Leadership Council

ElizabethMikesell_resizedElizabeth Mikesell has been a Chef Instructor at Pima Community College for 10 years.  She chaired the American Federation Chef and Child Foundation, whose mission is to educate children and families in understanding proper nutrition through community-based initiatives.  She was invited to the White House by Michelle Obama for the kick-off of the “Chefs Move to Schools” initiative and works with youth who are learning to cook and eat healthy food.

Nick Henry is a native Southwesterner and has been in Tucson working on food and justice issues since 2007.  Having lived and studied in Latin America at various times growing up, he is interested in the intersection of food justice and migration, and began his time in Tucson working as a trip organizer and sustainable food coordinator for BorderLinks, a binational non-profit focused on border and immigration education.  After that, he spent 8 years at the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona, where he worked in program areas that included gardening and farming, child nutrition, health, culinary training, farmers’ markets, and policy and advocacy work.  In July of 2018, he joined the Community Investment Corporation, where he now oversees their social impact and small-business lending efforts.  He has been involved with the Pima County Food Alliance since its inception in 2011.

Jen Slothower

Jennifer Slothower is a freelance food marketing and brand development specialist, and holds a Masters degree in Food Culture & Communication from the University of Gastronomic Sciences. Jennifer has called the Tucson desert home for twelve years, but has traveled extensively and has a special place in her heart for the people, food, and wine of Italy. In addition to working with her clients in the U.S. and abroad, Jennifer serves as the co-chair of the Tucson Festival of Books culinary tent. In her free time, she enjoys a bitter Campari spritz, curating the perfect cookbook collection, and keeping the voracious tomato hornworm out of her garden!


Cie’na Schlaefli has worked for over 13 years in the field of Agriculture.  After graduating with a degree in Horticulture from New Mexico State University, she moved to Tucson in 2007 to develop and manage the Marana Heritage Farm, a 10 acre education/demonstration farm. Since Fall 2011, she has worked as the Food Production Manager for the San Xavier Cooperative Farm on the Tohono O’odham Nation. She is dedicated to the vision and goals set forth by the O’odham landowners—to be good stewards of the land and water, and to create future agricultural opportunities for O’odham community members. Since 2011, Cie’na has served on the Leadership Council of the Pima County Food Alliance (PCFA). Cie’na was elected by the PCFA to serve on the Commission for Food Security, Heritage and Economy for the City of Tucson, a new initiative beginning in 2015.  Cie’na has also recently been elected onto the Farmer Education Resource Network (FERN) Board which focuses on supporting a new generation of farmers in Southern Arizona.


Kelly Watters is a marketer, educator, and community convener.  She discovered these skills forming the Santa Cruz River Farmers Market and building grassroots networks in the Borderlands while working many years at the Community Food Bank.  Now at the Food Conspiracy Co-op, she is working to build literacy in food, health, and cooperatives with co-op members and the Tucson community.  A native Vermonter in spirit, Kelly has called Tucson home since 1998.

Amber Hansen is a native Tucsonan and a registered dietitian with a Masters in Food Policy and Applied Nutrition. The focus of her work as a dietitian has been on community and public health nutrition, addressing chronic disease prevention, health promotion, and the reduction of health disparities. She has collaborated with a variety of stakeholders in schools, hospitals, jails, and community organizations to change policies and create environments that support healthy eating. She is starting a new position as the Southwest Regional Coordinator for the Healthy Food in Health Care program with Health Care Without Harm.


Abby Lohr is a Research Specialist, Senior for the Arizona Prevention Research Center. She studies how community health workers on the U.S./Mexico border link clients to clinical and community resources. When she’s not working in public health, Abby loves gardening, reading Edible Baja cover to cover, chocolate, marching bands, and speaking with a Minnesota accent. She is always excited to learn more about food policy.




Parker Filer was raised in western Pennsylvania where he spent most summers helping his extended family cultivate large backyard gardens. He began studying agribusiness management at Yavapai College in Prescott, AZ and now holds a Masters Degree in International Agriculture and Rural Development from Cornell University. Having travelled widely as a student and a volunteer Parker has been an engaged in a variety of agricultural research and extension projects including fieldwork in India, the Philippines, Hawaii, and Honduras. From migrant labor camps to urban farm camps; from tropical kitchen gardens to food rescue and farmer’s markets- Parker’s diverse professional experience lends a broad perspective on his food policy and systems thinking about agriculture. He’s thankful for the opportunity to support Pima County Food Alliance in their mission to develop an integrated, resilient, and sustainable food system in Southern Arizona.

Samantha Turner launched into the farm to school and food justice movement participating in the University of Arizona, School and Community Garden Program. During her time, she interned with Las Milpitas community farm and Drachman Elementary school garden where she quickly gained a passion for community-driven food projects. Samantha continued her interests by joining FoodCorps a national service program connecting kids to healthy food, where she served as FoodCorps Service Member and Arizona Fellow for four years. Samantha currently works for the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona supporting the Chief Programs Officer and Chief Operations Officer. Although a desert dweller, Samantha loves the ocean and enjoys to dance, run, swim, bike and cook. 

