Food and Agricultural Systems


Panelist shared their own experiences, reflections, and advice for advancing equity while addressing climate change through food systems. The panelists delved into the complexity of sustainable food systems, advice for sustainable eating practices, managing food waste, the importance of ethical food consumption, unfair working conditions for farmers, and the availability of healthy food in low-income communities of color.

Food and Agricultural Systems

Panelist Bios:

Lauren Ornelas

She is the founder and president of Food Empowerment Project. Lauren has been active in the animal rights movement for more than 30 years. She is the former executive director of Viva!USA, a national nonprofit vegan advocacy organization that Viva!UK asked her to start in 1999. While Lauren was the director of Viva!USA, she investigated factory farms and ran consumer campaigns. In cooperation with activists across the country, she persuaded Trader Joe’s to stop selling all duck meat and achieved corporate changes within Whole Foods Market, Pier 1 Imports, and others, and she helped halt the construction of an industrial dairy operation in California. Lauren was also the spark that got the founder of Whole Foods Market to become a vegan. In addition, she served as campaign director with the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition for six years. 


Tony Hillery

In 2010, Tony Hillery founded the nonprofit organization Harlem Grown with the mission of bringing urban agriculture and youth gardening programs to Harlem residents. Over the past four years, Tony has established a high-impact program for young children in Harlem to learn about gardening, healthy living, and food justice. The programs have expanded to include school gardens and one-on-one mentoring programs; operation of a hydroponic greenhouse; a summer camp; nutrition and cooking workshops; and a training program for parents in Harlem to learn about urban agriculture. As the Director of the organization Tony specializes in forging strong partnerships, cultivating major donors, strengthening community engagement, and implementing high-impact programs. Tony has an undeniable passion for this work and shares it with all who visit Harlem Grown. 

Chef JJ Johnson

JJ Johnson is an award winning Chef, Founder, TV Personality and Author. JJ presents an environment for connection through food that transcends people, memories, and generations. His diligent efforts toward the food industry has amounted to untouchable accolades: James Beard Award Winner for Best Author and Nominations for Best Chef and Rising Star NYC, Forbes and Zagat 30 under 30, and 2 time Best New Restaurant of the Year Winner by Esquire Magazines. His ability to combine culturally-relevant ingredients with classical technique is showcased at FIELDTRIP, his quick-casual rice bowl shop that highlights the future of food.