Board of Directors
As a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization, Slow Food USA is governed by a Board of Directors, which meets on a regular basis and keeps minutes of their meetings. For copies of any board minutes, call 718.260.8000.
Julie Shaffer, Co-Chair
Julie Shaffer grew up in rural Ohio gardening and foraging with her grandparents, which lead to a life-long love of food and farming. She moved to the mountains of Tennessee for college and fell in love with the south. She has made her home in Georgia for the past 35 years and founded Slow Food Atlanta in 2000. She served as leader of the Atlanta chapter for ten years, and went on to serve as regional governor for the SE region before being elected to the board of directors of SFUSA. Shaffer taught public high school art for thirty years before landing at Emory University to become their Sustainable Foods Education Director and Project Manager. While in this position, Shaffer created many strategic partnerships to help Emory meet their sustainable food goals. She is currently chair of the Green Tables Committee for Les Dames d’Escoffier Atlanta, as well as an active member of the Atlanta Local Food Initiative, Chefs Collaborative, Georgia Organics, and the Southern Foodways Alliance. Shaffer grows most of her family’s fruits and vegetables, loves to cook, loves to travel, and speaks broken French and Italian at every opportunity.
Joel Smith, Co-Chair
Joel was born and raised in Dallas, Texas. He attended Middlebury College in Vermont, followed by graduate studies in Business and Engineering at Columbia University. He also lived in both Spain and Italy, studying language and culture. Joel worked in the field of Operations Research for several years, then began a second career as a trader on the floor of the Chicago Board Options Exchange, owning a seat from 1988 to 2010. Joel joined the chapter of Slow Food Chicago at its inaugural meeting in 1999, and has been active ever since. He served on its initial advisory council, then on its Board of Directors, finally as Chapter leader from 2004 to 2007. He was a contributing editor to “The Slow Food Guide to Chicago”, published in 2004. He served as SFUSA’s Midwest Regional Governor from 2007 until his election to the national Board, and since 2009, has represented the U.S as a Slow Food International Councilor. Joel is a founding member of the Sustainable Local Food Investment Group, an angel investment group whose mission is to repair and rebuild the local food shed in the upper Midwest. Joel is also a Board member of Chicago’s Old Town School of Folk Music. On summer weekends he works at the Evanston Illinois farmers market, selling vegetables at Henry’s farmstand.
Alessandro’s broad involvement with non-profit organizations across a range of issues has given him insight on a strategic capacity and on the tactical deployment of resources. He has been involved in running The Santa Maddalena Foundation’s writers retreat in Florence, Italy since 2000, and has been the Secretary of the Board of Trustees since 2006. In addition, he lived in Damascus, Syria working with the United Nations (UNRWA) on social services for Palestinian refugees. During this time, he co-founded and directed Offline:Media, a non-profit dedicated to the promotion of the original work of media professionals from conflict regions. He is also a member of the Family Council of the Flora Family Foundation since 2006 and a fellow of the Institute for Philanthropy.
Ben resides in Petal, MS. He has one daughter, Darnella and one granddaughter, Denver. He is currently involved in over 250 acres farming operation, which consists of vegetable production, beef cattle, and timber. He has been active in farming since 1970. His farming operation is located in Congressman Steven Palazzo’s fifth congressional district. The farming operation is in Forrest and Perry counties.
He is presently serving on several boards relating to agriculture, such as: Mississippi Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association, Mississippi Agri-Business Advisory Council, Federal Reserve Bank Advisory Board (Atlanta Bank District) from 1995-1998, and the newly-elected Chairman of the MS. State Farm Service Agency Committee. He serves on an Advisory Committee with Congressman Bennie Thompson. He has been a member of the Mississippi Farm Service Agency State Committee since 1993. He is on the board of the Lower Mississippi Delta Planning Commission, and a board member of the Crescent City Farmer’s Market in New Orleans, Louisiana. He is the secretary/manager of Indian Springs Cooperative located in Petal, Mississippi. He also represents the Coalition on the Via Campesina Food Sovereignty Commission and is a board member of the Community Food Security Coalition (CFSC).
He is employed by the Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund. This fund works with small farmers and cooperatives throughout the south. He has studied Cooperative Development in the United States, Africa, Central America, Asia, and the Middle East, in working and developing marketing processing cooperatives.