Sarah Renkert is a graduate student at the University of Arizona, where she studies applied sociocultural anthropology.  Her research focuses on the intersections of livelihood and foodways and she is passionate about the relationship between food security and food justice.  She has previously worked with the University of Arizona’s Masters Gardener program, taught gardening and nutrition courses to youth, helped on farms abroad and in Arizona, and was the Assistant Market Manager for the Globe-Miami Farmers’ Market.

Jackie Mendelson is a local urban gardener and casual cyclist with a passion for local food systems, outdoor recreation, and connecting with her communities. She recently graduated from the University of Arizona Honors College with a Bachelor of Science in Plant Sciences and a minor in Government & Public Policy. Currently, Jackie works doing direct service in TUSD gardening programs and has been a Market Assistant at Heirloom Farmers Market for over two years. She has managed a campus community garden, served on a sustainability-focused funding committee, and has multiple years urban agriculture experience. She grew up in Cincinnati, OH but has fallen in love with the city of Tucson, AZ where she has studied food justice and found her home in the Sonoran Desert between Saguaro cacti and prickly pear fruit.

Chaz Shelton, founder and CEO of Merchant’s Garden, has an extensive background in starting and assisting small business to be successful. Chaz Shelton has acted as the Program Manager for the Telluride Venture Accelerator (TVA) in Telluride, Colorado. With the TVA, Chaz helped raise over $4 million in capital for high venture companies in the outdoor, health/wellness, and education industries. In addition, he provided Small Business Administration consulting services that ranged from artisan bakeries to organic farmers. In addition to being the founder of an agriculture company, Chaz served as the Strategy & Marketing Manager for Conduent Inc. (NYSE: CNDT), an organization that manages the largest healthcare quality reporting database in the country.  Chaz received a B.A. from Hope College in Economics and Management and a graduate certificate in Economic Growth & Development for the University of Pennsylvania and completed his MBA at Indiana University, where he majored in entrepreneurship and finance.

Katrina Martinez is a New Mexico transplant who began her work in Tucson at the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona and on the organizing committee of the Queer and Trans People of Color Festival. After working at Las Milpitas Farm and gaining invaluable skills from Zotero Citlalcoatl and Barbara Rose, she transitioned to refugee resettlement at the International Rescue Committee in Tucson. Since 2015, she has had the privilege of becoming a hobby herbalist, as well as Supervisor of the Nutrition and Food Security Program at IRC. Her work in Tucson is informed by having grown up with limited food security and learning from newly arrived refugees about growing food in the desert and building community.

Julia Munson grew up in Connecticut to parents with an ever-expanding vegetable garden. She fell in love with Tucson while a student with the Earlham College Border Studies Program and an intern in the Ochoa Community Magnet School’s Hopes and Dreams room.  In the Hopes and Dreams room, Julia witnessed the significance of food to the development of a strong, organized and politically active community of families – and attended her first PCFA meetings. Julia had the privilege to continue centering food and food justice while a FoodCorps service member with Tohono O’odham Community Action (TOCA), where, under the mentorship of an incredible group of colleagues, she helped develop a Tohono O’odham focused food justice curriculum and grew a deeper sense of the desert’s seasonal rhythms. That familiarity supports her current work as the Garden Specialist at the International Rescue Committee, where she helps to connect refugee gardeners to the resources they need to grow successfully in the Sonoran Desert. Julia is grateful for the ways food makes us all students and teachers and opens up space for larger community conversations.

Shelby Thompson fell in love with Tucson as a student at the University of Arizona, where her passions for cooking and healthy food evolved into a food blog by the name of The Sun and The Spoon. Food further connected her with the local community when she began writing and creating food photography for Edible Baja Arizona, a Tucson-based food magazine, where she served as the online editor. Now, Shelby empowers local businesses, farmers, and residents to foster the community as Local First Arizona’s community outreach coordinator.

Holly Bryant’s work has lead her to the inner city of Chicago teaching infant nutrition to new mothers, through East Africa to aid cooking and gardening demonstrations for women, teaching chronic disease management with the Pascual Yaqui Tribe, and currently with El Rio Community Health Center. Through this journey as a Registered Dietitian, Holly has realized that the pressure to “eat right” combined with conflicting nutrition information leaves families feeling overwhelmed and confused about food decisions. Holly believes eating healthy food should be joyful and she brings this philosophy (along with Health At Every Size) into her chronic disease management classes, food demonstrations, and participatory cooking classes. Holly wants everybody to have the opportunity to reconnect with their food and become intuitive eaters in a supportive, non-judgmental environment.

Natalia Santos is the Food Systems Program Coordinator for the University of Arizona Nutrition Network, where she works with food retailers, farmers’ markets, and Summer Food Service Program sites. Natalia has a background in nutrition and Masters in public health, which she uses to improve access to healthy foods throughout Pima by building community capacity and connecting local food networks. A newcomer to the Southwest, she enjoys spending time outdoors, visiting new places, and bragging about the winter weather to her family and friends back in the Midwest.