Board of Trustees

Jen Ballen

(Boston, MA)

Jen is the CEO and Co-Founder of Otherworld, a plant-based food company addressing planetary and human health through nutritious and climate-conscious food products. She is also the Co-Founder and Chairwoman of the Board of Before It’s Too Late, a nonprofits arts organization whose mission is to use art and technology to ignite urgency and collaboration toward addressing climate change.
Jen is the Founder of The Sustainable Investor, an editorial blog demonstrating through data-driven research that profitability and environmental/social impact need not be mutually exclusive.
She is the co-author of the 2017 MIT published case study “First Solar,” which received EMFD’s Best Bringing Technology to Market Case Study award. In 2014, Jen became a trained Climate Leader with Al Gore’s Climate Reality Leadership Corps in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. In 2020, Jen was named on GreenBiz’s 30 under 30 list of leaders in sustainability. She holds a B.S. in Finance and Marketing from Lehigh University (summa cum laude honors), and an M.B.A. and Sustainability Certificate from MIT Sloan School of Management.

Amy Ballin

(Gloucester, MA)

Amy’s career as an educator spans over 30 years from teaching science education at elementary and middle schools to working as a school counselor for children with language-based learning disabilities to her current position at Antioch University as an assistant professor in the special education department. Amy received her Bachelor in Science from Cornell University as an environmental education major. She earned a Masters in Science Teaching from Antioch University New England and worked as a science educator for ten years before returning to college to obtain a Masters in Social Work from Boston University.
Dr. Ballin received her CAG.S. in education administration and her PhD in education from Lesley University where she explored theories of school culture, the ethics of special education, and student motivation. Amy is the mother of two children who were fortunate to participate in The Food Project as youth and then later as staff. Their experiences at The Food Project were life altering. As young adults, they use the skills and insights from The Food Project to advance social justice. Amy is also an avid gardener committed to growing her own food.

Valerie Cardoso

(Dorchester, MA)

Valerie is the Deputy Director of Environmental Justice at the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA). Prior to this role, she worked as a Climate Change Policy Analyst and Program Administrator for the Food Security Infrastructure Grant program at EEA. She began working in state government in Governor Charles Baker’s Office of Constituent Services where she was the Deputy Director and Internship Coordinator. Valerie graduated with a B.A. in Sociology from Boston College in 2014, and upon graduation, served as a City Year Americorps member at an elementary school in the Bronx, NY.
After completing her first year of Americorps service, she returned to Boston where she spent the year crossing the country leading volunteers in high impact service projects at both schools and nonprofit organizations. Valerie became involved with The Food Project’s Seed Crew at the age of 15. She spent three years in various youth roles throughout the organization and was given opportunities to represent The Food Project outside of Boston. Valerie frequently states that her passion for service and social justice started at The Food Project, and that the organization has played the most important role in shaping her life and career trajectory.

Emmanuel Encarnacion – Chair

(Lynn, MA)

Emmanuel (Manny) is a Human Resources Professional working at CareQuest Institute for Oral Health supporting the organization’s growth and their employee experience. Manny has worked for The Food Project in various capacities. He was a youth in the North Shore’s first Summer Youth Program, now known as Seed Crew, and continued his time through Dirt and Root Crew.
After graduating from Salem State University with a double Bachelor’s in Business and Dance, he began working as a Community Health Worker for Mass General Hospital assisting families suffering through food insecurities.
Manny returned to TFP as a Youth Development Specialist on both regions. During his time with us, he received a Certificate in Community Leadership and Social Change from the Institute of Nonprofit Practice. Working at TFP has been a highlight in Manny’s life, and he has shared that his personal connections and experience helped guide the next steps in his career.

Danielle Benedict

(Sharon, MA)

Appointed Chief Human Resources Officer at United Natural Foods (UNFI) in April of 2016 and previously held the position of SVP and National VP HR since 2013. Responsibilities include total rewards, executive compensation, diversity & inclusion, succession, organizational design, talent management, change management & communication.

Danielle joined UNFI from Clean Harbors Environmental Services, where she served in various roles over a 7-year timeframe; including Vice President of Leadership Development, Vice President Human Resources and Director of Compensation & Benefits. Prior to Clean Harbors she worked for Dunkin Brands and Victor Coffee for several years each in various accounting and HR roles.

Norris Guscott

(Lynn, MA)

Norris graduated from UMass Boston with a bachelor’s degree in Psychology (focus in community studies) and attended Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government’s UE Executive Education Program (Using Evidence to Assess Effectiveness) where he graduated in 2017. Currently, Norris is the Director of the Lynn Food and Fitness Alliance (LFFA) in Lynn, MA. In this role, he manages and facilitates community partnerships to address food insecurity and improve other public health intersections while dually serving as the City’s Food Security task Force leader having been appointed to the position by the mayor Tom McGee in May 2020.
Norris also leads a statewide working group that is actively facilitating connections between BIPOC farmers, building that networks capacity for policy advocacy, and drafting language for bills, he drafted a significant amount of language for bills HD 1661 & SD 1036.
Norris has a deep history with The Food Project. At the age of 16, he was introduced to the organization by former executive director, J. Harrison, while working in a community garden in Lynn, MA. Norris later became one of The Food Project’s first FoodCorps service members, and eventually went on to publish a research piece on the benefits of community gardens in collaboration with The Food Project. Norris embraces theoretical approaches to improve public health and food policy rooted in community psychology. In his spare time, Norris is an avid gardener and competitive cricketer.

