2015

A broad coalition of grassroots organizations, nonprofits, community gardeners, and other interested stakeholders have organized the first Syracuse Food Justice Symposium, at All Saints Spiritual Renewal Center, 1342 Lancaster Ave, Syracuse, NY. This year’s focus will be Taking Back Our Health through Community Gardens and Urban Agriculture.



All over the country, and in Central New York, people are working to create a cultural shift in how food production, processing, distribution, consumption, and waste are addressed and there is growing support for community gardening and urban farming. Jessi Lyons explains that “a dynamic and resilient regional food system must include Food Justice, where all citizens can afford nutritious food throughout the year, and our communities benefit from all facets of the food system. Community gardens and urban farms are a natural place to help consumers, producers, markets and decision makers find common ground to build more sustainable and locally beneficial food system opportunities.” This event welcomes policy makers, planners, community gardeners, school administration and staff, elected officials, nutritionists and medical professionals, health departments, community organizations, philanthropists, educators, students and the general public to hear nationally renowned speakers, local and regional experts, community activists, and growers discuss how community gardens and urban agriculture can strengthen our communities and the innovative approaches we can use locally. A keynote address will be offered by the 2012 James Beard award recipient Malik Yakini, Executive Director of the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network following a dinner by local chefs using regional and local farm products.

The goals of this symposium are to share best practices and offer inspiration from successful models in other communities; define local and regional needs, key challenges, and opportunities; facilitate dialogue, share information and develop collective strategies to overcome these hurdles; identify opportunities to integrate gardening/ farming activities and benefits into more of our community; and jump start efforts at creating an Onondaga County Food Policy Council.

This event will be free, with a suggested donation of $20. Support for this symposium is provided by the USDA National Institute of Food & Agriculture, US Green Building Council, Syracuse University Department of Food Studies, Syracuse University Department of African American Studies, Syracuse University Department of the Humanities, and SUNY ESF Department of Landscape Architecture.


2015 Symposium Schedule


2015 Speakers

Keynote Address: Malik Kenyatta Yakini

Malik Yakini Headshot

Malik Kenyatta Yakini is a founder and the Executive Director of the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network (DBCFSN). DBCFSN operates a seven-acre urban farm and is spearheading the opening of a co-op grocery store in Detroit’s North End. Yakini views the “good food revolution” as part of the larger movement for freedom, justice and equality. He has an intense interest in contributing to the development of an international food sovereignty movement that embraces Blacks communities in the Americas, the Caribbean and Africa.

Mike Atkins, The Helping Hands Urban Farm

Supporting Youth & Creating Jobs: Growing Local Food, Creating Local Jobs


Mike Atkins, Helping Hands – Urban Farm Garden

Helping Hands is the Syracuse branch of a national project spear-headed by First Lady Michelle Obama. The Southside of Syracuse, like many cities in our country, has been deemed a “Food Desert” which means there are entire neighborhoods that have little to no access to fresh, healthy food. For many people, their only feasible option is highly processed and over-priced foods from corner convenience stores. The problem is severe enough that it’s causing low birth weights due to a lack of proper nutrition available to pregnant mothers as well as obesity, diabetes and other related health issues later in life.

Twiggy Billue, Jubilee Homes Southwest Community Farm

Supporting Youth & Creating Jobs: Growing Local Food, Creating Local Jobs


Dr. Travis Hobart, SUNY Upstate Medical University

Understanding Food Justice: Your Health & Nutrition

Mengjiao Jiang, Columbia University

A Regional Food System Framework: Production and Nutrition Potential of Community Gardens, Urban Agriculture & Peri-Urban Farms

