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Vanessa García Polanco

My name is Vanessa García Polanco.


I am an experienced leader, researcher, speaker, writer, and organizer. I work with food, agriculture, and climate stakeholders to create and strengthen communities with policy and advocacy. As a policy advocacy professional, I am passionate about advocating for young people, minorities, immigrants, and refugees in food, agriculture, the environment, and natural resources. As a Dominican immigrant, I incorporate my experiences and identities into my research and advocacy. 


I am an alumna of the Department of Community Sustainability at Michigan State University (MS) and the Department of Environmental and Natural Resource Economics at the University of Rhode Island (BS). In the past, my research has focused on racial equity in food systems, food systems governance, sustainable agriculture, and resilient food systems and communities. I lead independent research projects like Finding Foods From Home and Dominican Food Studies.


I am an advocate for diversity in agricultural policy and across the food system, agriculture, the environment, and natural resources fields. As a member of the Union of Concerned Scientists, the National Science Policy Network, and Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences, I seek to mentor and learn from my peers on using policy and advocacy to create a better world. I also advocate for sustainable agriculture and fair opportunities in agriculture for small and diverse growers, young, BIPOC farmers as the Policy Campaigns Co-Director at the National Young Farmers Coalition, Co-Chair and Board Member at the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.


Through my service as a board member in the The Agriculture, Food and Human Values Society, Michigan Food and Farming Systems, Rhode Island USDA Farm Service Agency State Committee and several advisory groups across the United States, I seek to create partnerships and build networks to address systematic inequalities in our society. I believe in multidimensional leadership that is why I support local, state and regional food systems transformation spaces and transnational efforts to create a better food systems governance where youth and historically excluded individuals can shape the food system they desire such as the Youth Constituency of the UNFCCC Agriculture Working Group, Real Food Systems and Campo Alante


My campaign #FoodIsNeverJustFood,  is a toolkit delivered in workshop format that provides examples for youth, minorities, immigrants, and refugees on how to share their stories, change narratives and get involved in transforming our communities using food, agriculture, the environment, and natural resources as a vehicle for civic engagement. 


I am a 2019 Cynthia Hayes Scholar, a 2019 James Beard Foundation National Scholar, a 2020 Michigan Junior Food System Leader of the Year, and 2021 Emerging Food and Agriculture Leader. 


In my free time, I like to write, send postcards, read with the Dominican Writers Association, eat, and travel. You can join my weekly reflections using #FoodJusticeFriday

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