+ Elly Brown
As the Alliance 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
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.
+ 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.
+ 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.