Board of Directors Transitions

SAFSF Board Elects 2023 Officers

The SAFSF Board has elected the following directors to serve one-year terms as officers from June 1, 2023 – May 31, 2024.

Chair – Esperanza Pallana, executive director of Food and Farm Communications Fund
Vice Chair – Leslie Hatfield, senior partnership and outreach advisor at GRACE Communications Foundation
Treasurer – Olivia Watkins, co-executive director, internal resilience at Black Farmer Fund
Secretary – Ila Duncan, trustee, Lumpkin Family Foundation

Dear Friends,

I’m delighted to say hello to you today as board chair and, on behalf of the full board, I’m delighted to introduce the four exceptional individuals joining our esteemed board as new directors today. Richard Elm-HillAnn MillsDave Nezzie, and Lolita Nunn each bring a depth of experience and fresh perspectives to the board to propel us further toward our shared goals. They have been carefully selected for their expertise, sector insights, and dedication to SAFSF’s vision. I invite you to learn more about them and all our directors and please join me in welcoming them to this leadership role.

We also want to express our heartfelt gratitude to three departing board members who have served SAFSF with unwavering commitment, strategic guidance, and a wealth of expertise. 

Stacey Barbas, who recently retired as senior program officer with the Kresge Foundation, and Mike Roberts, president and CEO of First Nations Development Institute, each served two terms on the SAFSF Steering Committee from January 2013 through November 2018. They transitioned directly onto the newly formed Board of Directors when SAFSF incorporated in November 2018 and served in critical roles:  Stacey as the chair of the Policy Committee and Mike as treasurer. Kaying Hang, vice president of Sierra Health Foundation and president of The Center at Sierra Health Foundation, served on the SAFSF Board of Directors since 2019, becoming vice chair in 2021. Their impactful presence will be dearly missed, and we extend our best wishes for their future endeavors. Please thank them the next time you see them!

I hope you will join me and the rest of the SAFSF Board in recognizing the incredible accomplishments of our departing board members and welcoming the outstanding individuals who are joining us on this new journey. Together, we will continue to drive our organization toward greater heights.

Esperanza Pallana

Welcome New Directors

Richard Elm-Hill, First Nations Development Insitute

Richard is a member of the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin and is a Senior Program Officer at First Nations Development Institute. He supports First Nations’ Nourishing Native Foods & Health program by providing education, technical assistance, and grant opportunities.

Richard manages several projects dedicated to Native food sovereignty and healthy Tribal food economies. He collaborates on First Nations’ Food Sovereignty Assessment, Native Farm to School initiative, Business of Indian Agriculture, and serves on the project team for the Indigenous Food Systems Community of Practice in partnership with Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems Funders.

As a former Operations Analyst for the Oneida Nation, Richard established the Oneida Emergency Food Pantry and continued the development of the Oneida Community Integrated Food System. He was the inaugural board present for the Oneida Youth Leadership Institute, a newly assembled 7871 tribal organization. Richard holds a graduate degree in Applied Teaching and Learning from the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay.

Ann Mills, Agua Fund

Ann is the executive director of the Agua Fund where she supports work to protect the natural environment, help the disadvantaged, give voice to the underserved, and promote democratic values and full participation in civic life. Before joining Agua in 2017, Ann served in senior leadership roles that included focusing on environmental and agricultural policy and practices to protect water and land resources and support thriving communities. Between 2009 and 2017, she served as Deputy Under Secretary for Natural Resources & Environment at the US Department of Agriculture. Prior to serving at USDA, Ann was a senior leader at American Rivers, served as chief of staff to Senator Tom Daschle and California Lt. Governor Leo McCarthy, and was a legislative staffer to then-Representative Richard Durbin. She earned a BA in Political Science from Tufts University and a Master of Public Administration from the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, University of Texas at Austin.

Dave Nezzie, Thornburg Foundation

Dave is the Food and Agriculture Policy Officer at the Thornburg Foundation. Dave is a tribal member from the Navajo Nation. He previously served as a field representative for the Office of U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich where he engaged with federal, state, and local agencies, as well as organizations, community leaders, and sovereign tribal governments. Dave is a candidate in the LL.M. Program in Agriculture & Food Law at the University of Arkansas School of Law. He received a J.D. from the University of New Mexico School of Law with program certificates in Federal Indian Law and Natural Resources & Environmental Law. Dave attended Arizona State University as an undergraduate, earning concurrent degrees in Anthropology and American Indian Studies.

Lolita Nunn, Potlikker Capital

Lolita brings over 25 years of diversified and progressive experience in both the nonprofit and for-profit sectors to the Potlikker team. She worked in the banking industry for 14 years where she developed expertise in finance, investment banking, and management. In addition to her financial role, her work included cultivating and building relationships with community leaders and advocating for programs providing financial literacy, consulting, and mentoring. Lolita is committed to building strong and resilient communities. Her passion for philanthropy led her to the nonprofit sector where she led donor outreach, fund development, community and business engagement efforts. Lolita’s career journey led her to the ecosystem of impact investing where she combined her years of financial acumen along with her passion for philanthropy to be a further champion of positive social, racial, and environmental system change. In her most recent role, she was the Investor Relations Officer at Fair Food Fund where she helped to re-imagine their investment thesis to support BIPOC food businesses, and lead the initiative that increased their geographic reach and grew the brand recognition of the Fund nationally.