Aileen Suzara (she/her) joined the team in 2021. As the director of food security, her path is guided by the vision of communities working together to forge self-determined and healthy futures. Shaped by the geographies of the Big Island of Hawaiʻi and the Bay Area, Aileen is passionate about cultivating partnerships with communities leading the way toward more equitable and healthy food systems for all. She brings to the food security team years of experience in public health nutrition as a cultural foods practitioner and a land-based educator.
Growing up as a child of immigrant health care workers instilled in Aileen a deep belief in the power of food to heal and to bring people together. Aileen witnessed how frontline communities are hit hardest by economic, racial, ecological, and social disparities—and also hold solutions for change. That later shaped her community-centered approach to food, along with years spent learning alongside students as a food and climate justice educator, a facilitator of community-based food programming, and through food as medicine initiatives. As a chef, her project Sariwa (Fresh in Filipino) celebrated culturally rooted approaches to health and opened her to a world of advocacy, reimagining local economies that center community ownership, women, and communities of color.
Aileen holds a Master in Public Health Nutrition from University of California, Berkeley, and is an alumnus of the University of California, Santa Cruz Apprenticeship in ecological horticulture. She is an alumni of Castanea Fellowship’s cohort for food and racial justice. Aileen currently lives in Richmond, California, with her family and a small wilderness of plants.