+ Elly Brown | Executive Director
As the Executive Director, Elly manages the network, operations, programs, development, and administrative matters of San Diego Food System Alliance. Elly began her role at the San Diego Food System Alliance as a Facilitator in 2015 and transitioned to lead the organization as a staffed Director in 2016. Under Elly’s tenure, the San Diego Food System Alliance has increased its organizational revenue by 10-fold, expanded the network to over 120 groups, and launched 6 Working Groups. Elly enjoys the ability to contribute her business and consulting skill set to a cause she loves, food and community. Elly’s fondest memories of her childhood involves visiting the country-side of Japan, eating cucumbers and momotaro tomatoes off the vines from her grandfather’s urban farm. Elly was honored to receive Project New Village’s Fannie Lou Hamer Food Equity Award in 2018 for active support and involvement in changing the food landscape in Southeastern San Diego.
After her undergraduate degree at UC Berkeley, Elly began her career in Japan in IT and operational roles at financial services companies and consulting at Deloitte Consulting. Focusing on social entrepreneurship and finance at Duke’s MBA program inspired Elly to commit to a career addressing complex societal problems in innovative and effective ways. Elly is passionate about multi-sector collaboration and triple-bottom line approaches that balance social, environmental, and economic goals for communities. Previous to San Diego Food System Alliance, Elly worked in nonprofit consulting at Root Cause and independently, advising nonprofits, social enterprises, and foundations on building organizational capacity and maximizing community impact through collaborations. Elly is a first generation American, having spent majority of her life in San Diego and Japan. Elly finds joy in witnessing the visible shifts in the food environment in America’s Finest City through the work of San Diego Food System Alliance and the incredible network of organizations.
+ Sona Desai | Associate Director
Sona has been working to advance sustainable and equitable food systems for more than 20 years. She has a background in organic farming, food marketing & distribution, farm business development, and is recognized nationally as a leader in food hub and community food systems development.
Before joining the San Diego Food System Alliance, Sona was the Director of Food Systems Development at the Leichtag Foundation where she provided thought leadership, research, and food and farm based consulting services to advance the Foundation’s food system strategy. She also served as the Associate Director of Coastal Roots Farm in Encinitas.
Sona moved to California in 2016 after working at the Intervale Center in Burlington, Vermont for ten years. At the Intervale Center, Sona led the development and management of the Intervale Food Hub and the organization’s Gleaning & Food Rescue Program. She was also actively engaged in the Vermont Farm to Plate Network, and served on the Board of Directors for the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont.
As the Associate Director of the San Diego Food System Alliance, Sona provides strategic and management support for the organization, strengthens support services for small-scale sustainable food producers and fishermen in the region, provides consulting services to advance economic development in the food system and leads diversity, equity and inclusion efforts.
+ Emilio Flores | Development Manager
Originally from Cambridge, Massachusetts, Emilio has more than fifteen years of experience in the nonprofit sector, developing and managing programs, grant writing and fundraising, and building partnerships and community. His background with a variety of nonprofits informs his work and gives him insight into the opportunities and challenges that organizations face. A grant writer for the past four years, Emilio brings his strengths in communication, strategy, and ideation to the clients that he serves.
Emilio holds a Bachelor's in International Relations from Tufts University and is in the final year of his Master's in Nonprofit Leadership and Management from the University of San Diego. Emilio is also a Senior Fellow with the Environmental Leadership Program, an organization that supports and develops emerging leaders. Emilio is passionate about environmentalism and sustainability and sits on the board of Urban Growth, a San Diego nonprofit dedicated to reducing hunger and climate change through hydroponic farming. When he's not writing grants, Emilio is spending time with his wife and son, growing vegetables, or woodworking in his garage.
Margaret Chiu | Communications & Events Associate
Margaret has been curious about food for as long as she can remember. Raised by Taiwanese immigrant parents who grew beautiful squash, peas, winter melon, pomegranates, passion fruit and thriving fruit trees year after year in their suburban backyard garden, Margaret has always cherished the way growing food connects human beings to their heritage and back to the Earth. Her dual-culture upbringing and childhood summers spent camping all around the American West have fostered a lifelong commitment to both environmentalism and social justice.
In her role as Communications & Events Associate at the Alliance, Margaret strives to tell the stories of San Diego’s food system—both the happy stories of dreams fulfilled and change realized, as well as those that expose the ongoing crisis our modern food system is in. Margaret is passionate about illuminating the intersection of food issues with systemic social issues, and above all, wants to do her part in bringing about a just food system—one where individuals are engaged and communities have sovereignty over their food choices.
Prior to joining the Alliance, Margaret worked in marketing and business development for diverse sectors spanning life science, commercial real estate, international development and recreation. She has seen the power of thoughtful design, memorable events and well-written communications in creating lasting change. She looks forward to uplifting these in the San Diego Food System Alliance.
+ Geertje Grootenhuis | Program Manager, Food Waste Reduction & Recovery
Shaped by her past experience within the nonprofit and for-profit sectors, Geertje has the analytical ability to break down complex ideas into concrete strategies, to creatively design and innovate, and to unify ideas into one clear vision. She draws upon these skills, along with her passion for environmental justice, to coordinate and manage food waste reduction and recovery projects for the San Diego Food System Alliance.