Jan McDonald, Rochester Roots

Supporting Youth & Creating Jobs: Bringing Science to Life

Screen Shot 2015-09-13 at 3.08.41 AM

  • Jan McDonald is the Executive Director of Rochester Roots, Inc. ROOTS mission is “To empower citizens and communities, starting with youth, to create agency for their own sustainable wellbeing.” Inspired by experiential teaching and learning methods, she integrates her interests in urban agriculture, nutrition, fine art, technology and entrepreneurship into programs that serve the needs of urban students living in poverty. Through Jan’s leadership ROOTS was awarded two USDA Community Food Projects Competitive Grants from 2005-2008 and 2015-2018 to develop school learning gardens, sustainability education, entrepreneur programs, and sustainability curriculum within elementary schools. She led the “Growing Technologies” research for a City of Rochester Urban Agriculture & Community Garden Feasibility Study (2009-2011) led by Sustainable Intelligence, LLC and was awarded a High Tunnel Research Project with Cornell University (2011-2013). Her desire for a holistic approach to education resulted in the design schematics for a Community Sustainability Learning Center & Learning Environment and has since incrementally built the sustainability educational curriculum, inquiry-based modeling and system dynamics modeling processes with her school, university and business partners. In 2014 ROOTS opened an “Urban Sustainability Laboratory” at the Montessori Academy that is focused on “A collaborative approach to sustainability education in grades Pre-K – 6th grade where students, teachers, citizens, college students, PhD’s and businesses learn together.”
  • Description of Presentation:
    • “Bringing Ideas to Life”A Collaborative Approach to Sustainability Education in Grades Pre-K – 6th Grade Where Students, Teachers, Citizens, College Students, PhD’s and Businesses Learn TogetherJan McDonald, Executive Director of Rochester Roots, Inc. (ROOTS), will present an overview of the sustainability education programs being implemented in Rochester, NY within Learning Gardens and Urban Sustainability Laboratories. ROOTS is focused on developing youth as leaders who work alongside businesses and university faculty and students to address the “wicked problems” of sustainability facing them in the 21st century. This cross-disciplinary and intergenerational approach to education stimulates student expertise in entrepreneurialism and STEAM learning to solve problems of interest, including appreciation of how these disciplines can be integrated for better and more sustainable solutions. In the ROOTS “Bringing Science to Life” and “Bringing Ideas to Life” programs students use a Sustainability Framework to model the Sociological, Ecological and Technological Systems that support the design of real world products and services to improve community wellbeing.

Carolin Mees: The Built Environment and the Urban Garden

  • Carolin Mees is an architect, writer and educator living in New York City. She has worked since 2005 individually and collaboratively in the field of architecture and urban design. Ms. Mees has published her PhD thesis in architecture at the Berlin University of Arts with focus on Community Gardens in New York City from a perspective of social urban planning. She is currently teaching the Designing for Resilient, Sustainable Systems class at Parsons The New School, was an Assistant Professor at the Graz Technical University’s Institute of Architecture and Landscape and a Research Associate at the University of Hohenheim’s Institute of Social Sciences in Agriculture. Ms. Mees has coordinated the participative design of new community gardens for the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation and is responsible for the design of small architecture projects such as a aquaponic container farm in Far Rockaway, Queens.

Dr. Joe Nimeh, SUNY Upstate Medical University

Understanding Food Justice: Your Health & Nutrition

Professor Matthew Potteiger, SUNY-­‐ESF

A Regional Food System Framework: Framing & Visualizing Food Systems

Professor Jennifer Wilkins, Syracuse University

A Regional Food System Framework: A Regional Food System Diet

Jennifer Wilkins, PhD, RD is the first Daina E. Falk Professor of Practice in Nutrition in the Department of Nutrition, Food Studies and Public Health at Syracuse University. She teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in community nutrition, food policy, nutrition education and program planning and conducts on consumer implications of emerging food systems, regional dietary guidance, health and sustainability. From 1993 to 2014, she was a senior extension associate in the Division of Nutritional Sciences at Cornell University. In 2008 she was appointed as the Community Coordinator for the Cornel Dietetic Internship Program and began teaching a graduate-level Community Nutrition course. In the early 1990s Jennifer conceptualized and developed the nation’s first regional food guide in the United States – called the Northeast Regional Food Guide. An updated version, MyPlate – Northeast is now available. As a Kellogg Food and Society Policy Fellow from 2004 to 2006 she developed a column, The Food Citizen, which appeared monthly in the Albany Times Union from 2006 to 2011. She has held leadership positions in several professional organizations including the Society for Nutrition Education and Behavior, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, and the Agriculture, Food and Human Values Society.

Rebekah Williams, The Massachusetts Ave Project

Supporting Youth & Creating Jobs: The Buffalo Mass Ave. Project

Bekah's head shot 2

Rebekah Williams is the Youth Education Director at Massachusetts Avenue Project (MAP) Growing Green, in Buffalo, NY. As such, she is responsible for hiring and supervising approximately fifty Buffalo teenagers each year, develops lesson plans and curriculum, and conducts lessons with MAP’s youth in social and environmental justice, social change marketing, policy change, youth organizing, and urban farming. Rebekah represents MAP in the Buffalo Farm to School initiative, a collaborative project of several organizations and the Buffalo Public Schools Food Service Department working to bring local food to 55,000 students in the Buffalo school district. She also serves as a co-facilitator of the Youth Advisors Council (YAC), a city-wide collaboration of Buffalo students, administrators, health leaders, and the district’s Food Service Director, working together to improve Buffalo’s school meals. Rebekah completed two years of training with the Buffalo Montessori Teacher Education Program, and she has a Bachelor’s degree from Empire State College in Social Structure, Theory and Change with a concentration in Community Studies and Development.


