FINE's Network Advisory Council (NAC) plays a critical role for FINE the organization, as well as the network we serve. The NAC functions as the eyes, ears and mouth for FINE, supporting our small staff of six people (4.8 FTE's) in our work to coordinate research, communications, events and programs for a network of stakeholders across six states, five institutional sectors, and many nodes in the farm to institution ecosystem. The NAC helps keep us informed, accountable and relevant - and they are an incredible group of motivated, smart, caring and really fun folks!
We are delighted to welcome seven new members (meet them below), joining twelve returning members, creating our largest NAC cohort ever. Earlier this spring we were overwhelmed by the interest expressed to join this volunteer group, with applications quadrupaling available spots. Our selection process was challenging, as all of the applicants would have added great value. Our objective was to create a team that would give us broad representation of the system we are working to influence, and to identify individuals with the energy and interest to invest in making FINE finer.
Last week the FINE staff and NAC gathered at the beautiful Knoll Farm in Waitsfield, VT for a two day retreat designed to help all get to know each other and gain clarity on our shared mission and plans for the coming year. From all accounts the event met its objective and gave each of us a chance to relax, recharge and ready ourselves to meet the evergrowing challenges in the food system, our communities, and our planet.
Working with the NAC is one of the highlights of my job. Whether in big meetings like this, or one on one calls, they remind me of the complexity of the challenges we face, the inspiring innovations springing forth across the network, and the desire to collaborate to create change.
A huge thank you to our current and former NAC members who advise and connect, making our network really work!
Michael Lawrence founded his Chef Consulting firm in 2017 and volunteers in different capacities in the food, design & construction industries. His firm helps communities to have access to local food options by assisting individuals to open their own food operation. Michael is originally trained as a chef, and received additional education in architecture, industry law and regulations along with food science and technology. He is dedicated to the food industry and continues to seek opportunities to support regional food sourcing and management.
Over the four decades of her working life, Christine James has taught ESOL classes in Boston for adult students from all over the world, served as executive director for a small, organic educational farm in Maine, advised faith-based and secular institutions on how to move to renewable energy to address climate change, raised funds for Boston’s large community center network, led a coalition of nonprofits, businesses, hospitals, universities, and community members working to improve neighborhood health, safety, and cohesiveness in Allston-Brighton, researched the socioeconomic impact of fisheries regulations on fishing ports in Maine and Massachusetts as staff at MIT Sea Grant, and taught urban ecology in Springfield College’s program for adult students working in human services. For thirteen years (2008-2021), Christine drew on her varied background to help The John Merck Fund resource nonprofits in New England and across the country that are working to protect human health and the environment. JMF converted from a perpetual to a "spend out" foundation in 2011 and distributed its entire endowment over a ten year period ending in December 2021.
Since 2018, Christine has traveled to Honduras and Tijuana, Mexico, to stand in solidarity with peaceful protestors seeking political reforms, and with individuals and families seeking refuge in the US from violence, poverty and the ravages of climate change in their home countries. Over the past several years, she has sponsored asylum-seekers from Uganda and Haiti as they have pursued their cases in Boston. She currently serves on the boards of The New England Grassroots Environment Fund and East Burke School. Despite her move to Vermont in 2020, Zoom has helped Christine remain an active member of Church of the Covenant-Boston.
Christine has a B.A. in art history from Bowdoin College and an M.A. in urban and environmental policy from Tufts University. If not inside baking or knitting, Christine is outdoors—working in her garden, helping her husband with repair projects around their homestead, or exploring the beauty of rural Vermont on foot, by bike or in a kayak.