Paolo Di Croce
Paolo Di Croce, graduated in Environmental Engineering at the University of Turin and began working for Slow Food in 1998 to coordinate its projects - such as the Ark of Taste and Presidia - in defense of the environment and biodiversity. From 2003 to 2006 Paolo served as the General Secretary of the Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity, which defends the biodiversity of our foods and gastronomic traditions from the world over, promotes sustainable agriculture, respect for the environment, for cultural identities, and for the wellbeing of animals. In 2004 Paolo served as the President of the Committee for Terra Madre, which organized – in Turin (Italy), the first edition of the meeting that every two years gather 7,000 food producers from over 150 countries and representing a new way of approaching food production – attentive to environmental resources, planetary balance, and the quality and sustainability of products. Since 2005, Paolo is the Secretary General of the Terra Madre Foundation and serves as International Secretary of the Slow Food International Board of Directors, the highest governing body of Slow Food International.
Thom was raised in a better living through chemicals household. He discovered upon leaving for college that garlic was, in fact, not a type of salt but the bulbous relative of the onion, which, it turned out, was not a salt. In 2004, Thom founded Slow Food Charlotte. In 2009 he co-founded Friendship Gardens, a partnership between Slow Food Charlotte and Friendship Trays, Charlotte’s meals on wheels program. Friendship Gardens is a network of urban gardens that grow food for meals on wheels recipients as well as educate, engage and grow community. In January of 2015 Thom became Director of Friendship Gardens. Thom served as Slow Food regional governor of North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia from 2010 until his election to the board. He holds a B.S. B.A. from Appalachian State University and an M.F.A. in poetry from Queens University of Charlotte making him uniquely qualified to organize, empathize and get beyond his personal angst to the issues at hand.
Laura Luciano is a Board Member of Slow Food East End, and since 2017 has been the Slow Food Governor for New York State, where she oversees all regional chapters and shares her unwavering passion for biodiversity, food sovereignty, and coveting culinary traditions
Laura lives in Hampton Bays in a sustainable house she and her architect husband designed, that has a rooftop garden filled with heirlooms and Ark of taste varieties, where she hosts potlucks and dinner parties for people to come together to talk and enjoy amazing food and drink and share inspiration in a great space.
Laura’s blog -- Out East Foodie -- shares the edible stories of the North and South forks of Long Island. She contributes to Edible East End and Edible Long Island Magazines for her What’s in Season column, and is one of the founders and coordinator for the Long Island Cheese Pumpkin Project, a squash that is on the Ark of Taste.
Chef Mitchell began his training as a young boy in his grandmother’s kitchen, where he first paid his dues by picking greens – cleaning collard greens, kale and spinach. This experience laid the foundation for his dedication to moving food from the fresh market to a white tablecloth, and he’s steadily climbed up the culinary ranks ever since.
A balance of home teachings with professional training has helped establish Chef Mitchell as the creator of tasty yet healthy fares. Yet his subtlety and refinements were born out of disciplined training earned at the prestigious Culinary Institute of America, where he holds two degrees – an Associate degree in Occupational Studies and a Bachelor of Professional Studies in Culinary Arts Management.
In December of 2008 Chef Mitchell became the first African American Chef Instructor at the Culinary Institute of Charleston located within Trident Technical College in Charleston, South Carolina. At the Institute Chef Mitchell is involved in designing new curriculum for new students as well as teach classes
In April 2015, Chef Mitchell was Chef Coordinator for Nat Fuller’s Feast, a recreation of a banquet held in Charleston in 1865 by renowned chef and caterer Nat Fuller. The original feast, held at Fuller’s famous Bachelor’s Retreat restaurant, was the first to bring together both black and white patrons to break bread in a celebration of the end of the Civil War.
Chef Mitchell began his graduate studies at the University of Mississippi and graduated in 2018. There he focused on Southern Foodways, the preservation of Southern ingredients and the history of African Americans in the culinary arts.