2015 Breakout Sessions

  • Tract 1: Using Buildings to Support Food Production & Community Engagement

Using Buildings to Support Food Production & Community Engagement

Carolin Mees and Matthew Potteiger, SUNY ESF

  • Tract 2: Aquaponics and High Tunnels

Aquaponics and High Tunnels

Allan Gandelman, Main Street Farms

  • Tract 3: Engaging Youth in Our Community

Engaging Youth in Our Community

Urban Delights & the Onondaga Earth Corps, Twiggy Billue and Greg Michel

2015 Workshops

  • Tract 1: Composting and Soil Building Workshop

Composting and Soil Building Workshop

CCE Master Gardeners at Stone Soup Garden

  • Tract 2: Food Preservation 101 Workshop

Saturday October 3rd,  11-12pm

Location: St. Lucy’s Church

Workshop Leader: Kathy Dishner

Food Preservation 101 Workshop: Getting the Most from Our Regional Bounty


Kathy is an Issue Team Leader overseeing Nutrition and Community Food Security programs for Onondaga County. Kathy also serves as Project Manager for an eight-county Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Nutrition Education Program (SNAP-Ed) Region across Central NY and the Southern Tier. During 2012, she has also served as the Deputy Executive Director for CCE Onondaga.Kathy has over thirty years’ experience as a professional Nutrition Educator specializing in nutrition education, dietetic practice and program supervision and leadership. Experience includes the development, marketing, facilitation, evaluation of behaviorally-based food and nutrition education programs for community, university and hospital-based outpatient settings. Kathy has been a consultant with the American Red Cross, SUNY at Buffalo, Community General Hospital, Roswell Park Memorial Cancer Institute and the Onondaga County Health Department, as well as an adjunct professor with Syracuse University and the SUNY at Buffalo. She has mentored over 30 students enrolled in the ADA- CDR accredited Dietetic Internship programs for both Cornell and Syracuse University.

Kathy has a Master’s degree in Community Health Education from the State University of New York at Buffalo and a B.S. degree in Nutrition and Dietetics from the State University College at Buffalo. She has been a Registered Dietitian and active member of the American Dietetic Association since 1982. Kathy has served on several boards in the Syracuse Community. These include serving as President of the Central New York Dietetic Association (2006-09); By-Laws Chair (2010-present) Publication’s Chair (2004); and on the Boards for the Interreligious Food Consortium (2003-06), and the American Heart Association (1989-91). Kathy co-chairs the Cornell Family and Community Food Decision Making Program Work Team (2007-present), and has presented workshops and poster sessions at several National and State conferences in the past ten years. Kathy has received several awards for her collaboration in the nutrition community including: an NIH Award for excellence in reducing health disparities through her work with the Genesis Health Project in Syracuse, the National Educational Alliance of Food and Consumer Science Professionals Northeast Regional Memorial Diversity Award (2001) and the Food Safety Award (2002).

  • Tract 3: Putting Your Garden to Bed and Fall Planting Workshop

Putting Your Garden to Bed and Fall Planting

at Southwest Community Farm

  • Tract 4: Small-Scale Season Extension Workshop

Saturday October 3rd, 11-12pm

Location: Southwest Community Farm

Workshop Leader: Jessia Maxwell

Small-Scale Season Extension Workshop

Learn simple techniques and strategies for extending your harvest season. We’ll review helpful materials and resources, appropriate crops for fall planting and season extension, and key timeframes.

  • Tract 5: Planting an Urban Orchard Workshop

Planting an Urban Orchard at South West Community Farm


2015 Sponsors

National Institute of Food & Agriculture • USDA Award # 2014-68004-22166 • The U.S. Green Building Council • Syracuse University Department of Public Health, Food Studies & Nutrition • Syracuse University School of Education • Syracuse University Department of African American Studies • Syracuse University Humanities Center • The Canary Lab at SU • SUNY ESF Department of Landscape Architecture • Department of Pediatrics, Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital • The Alden Street Foundation