Irene Li – Vice Chair

(Brighton, MA)

Irene, winner of the 2022 James Beard Leadership Award, is a graduate of The Mountain School, Milton Academy, and Cornell University. Her life experiences range from organic farming to prison education and many things in between. While she never expected a life in the restaurant industry, her desire to create change and to care for those around her remains constant. She’s passionate about carefully sourced ingredients and high-quality jobs. Under her leadership, Mei Mei implemented open-book management with Rethink Restaurants in order to improve the business while providing team members with valuable hospitality skills and financial know-how. Irene is involved with a number of community organizations and serves on the boards of Haley House, Lovin’ Spoonfuls, and Project Bread. In the weeks that followed the COVID-19 emergency, Irene launched Unsung Restaurants, a campaign to raise money for under-the-radar, mom and pop, and immigrant-owned businesses, partnered with Off Their Plate to lead a grocery program for hospital workers, and continued to drive Mei Mei in whatever direction best serves her community – like selling toilet paper!
Today, Irene’s focus is on transforming the restaurant world into an industry in which workers’ needs and potential are taken seriously. She believes that professionalizing and dignifying restaurant employment has the potential to uplift millions of workers and small business owners. Inspired by her peers, team members, and experiences in the industry, she is now part of Visible Hands’ inaugural cohort. Her work there is focused on driving change in restaurants by creating tools and resources to support businesses of all sizes to thrive sustainably and equitably. Irene loves pit bulls, hip-hop dance videos, true crime, and talking to people about composting. She lives in Brighton with her partner and a lot of plants.

Abra Francois

 (Quincy, MA)

Abra Francois currently serves as an Associate General Counsel at Tufts University, where she specializes in labor and employment as well as litigation, civil rights, athletics, and malpractice matters. Prior to this role, Abra worked as a Supervisory Civil Rights Attorney at the U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights, where she enforced civil rights laws that prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, disability, and age. 

Abra also previously focused on civil rights and employment law at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and New York City Law Department. Abra is a graduate of Simmons College and Boston College Law School. She lives in Quincy and is an avid gardener who loves growing vegetables for her husband and two kids.

Evelyn Arrivillaga

 (Lynn, MA)

I grew in Lynn and ever since I was young I’ve always had the intuition to explore. I’ve been inspired to try new things and see where the wind takes me. I’m continuously challenging myself and growing, working hard for myself and those around me. The Food Project is what I consider to be my second home. I hope as a board member I’m able to encourage this feeling within this organization. I want to make sure we as a collective are constantly improving, after all,  I am here to be a part of working towards the brightest future of TFP.

Ezra Hausman

 (Newton, MA)

Bio Coming soon

Gardenia Leon Munoz

 (Lynn, MA)

Born in Boston and raised in Lynn. Gardenia is a sophomore attending Lynn English High School. She enjoys Inclusivity Panel and reading sometimes. She’s been a youth at TFP since the summer of 2022 and ever since that summer she’s been happy to stay at TFP. Currently she’s a member of Academic Root Crew. Gardenia decided to join the board to gain insight as to what transpires within the organization and how decisions are made as a committee.

She found out about this opportunity through her supervisor, Will Capriola and Andy Ly, her peer leader. This past year, she’s been interested in agriculture, social work, finance and gardening. She’s hoping through this opportunity she can gain experience as a board member, learn from her peers, and eat good food!

Kathleen Lomatoski

(Lincoln, MA)

Growing up surrounded by New England dairy farms and orchards inspired Kathleen’s lifelong advocacy for small farms and locally grown food. Years ago, a neighbor introduced her to volunteering at Baker Bridge Farm. Kathleen joined the Lincoln Agricultural Commission in 2023, working to preserve, protect, and promote agriculture and to create a sustainable agricultural community.

Kathleen graduated from Boston University then studied at University Complutense, Madrid. While living in Spain, she developed innovative programs for teaching English language skills to children and adults while visiting arts and culture venues, garnering an enthusiastic following. After returning to Greater Boston, Kathleen dedicated her time to museum education teaching, writing, and leadership roles at Boston’s MFA and The Institute of Contemporary Art, among other museums, along with a wide variety of community arts venues. Her programs, community partnerships and related resources touched thousands of children, families, and adults of all ages and abilities, as well as attracting intern mentees from around the globe. Much of her work focused on removing barriers to access and welcoming new audiences. Teaming with colleagues and sponsors, she broadened philanthropic support.

