Executive Director, Community Food Advocates
Executive Director of Community Food Advocates, Liz has spent her career in pursuit of social and economic justice and brings over 20 years of leadership experience at the city, state and national levels.
Prior to joining CFA Liz served as the Senior Policy Analyst at the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies where she led the policy and advocacy work in the areas of income security and early childhood education. Liz conceptualized and built the Access to Assistance Campaign, a multi-faceted, coalition-based policy advocacy campaign designed to eliminate structural barriers to public assistance for low-income New Yorkers living in deep poverty.
Previously Liz served as the National Outreach Coordinator at Lambda Legal, the nation’s oldest and largest legal organization serving the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and HIV community. In this capacity she was responsible for developing and overseeing national educational and advocacy campaigns related to Lambda Legal’s priority issues.
From 1991 to 2004 Liz served as policy analyst at the Community Food Resource Center (CFRC) and worked on welfare and food stamp policy issues on federal, state and city levels.
In 1999, as a project of CFRC, Liz founded the Welfare Made A Difference National Campaign, a social marketing and legislative action campaign to reframe the debate over social programs for poor families. By engaging diverse voices of former and current welfare recipients in the policy debate the campaign challenged stereotyped images of poor women in both the public opinion and the policy-making arenas. Liz organized 250 former and current welfare recipients from around the country into a national speakers’ bureau and advocacy network and built a broad coalition of 400 national and local organizations to develop and promote public education and policy initiatives.
Since 2003 Liz has served as a Trustee for the Patsy Takemoto Mink Education Foundation for Low- Income Women and Children. She previously served as a member of Planned Parenthood Federation of America’s National Board of Directors.
I have been the Executive Director of Community Food Advocates since 2013. My organization spearheads the coalition-based Lunch 4 Learning campaign. In 2017, we secured universal free school lunch for all 1.1 million NYC public school students. We are now building on that success. For households with school aged children, there is no more effective anti-hunger program, that simultaneously addresses health and education equity, than school meals. I bring my 30 years of experience in advocacy, organizing, and coalition building, that is grounded in solid policy and budget analysis, to promote high impact public policies that strengthen income and food support programs that are crucial to financially struggling New Yorkers.
I started my career in the late 1980’s at a drop in center for homeless people in downtown Brooklyn. Although I loved that work and trying to help people with immediate needs, I soon realized that systemic changes were needed to address poverty and hunger and even then rising housing costs. Homelessness and hunger started emerging at that point as significant at this time and everyone pointed to the crack epidemic, and while that played a role there were larger economic and social policy factors at play.
We are working with our coalition partners, Food Chain Worker’s Alliance and the CUNY Urban Food Policy Institute, and over 30 coalition partners to get NYC to pass a Good Food Purchasing policy. Good Food Purchasing Policy would use the enormous purchasing power of New York City’s food serving agencies to have a positive impact on the local and regional food economies – with five measurable value categories, environmental sustainability, valued workforce, local economies, animal welfare, and nutrition. On the consumer end increased quality and nutrition of 242 million meals served annually at public institutions—including NYC public schools, public hospitals, senior centers, correctional facilities, homeless shelters. This policy has tremendous potential to impact all aspects of the food chain and have a significant public health impact on the consumers of the meals.
For our work this would be applicable to our coalition partners. The experience I hope individuals and organizations that work with is clarity of a shared goal and where their experience and knowledge are contributing most effectively to the ultimate impact we seek to have.
I like leading and working in effective and collaborative teams that uplift everyone’s strengths.
My biggest success has been spearheading the campaign in NYC for universal free school lunch for all 1.1 million public school students. This change reversed decades of public policy that had separated students by income in school cafeterias and imprinting a poverty stigma on the program that directly impacted student participation. Previously many students who were hungry and didn’t have other options just sat out from school lunch for fear of being shamed by their classmates.
Right now an additional 31,000 students are eating school lunch each day – that is 5.4 million additional lunches being served per school year. We know that this is just the beginning. We are working to build on this foundation to make the school cafeteria a social hub that students seek out rather than avoid.
I love hiking so I enjoy anyplace that has beautiful, easy to navigate trails.
A Day in My Life:
What do you love most about Your City?
The vibrant energy.
What drink do you need to get through the day and at the end (and how many)?
Two cups of coffee in the morning and one in the afternoon. Green tea on occasion.
What Else to Know?
I grew up in Brooklyn and my entire education has been through the public education system from kindergarten to graduate school. Thus, my devotion to public education. Starting in high school I became keenly aware of the structural advantages some students have over others based on race and income that impact students’ life trajectory.