Tribute to JuliAnna

This is a tribute to JuliAnna Arnett, our dear friend and food systems colleague, who moved to San Franciso in February to work at USDA as a western regional farm to school lead. JuliAnna was instrumental in the development of the good food movement in San Diego. When you think about the key food systems work in San Diego County, JuliAnna was involved somewhere along the way. She was the master of collaboration and analytical thinking. San Diego misses you, JuliAnna.
Elly Brown, Director of San Diego Food System Alliance

Some of JuliAnna’s food systems work history in SD:

Community Health Improvement Partners (2007-2015)

Coordinator of the San Diego County Childhood Obesity Initiative
Food Systems Manager
Food Systems Director

During her time at CHIP she supported multiple grants/contracts including those from HHSA, The California Endowment, Kaiser Permanente, and UCSD, which was the Communities Putting Prevention to Work project (I think from 2010-2012). She was the catalyst for our food systems work for CHIP and also helped to write proposal to USDA for the Farm to School grant, which was awarded right around the time she left.

County of San Diego Health & Human Services (2015-Feb 2017)

Contract: Development of County’s Eat Well Practices  

Collaborations/ Coalitions (managed or played lead role in many)

San Diego Food System Working Group
Farm to School Taskforce
National Healthcare Leadership Team
1 in 10 Coalition
California Food Policy Council
San Diego Food System Alliance
CNAP Farm to Fork
Others that we don’t know about!


Dear San Francisco

We are entrusting to your care and protection someone special.
Don't EF this up; when she is ready to return we want her back in good shape.
This goes for you too Sonny Perdue.

San Diego

I worked closely with Julianna on the HealthyWorks / CDC grant wherein Victory Gardens San Diego was contracted to identify 5 Regional Garden Education Centers sites around the county and train their staff to teach sustainable food gardening.   She was great to work with, had a clear vision of what she wanted, and a good grasp of how to get there.   Plus, she sometimes laughed at my jokes. 

One of our deliverables was to improve our web site and create 3 garden manuals, which are still in active use.

The first is about how to start a garden and grow food, the 2nd is about starting and maintaining a school garden program, and the third covers the same info for community gardens.   Juliann led the team to pick a designer and got great results.  It was revealed that her good taste extended to design.  

The covers of the manuals are here:

Richard Winkler
Victory Gardens San Diego


I first met Julianna at our San Diego Food System Working group in the beginning of 2009. I had moved down to San Diego a year before this from Oregon, and at the time, I felt like the southern California food system scene was really in its infancy. But after meeting Julianna, I knew there was a real pulse here and that she was on it. We had a quick connection both being girls from the Midwest who came to West coast in search of something more than corn fields and chicken fried steak.

Julianna shared my interest in social justice, food security, food justice, thinking outside the box, and the common sense to know you gotta show up. And you show up on time. Through our food system work, we became great friends.  We spent hours dissecting data to write the San Diego Food System Assessment, hours working to bring school gardens into fruition while fighting to put chickens in our backyards. We worked together in San Francisco Bay Area and Sacramento on Farm to School & with the CA Food Policy Council advocating for statewide food system change. And we spent a wee bit of time drinking some of San Diego’s finest IPAs in my backyard in OB.

I am so excited for Julianna to grow & learn from some of the original movers and shakers in the food system movement in the Bay area and West Coast in her new role. The changes that Julianna has made in San Diego will forever be deeply rooted in our community for years to come. I will miss her dearly.

Sadie Sponsler-Clements, RD
Assistant Director, Nutrition Services
UC San Diego Health


I was fortunate to meet JuliAnna during her first week with the San Diego County Childhood Obesity Initiative (COI), and was thrilled that the COI now had two staff members!  When JuliAnna immediately caught on to the technical as well as editorial aspects of putting together the COI enews, I knew she was going to be an invaluable asset to the COI.

It wasn't long before JuliAnna's role expanded to include groundbreaking work in food systems. Her ability to see the big picture while attending to the details are hallmarks of JuliAnna's exceptional capabilities. JuliAnna continues to inspire me with her ability to bring the right people together, create a welcoming and structured environment, and strategically map out paths to meet objectives. While I will greatly miss working with her, I am confident JuliAnna will continue to innovate and support improvements in our region's food system.

Deirdre Kleske
Healthy Works Program Specialist
Chronic Disease and Health Equity Unit
County of San Diego Health & Human Services Agency


JuliAnna was instrumental in the development of the County of San Diego’s Eat Well Practices, Meet Well Pledge, and the  Live Well San Diego’s Food System Initiative. She provided the County of San Diego with expertise to inform the County’s vision around food system efforts!  JuliAnna has strategically and significantly made a difference in the food system in San Diego though relationship building, forging new innovative partnerships and passion.  Her dedication, focus, and determination are admirable and inspirational.  JuliAnna’s expertise has left a sustainable footprint for all of us to benefit from and carry on the torch!

