Maria Whitaker, Program Director, Local to Global Advocates for Justice, is a locally and nationally known food sovereignty/ food justice advocate working to facilitate bottom-up, grassroots community organizing and coalition building of those people the most directly and negatively impacted by our food, agriculture, and socioeconomic systems, policies and practices to transform the power relationships and institutional structures that are determining our food, health and wealth. As an attorney, she practiced poverty law, representing indigent individuals in landlord tenant matters especially evictions and employment discrimination law. Her training in grassroots community organizing is from BOLD, Black Organizing for Leadership and Dignity. Ms. Whittaker taught business and international business law at the Ohio State University.
After falling in love with sustainable agriculture as a volunteer at KC’s own Cultivate KC, formerly the Kansas City Center for Urban Agriculture, Ms. Whitaker who practiced horticulture for ten years, returned to graduate school to study sustainable agriculture and environmental policy at the University of Michigan School for Natural Resources and the Environment. After studying there, she began blending her background in law and community organizing with her interest in food, farm and environmental policy.
Ms. Whitaker studied nutrition at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN and has been engaged in healthy lifestyle activities such as gardening, swimming, and dance since she was 7. Ms. Whitaker graduated from Harvard University and the University of Chicago Law School. She studied international law at the London School of Economics. She speaks Spanish, French, Kiswahili and some Mandarin Chinese.
Charity Hicks, Policy Fellow with Everyone at the Table for Health (EAT4Health)
Charity Hicks was just previous the community engager/organizer of the Detroit Food Justice Taskforce a collaborative of 10 community based groups, and local activists in Detroit formed in 2009 to work in the food system and urban agricultural movement to promote a justice centered food system. She is currently a Policy Fellow with the Everyone at the Table for Health (EAT4HEALTH) a public policy food system initiative of the Jessie Smith Noyes Foundation (New York) and the Praxis Project (Washington D.C.), and the Public Policy Director for East Michigan Environmental Action Council.
Her background includes being a Clinical Research Associate- Human Subjects with the Detroit Oral Health Disparities Research Center of the University of Michigan. She has over 10 years in research, public policy, and community activism in Detroit on health disparities, environment, and food system & nutrition. She has been a founding member of several organizations in Detroit including the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network, an herbalist/ecological awareness group and African Women’s Society. She was a member of the team which wrote the City of Detroit Food Security Policy and the articles for the establishment of the Detroit Food Policy Council.
Charity has a deep presence in public service and is currently serving with several boards and committees in Detroit some of which are: Detroit Public Schools Health Council, Detroit Grocery Store Coalition Steering Committee, Peoples Water Board Detroit, Future’s Taskforce of the Community Development Advocates of Detroit, Great Lakes Bioneers Detroit, and The Green Taskforce Water Sub-committee, along with other boards, committees, and taskforces.