Mentorship should play a critical role in the ongoing growth and development of food systems leaders. Whether it is providing professional guidance and support, serving as a sounding board, or building connections in the food movement, the exchange of ideas and experience can influence us on profound levels and stay with us for years.

The Community Food Systems Mentorship Program provides food systems leaders with the opportunity to closely engage with proven leaders and experts as thought partners and coaches. The goals of this program are to:

  • Build relationships of solidarity and support across the food movement,  
  • Create a space for leaders with significant experience in community food systems to share their wisdom, knowledge, and expertise with others, and to
  • Strengthen the leadership capacity of food systems leaders.
Through the mentorship relationship, you will have an opportunity to discover and develop your own insight as you navigate the challenging landscape of community-based food systems and facilitate change in your community. Rather than creating followers, the mentor cohort is committed to creating and supporting other leaders (more on what great mentors do here).

"Participating in this Mentorship Program was extremely valuable. My mentor was able to coach me on my effectiveness as a leader, strategic planning, engagement planning with high level decision makers, even negotiation. She is somebody with amazing amounts of knowledge and experience and I feel incredibly lucky that I was able to spend time with her through the Mentorship Program."
- Spring 2018 Mentee

The Mentorship Program includes 8 hours of one on one connection between you and a mentor over a 4-month period. It's designed to give you the flexibility to structure the program in a way that best supports your needs, goals, and work environment. View the Spring 2019 Mentee Cohort here and scroll down to the bottom of the page see what previous mentee cohorts had to say about the program.

Spring 2020 Community Food Systems Mentors

This Mentor cohort represents some of the most extraordinary and dedicated individuals in this movement. You can learn more about each Mentor, their work, and their areas of expertise by visiting their individual profile links below. 

A-dae Romero-Briones, JD, LLM (Cochiti/Kiowa), Director of Programs-Native Food and Agriculture Initiative, First Nations Development Institute

Angel Mendez, Executive Director, Red Tomato

Anupama Joshi, Executive Director, Blue Sky Funders Forum

Jean Chorazyczewski, Program Director, Fair Food Network

Karen A. Spiller, Principal, KAS Consulting

Malik Yakini, Co-Founder and Executive Director, Detroit Black Community Food Security Network

Miles Gordon, Founder, the Gardens Project, and Principal, Kitchen Table Consulting

Neelam Sharma, Executive Director, Community Services Unlimited Inc.

Paula Daniels, Co-Founder, Center for Good Food Purchasing

Rich Pirog, Director, MSU Center for Regional Food Systems

What to Expect
  • There is no cost to participate in this program.
  • If you are paired with a mentor, you’ll be asked to send them background information on your work and reach out to begin scheduling calls.
  • Mentoring will take place through video calls, phone calls, and e-mail.
  • Each mentee will have approximately 8 hours of one on one time with their mentor over the course of 4 months.
  • All mentees are required to participate in an on-boarding/kick-off call with Wallace Center staff at the launch of the program.
  • Mentees are responsible for preparing for calls (list topics to discuss, prepare questions, set call goals, etc.) and following-up afterwards.
  • Mentees are expected to be available during business hours and give their full attention to calls.
  • Mentorship is not technical assistance! Mentors are not expected to connect you to funders, solve technical problems, or tell you what to do.  Great mentors serve as thought partners and help draw out your own inner solutions.
  • This program allows the flexibility for each mentor/mentee pair to adapt the structure and schedule of their meetings as needed.
As a mentee, you’ll receive expert guidance and support in a range of non-profit leadership capacities and food systems topics.  Examples of topics past mentees have discussed with mentors include:
  • Organizational Leadership: Mission, vision and strategic planning, organizational strategy and priorities, adapting to organizational and structural changes, navigating staff transitions, succession planning, leveraging partnerships for impact, board engagement, financial planning;
  • Personal leadership: Recognizing personal core competencies, navigating organizational politics, career planning, professional development planning, building a support network, balance between community work and self-care, systems thinking approach;
  • Racial equity: Applying a racial equity lens within organizations, aligning values with funding sources, race and power dynamics in food systems work, implementation strategies for realizing equity;
  • Technical areas: Community engagement, marketing and promotion, coalition building, urban farming, non-asset based distribution, food business and social enterprise operations, supply chain management.

Eligibility and Application Requirements
  • See the top of this page for a link to the application.
  • Applicants must complete an organizational capacity assessment as part of their application and upload this with their application.
  • This opportunity is available to individuals associated with nonprofit 501 (c)3 organizations and those with fiscal sponsors.
  • Applicants and their supporting organizations must both be verified members of the FSLN (sign up your organization here).
  • Mentorship will be prioritized for applicants who identify as Black, Indigenous, and/or people of color, and those who work with historically disinvested or excluded communities. 
  • Selected applicants must commit to working with their mentor over a 4-month period and are required to submit a brief follow-up report on their experience.
  • See frequently asked questions here

Here's what past mentees had to say:

"The mentorship program gave me time and space to build a relationship with a food systems leader I've admired for some time but would not have had the opportunity to connect with outside of the program, since the demand for his time is so high. I feel encouraged and rooted in the path I have been on, with more clarity on my direction from someone who has been doing this work for so long."

"I learned a great deal through this Mentorship Program and am so grateful for the support I received from my mentor. I am leaving this experience with actionable strategies for improving myself and my organization, as well as a lasting supportive relationship between myself and my mentor."

"Having a trusted mentor who I felt totally comfortable being 100% myself with was incredibly helpful and supportive through an intense period of professional growth. There was never any sense of professional formality keeping us from being real with each other, which is a huge part of why the mentorship was such a beneficial experience. The time I took out of my day to connect with my mentor was always reenergizing and made me feel like, I can do this. It's hard, and I may not feel very confident or like I have all the right tools and skills right now, but I am growing, and I can keep moving forward."
More highlights here!

Questions? Email with 'Mentorship' in the subject line.