During pandemic times, Kathleen completed certification from the MA Medical Reserve Corps, then joined forces with the local fire chief and public health nurse to set-up operations for vaccinating elderly residents. Next, she jumped-in to collaborate, administrate, lead trainings, problem-solve, guide, and uplift, while delivering essential vaccination and testing programs to diverse constituents across MA, the US, and in Puerto Rico. She authored a bi-monthly digital newsletter serving myriad global constituents in partnership with Boston/Cambridge biotech firm, Ginkgo Bioworks. Simultaneously, she co-founded and led a virtual networking program for professionals in search of camaraderie and new work opportunities, which continues to serve as a model locally and nationally. Kathleen is an avid outdoorswoman, longtime trail steward for 80+ miles of conservation trails in her community, and she enjoys managing farm livestock, including horses, cows, alpacas, sheep, goats, roosters, and hens.

Fun Fact: Kathleen loves winter and adventure. She’s slept under the stars burrowed in snow while traveling by dogsled through the Boundary Waters wilderness region of northern Minnesota/Canada. Kathleen is honored to be a Trustee of The Food Project after contributing in and learning from many TFP volunteer roles.

Kimberly Lee – Development Committee

 (Lynn, MA)

Raised on a small family farm in rural Illinois, Kim graduated from Cornell University with a degree in Chemistry and earned her Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the University of Washington. A career in biotech culminated in her role as Director of Proteomics at Cell Signaling Technology, Inc. Kim extended her impact at CST beyond the laboratory, co-founding the DEI Council and chairing the community grants committee, which ultimately led to her introduction to The Food Project. Kim now focuses full-time on community service and nonprofit support in the vibrant City of Lynn.

In addition to her role as a Trustee for The Food Project, she serves on the Board of Directors of Girls Inc. of Boston and Lynn, volunteers with ESC (Empower Success Corps) to provide strategic planning consulting services to nonprofit organizations, and is a member of the Lynn Arts & Culture Council, The Boston Club, the Rotary Club of Lynn, and East Baptist Church. Kim is passionate about youth development and equity in food and nutrition. She enjoys watching sports on TV with her husband and dog, cooking healthy meals, and traveling to visit friends and family, attend sporting events, and try new restaurants.

Moshammed Jahan

 (Lynn, MA)

My name is Moshammed (Moshe) and I am a 16 year old sophomore at Lynn English High School in Lynn, MA and I am also currently working as a youth member for the North Shore’s Root Crew Academic Year. Some of the things that I enjoy doing include spending my free time with my friends and family, as well as cooking! Whenever I spend time with my mother and grandmother, I get to learn so many new recipes and even on my own time I enjoy researching delicious and nutritious foods that I can cook even alone. Now, growing up in Lynn I have gotten to know about The Food Project over the course of the past 7-8 years and while also working in the North Shore Region as a youth member of the Youth Development Program for the past 2 years. Joining the organization as a youth member would’ve been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made!

I say this because of how much the organization has helped me build on my leadership skills along with both inspiring and empowering me to utilize these skills within my local community. The skill sets that I have managed to expand on with the help of The Food Project have supported me in making changes within my school community and also helping other schools in my district! Being able to learn, experience, along with growing at The Food Project made me want to gain a deeper understanding about why the organization does what it does and how other non-profit organizations run as well. During the end of my second summer of the Youth Development Program, I applied for the TFP Board Position wanting to become more knowledgeable on the behind the scenes of this organization. Soon enough, I found out that I made it! Even so, my hopes with being on the board include providing the board with insights on how their decisions impact the youth and how The Food Project can improve further onto strengthening the three of our main pillars. Youth, Food, and Community.

Reuben Pomerantz

 (Brookline, MA)

Bio Coming soon

Diane Stansbury (Clerk)

(Arlington, MA)

Diane formerly worked in development as the Assistant Director of Alumni/ae and Parent Engagement at the Cambridge School of Weston. Diane was passionate about her work at CSW building community and connecting alumni, parents, and other constituents to each other and the school. Community engagement benefits the fiscal health and growth of any organization. Diane’s professional experience began in corporate wellness programming: teaching classes in fitness, health, and nutrition.
Diane is passionate about teaching the importance of a healthy diet and exercise as well as finding ways to make healthy choices available for all communities. Diane holds a BS in Health Education from George Mason University. She lives in Arlington with her husband Will and two grown children, Randall and Jayson. She enjoys spending time with her family on the Cape, reading, entertaining, and walking her dog Rosco.

Sarai Zelada

(Lynn, MA)

Lynn resident Sarai Zelada is a Public Health Planner for the Metropolitan Area Planning Council. She brings more than a decade of experience working in climate justice, affordable housing, economic opportunity, and public health to The Food Project. While earning a degree in Natural Resource Studies at UMass Amherst, she got her first taste of urban farming by helping to build the school’s first campus community garden.
This experience inspired her to earn a master’s degree in Urban and Regional Planning from the University of Michigan with a focus on creating more healthy communities. One of her first jobs out of school was working as a Crew Leader for The Food Project’s Seed Crew. She has also helped to run the Lynn farmers market.

Our Board of Trustees meets six times per year. To reach out with questions or interest in joining our board, please send an email to: boardinfo@thefoodproject.org.