Geertje graduated from UC Berkeley with a double major in Business Administration and Society & Environment, gaining practical business training and a comprehensive understanding of environmental issues. Inspired by her interdisciplinary classes, she developed a deep interest in food systems, volunteered at the Berkeley Student Food Collective, and eventually co-founded an award-winning social enterprise model focused on reducing food waste and improving food access in the Bay Area.
Geertje's work experience includes sustainability consulting, data science and analytics, zero waste, and environmental education. She considers herself a student always, and is currently taking classes toward a certificate in Integrative Nutrition. On the weekend, you’ll find her cooking for friends and family and exploring San Diego’s natural beauty.
+ Rachel Oporto | Program Coordinator, Food Waste Reduction & Recovery
Rachel’s experience in the food service industry has informed her educational and career pathways to address larger food system issues. After spending years working tireless hours in the back of a kitchen, Rachel became involved with local and national hunger relief efforts, feeling a pull to take action and create a more equitable food system. With her experience in social services, hunger advocacy and the restaurant industry, Rachel brings a well rounded approach to the San Diego Food System Alliance food waste reduction and recovery projects.
Rachel first graduated from the California Culinary Academy, Le Cordon Bleu in San Francisco with a degree in Culinary Arts. Later graduating from UC San Diego with a degree in SocioCultural Anthropology, focusing on social justice and gender studies. While completing her undergrad at UC San Diego Rachel served as an AmeriCorps VISTA member for two years through the Anti-Hunger Opportunity Corps, working at a local food bank to develop a robust social services program. Rachel’s background in the restaurant industry and personal experiences with poverty have fueled her passion for affecting change within food systems.
Rachel’s work experience includes social work and case management, program management - including federal programs, capacity building, fine dine catering and large scale food production. Through her four years of community outreach within the CalFresh program, Rachel feels deeply connected with her community and seeks to further understand the unique need of San Diegans. With a passion for politics Rachel stays involved in local campaign and community engagement efforts on her free time. Rachel enjoys cooking and spending time with her family on the weekends and diving into a good book.
+ Sarah Feteih, MSW | Outreach Coordinator, Food Waste Reduction & Recovery
Sarah is a systems-level thinker who believes in the power of collective impact and is passionate about advancing food justice in the community. Her interest in food systems was cultivated by the Alliance’s Food Waste Solution Summit series, where she became fascinated by the intersectionality of food waste and food insecurity and strove to get involved in the community working on these issues. Since attending the summit in 2017, she joined the board of a local non-profit and consulted on the development of the organization’s first Food Rescue Program.
After completing her Bachelors degrees in Cognitive Science and Human Development at UCSD, Sarah recently graduated from the Master of Social Work program at SDSU with a concentration in Administration and Community Development. While in graduate school, she worked to develop programs addressing food and housing insecurity among college students. She brings experience in program development, stakeholder engagement, community outreach, and public speaking in non-profit and university settings.
As the Outreach Coordinator, Sarah is responsible for coordinating and implementing the Save The Food San Diego EcoChallenge, a consumer-education, food waste awareness initiative. In her free time, Sarah enjoys exploring the diverse food scene of San Diego, watching movies, spending time with her family, and playing the piano.
+ Scott Sawyer | San Diego County Food Vision 2030 Consultant
Scott Sawyer grew up in Southern California before being charmed away to Vermont, where he was the lead author, editor, and designer of Vermont's Farm to Plate Initiative while working at Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund. His work has included researching, analyzing, writing, editing, evaluating, and designing for a variety of food system, renewable energy, forest products, and sustainability programs and projects, including Vermont's Farm to Plate Initiative, the Community Energy Dashboard, and the Vermont Bioenergy Initiative. Scott has a PhD in sociology from Washington State University, where his dissertation was titled "The Politics of Reliability: A Sociological Examination of the State of Vermont's Response to Peak Oil and Climate Change." Scott is happy to be back in sunny California and eager to help strengthen San Diego's food system.
+ Taylor Brewer | Intern, Food Policy
Taylor is a rising second year student at the University of San Diego School of Law, pursuing a career in public interest law, specifically policy work. Graduating from Loyola Marymount University with a bachelor's degree in Sociology, her education in social science influenced a passion for understanding the challenges facing our social systems. This interest motivated her to seek out activities that unveiled the complexities of our current food system.
Growing up in Los Angeles, Taylor has always been very much aware of great inequalities that plague our society. Coming from a city so rich with resources but also so wasteful and inequitable has served as a driving force in her quest for her legal degree. This background has helped her understand how some communities may be silenced in voicing opinions about the policies that affect them the most. She hopes to raise those voices and draws upon this passion for policy to research and cultivate information for the SDFSA team.
Taylor’s experience within the Fair Trade advocacy world, work within the non-profit sector, and time managing with her local farmers’ market also helped develop a thirst for sustainable policy work. She values her time spent learning from urban and rural farmers in Los Angeles and Puerto Rico as they shaped her vision of what equitable, efficient, socially dynamic agriculture can look like. Fully invested in food, Taylor loves to cook and explore new cuisines in her spare time, especially as an avenue to explore San Diego as the new city she calls home.