Karl Dias is founder and CEO of FATBOY Foods and its New England Made brand. As a USDA Certified Organic co-packer with operations in West Bridgewater, Massachusetts and Lincoln, Rhode Island, Karl specializes in producing value-added products, often from locally-sourced ingredients. Early in his career, visits to regional farms sparked an interest in helping growers make the most of their crops, particularly the “ugly” or processing fruit not destined for supermarkets. Today, his work is focused on applesauce and purees of fruits and vegetables from growers throughout New England. In developing an extensive network of regional farmers, buyers and distributors, Karl has partnered with large institutions with programs committed to the use of local produce, such as Harvard and Tufts University, as well as regional organizations devoted to bringing local produce to schools and other institutions, such as Massachusetts Farm to School and Worcester Food Hub. Karl is a former member of the Board of Directors for Bread of Life, Malden. He holds a BA in Psychology from Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts.
Kristen lives with her family in Portland, Maine where she works for Share Our Strength, the organization that operates the No Kid Hungry Campaign. At Share Our Strength Kristen serves as a State Campaign Manager where she oversees the strategy and partnerships of five state-based No Kid Hungry campaigns. Through this work she hopes to increase access to and participation in the federal nutrition programs for all kiddos and families.
Kristen has a B.A. in Geography, Environmental Studies, and Geographic Information Systems from the George Washington University and an M.Phil in Human Ecology from the College of the Atlantic where she focused her studies on Food Systems and Urban Planning. In her spare time, Kristen enjoys exploring local trails and nature preserves with her family, baking, and seeking out the best pastries and coffee Portland has to offer.
Melissa has spent her entire career in the food service industry working from the ground up. Her efforts were rewarded as she rose to prominent management roles with some of the top restaurants and chefs throughout the country. During this time, she found that her passion was hospitality, service, and feeding those in need. Her work within the food industry brought her back to Maine and her current role which is geared towards her passions.
As Strategic Accounts Manager at Native Maine Produce, Melissa leads the company’s advocacy and community outreach work while managing a portfolio of more than 600 accounts that consist of schools, non-profits, and institutions across Maine and New Hampshire. Melissa has established relationships with Maine and NH’s Department of Education and the Farm to School Network and works to develop creative and efficient solutions to improve government program efficiencies by prioritizing fruit and vegetable consumption.
Melissa is a lifelong Mainer with a deep connection and passion for children, education, advocacy, and food. She currently serves on the Political Advisory Committee for the International Fresh Produce Association and is a member of the Maine Food Convergence and Maine Farm and Sea to School.
Chef Matthew is a highly passionate & effective chef and hospitality executive with a strong track record of driving business performance by developing high-performing, highly innovative teams. He is recognized for outstanding leadership in driving culinary artistry through creative menu development and experienced in the authentic delivery of ethnic cuisine. Talented teacher of food safety and culinary arts.
With a strong background in the local & responsibly sourced food movement, he is an advocate for plant-based menus. Chef Matthew is the co-founder and Chief Culinary Officer for Harvest Table Culinary Group, a dedicated team of chefs, wellness managers, and food enthusiasts who create a campus dining experience. Every meal tells a story, and every student leaves satisfied. We are passionate about bringing chef-driven, sustainable, and wellness-focused experiences to students and universities. The team is empowered with the culinary freedom and agility of a boutique company to be responsive to student needs and truly make an impact on their campus and local communities. Chef Matthew has brought progressive, sustainable, health-based dining to higher education partner sites for more than twenty years.
Nancy Kohn is the Eastern Regional Director of Innovation & Equity for the Healthy Food in Healthcare Program at Health Care Without Harm (HCWH) with over a decade of multi-sector experience. In partnership with the health care sector and various community allies, she and her team develop scalable models that support the transformation and sustainability of a local, equitable, and resilient food system.
Previously, Nancy held multiple leadership roles including directing K-12 nutrition education programming to 250-school network for the Philadelphia School District, led community gardening, re-entry for the formerly incarcerated, and food security initiatives at the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, as well as served as the Director of Greenthumb for NYC Parks, where she directed policy, programming, and technical support provided to over 1100 community and school gardens citywide while working in partnership to bridge government with the collective power of communities to improve food and land security.
Nancy serves as Vice Chair for the Board of Directors at the Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger. She holds a BA in Political Science from Temple University and an MA in Health Education from Columbia University.