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Dawn Crayco
(she/her)

Dawn Crayco is the Northeast Regional Director for FoodCorps and former Connecticut Program Director. Her background is in community nutrition, public health, community organizing, and public policy.  As an original member of the Collaborative leadership, Dawn brings experience working on food issues and strengthening programs and policies that increase access to nutritious foods and food security for children in Connecticut. She currently co-leads the Resources & Funding Action Team with Joey Listro from New Britain ROOTS.

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Cyrena Thibodeau
(she/her)

Cyrena works at the CT Department of Agriculture in the Ag Development Unit. She is the agency's Farm to School Coordinator and manages the CT Grown for CT Kids Grant Program. She likes kayaking, gardening, hiking, and eating!

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Monica Pacheco
(she/her)

Shannon Raider-Ginsburg (she/her)

Shannon's work in sustainable agriculture, food justice, and experiential education has led her to work in all manner of farms, non profits and business ownership. She is a certified Master Composter, CT NOFA board member and a founding member of the New Connecticut Farmers Alliance. Shannon currently is the project coordinator for Put Local on Your Tray at UConn Extension supporting school through the maze of local procurement.

Monica has 27 years of experience in food service operations, 20 years in healthcare and 7 years as school food service director. Most recently, she has been with the CT State Department of Education (CSDE) for over 9 years working with School Nutrition Programs. She is the Farm to School Representative for the CSDE, is on the CT Farm to School Collaborative Steering Committee, the CT Grown for CT Kids Grant Advisory Council, and the CT Food Policy Council. In addition, she works on Procurement Reviews and is one of the coordinators for the Food Distribution Program for schools. Monica is a Registered Dietitian and a graduate of the University of Connecticut.

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Maraiah Popeleski-Tilley 
(she/her)

Azeem (Blessings) Zakir Kareem
(he/him)

Maraiah Popeleski-Tilley,RDN is a formally trained Chef and Registered Dietitian-Nutritionist. Throughout her career she has held a variety of roles in the fields of public health nutrition, food justice and food service management. Her professional experience includes building farm to table partnerships, systems improvement,  program development and leading workshops. She is a graduate of Johnson & Wales University in Culinary Nutrition, and completed her Dietetic Internship with the University of Connecticut.

Currently, Maraiah leads the Food Services program for Mansfield Public Schools and Region 19/ E.O. Smith High School, where their motto is "no sad lunches".  The program's focus is on increasing the variety and quantity of local foods offered to students and integrating scratch menu items, with a focus on diverse cuisines.  Maraiah works to increase access and participation in school meals and provide opportunities for children to learn about food in a fun, inclusive environment.  

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Abby DuBois
(she/her)

Abby DuBois is the Campaign Coordinator for UConn Extension's Put Local On Your Tray program. In this role, Abby connects CT School Food Service Directors with CT farms to increase procurement of local foods for schools. 


Abby leads a Cohort of Food Service Directors as they work to incorporate Farm to School programming into their school districts. As a FoodCorps CT and UConn College of Agriculture Alum, Abby brings a background in teaching, curriculum development, taste testing and cafeteria engagement.

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Christine Caruso
(she/her)

Christine C. Caruso, PhD, MPH (she/her) is a public health and environmental psychologist and community-based researcher, with expertise in food systems, institutional food, participatory process, urban environments, and health equity. She is currently Assistant Professor of the Practice in Food Security and Environmental Justice at the College of the Environment, at Wesleyan University.

 

She began focusing on institutional food in 2016, while serving as Research Fellow for School Food Focus/FoodCorps, where she was co-investigator for a study exploring values-based procurement practices in school food programs across the US. Christine has published widely and presented nationally and internationally on school food and institutional procurement practices.

Azeem Zakir Kareem is a black and indigenous farmer, mindset coach, and advocate for new BIPOC farmers in the State of CT and nationwide. As the co-founder of Samad Gardens Initiative and core member of the I Got Next Farmers Coalition, Azeem has helped provide organically grown, nutritious produce to over 2,000 families and community organizations in the Greater Hartford area over the last two years. Well-versed in psychology, Black history, and scripture, he speaks to the day to day realities that the Black man and woman face in reclaiming the knowledge, skills, and resources needed to become independent food growers. In addition to his work in agriculture and farmer advocacy, he is a renowned MC and beat producer known across the country for his clean, uplifting music. His next project to be released in Summer of 2022, entitled “Garden Thoughts” combines his farming experience, spiritual perspective and classic hip hop style which is sure to make waves throughout the music and farm worlds alike.

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Liz Wimpfheimer
(she/her)

Liz Wimpfheimer is the Assistant Farm Manager at Fairgate Farm, an urban non-profit farm in Stamford, CT. She loves to learn more everyday about growing nutrient-rich food and plant medicine in a sustainable way. Her work in the farm to school space began as a FoodCorps member, where she served Norwalk Public School District from 2020 to 2022. During her service with FoodCorps, she used her love of gardening to connect kids to the environment and their local food system.

 

She recognizes the importance of movement and play in learning and well-being for people of all ages. Liz is passionate about environmental stewardship, justice, and community, and hopes to bring those interests to the table as she serves on the Steering Committee. She enjoys reading, dancing, spending time with friends and of course being outside!

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Hannah Carty
(she/her)

Hannah Carty is the CT DoAG Farm to School Coordinator and a food policy professional and researcher interested in the structural inequalities of the food system through examination of the intersections of colonialism, race, health, and equity on the potential for food sovereignty and agricultural sustainability in black and brown populations.

 

Her background is in food and agricultural policy bringing diverse expertise in agriculture, project management, business administration, and budget analysis. A graduate of New York University, Hannah is recognized for her community engagement, making significant contributions to sustainable agriculture and leadership initiatives in her community.

Meet our Program Coordinator!

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Meet the Connecticut Farm to School Steering Committee

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Talia Clarke
(she/her)

Meet Talia Clarke, our CT Farm to School Collaborative’s Program Coordinator. Formerly a Food Corps Service Member from 2020 to 2022 within Hartford Public Schools Child Nutrition Services, Talia's journey is a testament to her commitment to health, education, and community.

During her time in Hartford, Talia played a pivotal role in fostering healthier eating habits and food awareness among students. Now, as our Program Coordinator, she brings her passion for collaboration, empathy, and sustainable food systems to the forefront.
 

Talia believes that success lies in working together to create positive impacts. Her empathy-driven approach ensures that everyone's voice is heard and valued. Through her work, she strives to enrich communities by nurturing a deeper connection to the food they eat.

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