Throughout his professional career, Chef Mitchell has maintained a commitment to promoting the value of professionally trained chefs, and he has volunteered his time and talents to various non-profit organizations where he has showcased his culinary skills
Tomoko is a Senior Manager with Deloitte Tax LLP in New York City. For more than a decade she has worked with Deloitte, including four years in their Delhi, India office. Fluent in many languages, cultures and culinary settings, Tomoko grew up in Kuchiwa, Hiroshima. Living now in Queens, NYC, Tomoko still lives within a stone’s throw of her favorite Indian foods: thali, ras malai and Indian chai. She joins the board at a time when Slow Food USA and Slow Food Nippon are involved with a number of international and intercultural partnerships.
Jon grew up just outside Denver, Colorado and is a 4th generation native. While enjoying all things outdoorsy that Colorado has to offer, he submerged himself into the world of hospitality. With Food and Beverage Management positions in San Diego and Las Vegas under his belt, he returned to Denver to pursue his passion of creating his own restaurant. From his experience in both corporate chains and independent restaurants, Jon developed and evolved his own dream concept of Snooze, An. A.M. Eatery. Incredible food/beverage and hospitality have always been at the forefront of Jon’s life and his passion continues to be to create happiness in the world, one guest at a time, through the experience of dining. After the success of Snooze, he moved onto his next dream of living in Italy with his wife and 3 year old son in the Barolo Region of Piedmont. Thirty minutes away from Slow Food University & Headquarters, Nebbiolo heaven, and Truffle territory, Jon played in the dirt and learned how grapes go from soil to bottle. His passion for sustainable living, quality ingredients and simplicity was accentuated by breaking bread with the locals and experiencing the Italian traditions and culture. Jon’s passion is to make people happy. Food and beverage is his engine to fulfill that purpose.
Sofía graduated from Brown University in 2011, where she received a B.A. in International Development with a regional focus on the Arab World and Latin America. Throughout her academic and professional career, she has delved into the socio-political and linguistic richness of both regions. In Latin America, Sofía worked in Rio de Janeiro as the International Relations Coordinator for the drug reform campaign, "Lei de Drogas: é preciso mudar” and participated actively in the non-profit sector at large. In the Arab World, she studied Arabic in Damascus throughout 2009, and later conducted fieldwork in Cairo at the wake of the 2011 Egyptian Revolution for her award-winning thesis from Brown University. Having witnessed the power of a collectively-activated Tahrir Square and lived in Brazil during the 2013 mass protests, Sofía became fascinated by how citizens can creatively demand and bring forth more inclusive and participatory cities. In 2014, she moves back to her home country, Puerto Rico, where she becomes an advocate for horizontal urbanism and co-founds La Maraña - a non-profit that uses community-driven urban design as a key to collective empowerment. Sofía has presented her work in a variety of forums, such as TEDx San Juan, the Latin American and Caribbean Conference of Social Sciences in Medellín and The Creative Times Summit in Washington D.C.
Kathryn Lynch Underwood
Kathryn Lynch Underwood is a city planner with the Detroit City Council Legislative Policy Division. She has been a planner for over 20 years, with areas of expertise including land use policy, urban food systems, zoning, and sustainable redevelopment policy. Her current work includes formulating urban agriculture codes and policies for the City of Detroit. Kathryn also helped create the Detroit Food Security Policy, sits on the Detroit Food Policy Council, and is a member of the Michigan Association of Planning Food Systems Policy Planning Committee. She is a founding member of Detroiters Working for Environmental Justice and the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network. Kathryn was a presenter at the 1st Global Summit on Metropolitan Agriculture in Rotterdam, The Netherlands in September 2010 and has participated in U.S. study groups in both The Netherlands and Italy related to agriculture and food systems. She represented Slow Food USA as a delegate at Terra Madre in 2010, 2012,and 2014. Kathryn is the co-chair of the newly formed Slow Food Detroit Central City chapter and member of the Ark of Taste Midwest group
Kathryn has bachelor’s degrees in Political Science and Environmental Studies from the University of Michigan-Dearborn, and a Masters in Urban Planning from Wayne State University. She is a life-long resident of Detroit.
Ed Yowell has been a member of Slow Food since 2000. Presently, on the Slow Food NYC Board, he co-chairs the Urban Harvest Committee, serves on the Development Committee, and volunteers regularly with the SLOW U committee. He also serves on the advisory committee of the New York City Greenmarket and the American Farmland Trust New York Advisory Council. He is the Chair of the Slow Food USA Food and Farm Policy Steering Committee and served as the Slow Food USA Northeast Regional Governor from 2005 to 2015.