Naomi Billups
Public Health Nutrition Manager
Chronic Disease and Health Equity Unit
County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency


I’ll never forget the first time I met JuliAnna. We had flown her to San Diego from Ohio for a job interview. She arrived, freshly scrubbed in her neatly pressed, below-the-knees blue suit, ready for her interview for the coordinator position with the newly formed San Diego County Childhood Obesity Initiative. We knew two things right away…1) she was the right person for the job, possessing the perfect combination of enthusiasm, idealism, and Midwest work ethic, and 2) she really needed a So-Cal makeover!

JuliAnna and I worked closely together for the next seven years. As a valued member of Team CHIP, JuliAnna was my trusted and dependable counterpart. Her thoughtful and thorough approach to her work was enhanced by her innovative ideas and generous spirit. These qualities continue to benefit everyone who works with her. Her passion for improving food systems and advancing food justice flourished and grew while she was at CHIP and the County, and now will be carried out in her new position.

Although I am sorry to see her leave San Diego, I also feel a tremendous amount of pride, as her former “work mom,” to see her spread her wings. JuliAnna has much to be proud of. She has left a legacy of exceptional work, trusted colleagues, and good friends. Now, as she heads to the Bay Area and her work with the USDA, I am certain she will achieve much success and continue to make a positive difference.

Cheryl Moder
Vice President, Collective Impact
Community Health Improvement Partners


I probably first met JuliAnna around 2009 at a meeting of the 1 in 10 Coalition, a group which would go on to play a central role in bringing people together to successfully advocate to reform the City of San Diego’s community garden and urban agriculture ordinances. Over the years, I’ve seen her involvement in local food work from numerous angles: as she helped with the Communities Putting Prevention to Work grant, while building up the County’s Farm-to-School Taskforce to, finally, her work at the County where she facilitated the creation of the Eat Well Standards, worked on the Climate Action Plan and numerous other things that I got to collaborate with on or got to hear about. (We shared a cubicle, so I literally got to hear almost everything, though I don’t think I ever learned the full scope of what she was working on.)

JuliAnna isvery dedicated to improving not just the food we eat but the whole system of food production and disposal. Her modus operandi is to connect people together, the seemingly more distant, the better. She has a big vision of a just food system. She helps bring it to fruition by getting people who didn’t realize that they needed each other talking.

Parke Troutman, Planning and Policy Development Specialist
Maternal, Child and Family Health Services
County of San Diego Health & Human Services Agency


I have started a few different professional love poems as I sit down to write this. And fundamentally how I feel is tremendous love, appreciation and celebration of Julianna and everything she's so generously, intelligently and wisely produced to help San Diego's food systems movement over the last decade. Yes, her work deserves a majestic poem with just enough off-kilter rhyme and sass that nods to her fun quirky stylishness. 

But then I think about her deep diving into the murky waters of data, policy, and all the other frightening seas of bull-shit-less-ness. And then, I'm thinking a poem doesn't do her justice. She deserves footnotes, citations (MLA, not Chicago style) and lengthy acknowledgements and one heck of a bibliography. 

And so, here we are at a standstill and a heartbreak, a loss for San Diego and a boon for San Francisco...and the hope that she will go show those fancy folks in the Bay Area a thing or two about rockin' food systems change. Thank you for all you've given over the years! And enjoy your next great big dive up north. (And let's hope you pull a Sadie in a few years.)

Anchi Mei
Senior Program Manager
Food Security and Community Health Department
International Rescue Committee

In my time working in the San Diego food system as a farmer, educator and activist, I have collaborated with and befriended a number of outstanding leaders our community. Among these, JuliAnna Arnett has consistently stood out as an exceptional contributor, whether guiding a new initiative, representing her work at events or supporting others’ likeminded projects. Additionally, from urban food security to school gardens and more, the fruit of her efforts can be found in numerous documents that have served invaluably in improving public health and reconnecting people to the role of food in the San Diego area. Her legacy will long outlive her as she moves on to her new position in Northern California, and I wish her the very best!"

Thanks to you both for your care for JuliAnna, and your excellent work otherwise!

Colin Richard

JuliAnna Arnett is unlike anyone else I know. She is incredibly smart, motivated, tenacious, effective, and her motivation is derived from a true sense of wanting to improve the world she lives in and the lives of those around her. Anyone who knows JuliAnna, or has heard her speak about food, knows how infectious her passion for improving the food system is and her commitment is incredibly inspiring to me, especially working side-by-side with her at the County. JuliAnna may have left San Diego, but her impact on the San Diego food system continues to be palpable. I cannot wait to learn of her successes with the USDA and hopefully be able to soak up some more of her genius from afar. J

Ariel Hamburger, MPH, MA Healthy Retail Specialist
Maternal, Child and Family Health Services
County of San Diego Health & Human Services Agency

Want to submit a tribute for JuliAnna? Please contact Elly Brown with subject "tribute to JuliAnna" (