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About the Council


Everyone has a right to healthy food. At its best, food helps children develop, nourishes adults, and strengthens our immune systems. Data from Common Ground Health’s My Health Survey shows that while residents across all demographics think diet and nutrition are important, many still struggle to access healthy food.

Rochester 2034, the City’s new Comprehensive Plan, has an emphasis on equity and healthy living, including a goal to increase access to healthy food and reduce the abundance of unhealthy food in the community.  To work toward achieving this goal, Common Ground Health, Foodlink, and the City of Rochester were selected to receive a grant through the Healthiest Cities & Counties Challenge to engage the community to envision and establish a Rochester Food Policy Council (FPC).

In May of 2021, Rochester City Council voted to support the Rochester Food Policy Council. The food policy council will help focus community efforts towards policies that support a more equitable and healthy food system to create a long-lasting, sustainable impact on the overall health of the community.


Council Members

We are proud to announce the first members of the Rochester Food Policy Council (FPC)! This diverse group of individuals will lead efforts to create a healthier and more fair Rochester food system. In the coming months, the FPC will share opportunities for members of the public to join them in this work.


Nathaniel Mich (Chair) is a lifelong Rochester resident with a decade of experience in urban agriculture, food systems research, and community development programming. He is the Executive Director of the Taproot Collective, an urban agriculture nonprofit next door to the Public Market. Nathaniel holds a Masters in Urban Planning, with a specialization in Food Systems and Community Health, from the University at Buffalo. His food system interests include health equity in refugee communities, municipal composting, and land use policy. Outside of work, Nathaniel is an avid gardener, aspiring potter and lover of table-top role-playing games


Ashley Smith (Vice-Chair) lives in North Marketview Heights, where she started a community garden. She enjoys making healthier food options more accessible to her neighbors. As a member of the Food Policy Council, Ashley hopes to raise awareness of adults, nourish and educate the children, and ensure our elderly receive nutritious food options.


Elizabeth Henderson farmed using organic practices at Peacework Farm in Wayne County, the first Community Supported Agriculture farm in the Rochester area and provided vegetables, herbs and flowers for hundreds of Rochesterians for over 30 years. She co-chairs the Policy Committee of the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York (NOFA-NY), and represents the NOFA Interstate Council on the Board of the Agricultural Justice Project.  For 20 years, from 1993 – 2013, she chaired the Agricultural Development Board in Wayne County and took an active role in creating the Farming and Farmland Protection Plan for the county.  She blogs at -


Mike Henry is a lifelong Rochester resident, and is pleased to join the inaugural Rochester Food Policy Council to seek answers to the issues that plague our community's food system. He currently serves as a development associate with The Salvation Army of Greater Rochester and on the Board of Directors at RiverFlow Soccer Club, where he leads the academy soccer program. Mr. Henry graduated from St. John Fisher in 2019 with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in political science and economics.


Rosa Luciano has been serving the Rochester community in multiple roles for more than 20 years in the fields of addictions, education and developmental disabilities.  Her experience and leadership have been focused on advocacy, diversity and inclusion, program operations, finance, organizational development, compliance, coaching and staff development. Rosa has led highly accomplished teams that demonstrate dedication to operational excellence in different non-for-profit agencies in the Rochester community. Rosa has a Masters of Science degree in Strategic Leadership from Roberts Wesleyan College, as well as a bachelor of science in Women and Gender studies from the College at Brockport. In her spare time, Rosa is an avid baker and calligrapher. Rosa lives in the Maplewood neighborhood with her daughter Hailey and her son Noah.


Josie McClary moved to Rochester 31 years ago with her family. She has four adult children, two boys and two girls. Josie has been employed by Monroe County for 27 years, 25 of which she spent serving the public at the Monroe County Clerk’s office. Currently, Josie is with the County Executive’s Office. Her passion for community service speaks for itself in the years that she has served Monroe County residents.


Dr. Celia McIntosh is a nurse practitioner by trade and an advocate passionate about leveraging her skills, experience, and expertise to become a voice for policy and social change and reduce healthcare and social disparities. Dr. McIntosh has 18 years of experience as an educator, clinician, consultant, and human rights advocate in the health sector. She received her Doctor of Nursing Practice and M.S. in Family Nursing and a post-masters in Psychiatric Mental Health Nursing from St. John Fisher College. Currently works at Rochester Regional Health, Neuroscience Center as a Neurology Nurse Practitioner. Dr. McIntosh is the current President of the Rochester Regional Coalition Against Human Trafficking, the Immediate Past Vice-Chair of the Inaugural Police Accountability Board and a founding member of the Rochester Black Nurses Association; she is the current Vice President and chairs both the Health Policy and the Black Maternal Health Committee.


Briana Middleton is excited to join Rochester’s first ever Food Policy Council. As a native of Rochester, NY she enjoys educating youth and advocating for equitable opportunities leading to healthier futures, and of course, all things food! Her experience includes advocacy for human rights, refugee rights and food security. Briana recently graduated from SUNY Brockport with a double major in Psychology and Sociology in 2021, and she hopes to advance food policy recommendations by questioning the current systems in Rochester and investing in sustainable systemic changes.


Paul Whitehouse lives in the Beechwood neighborhood with his wife Lorraine. In 2015, he retired from Highland Hospital to become the Executive Director of 441 Ministries. Paul continued to serve 441 Ministries as Program Director, and then as Director of Operations until February 2022. During this time, 441 Ministries has provided the Beechwood neighborhood with children’s programs and affordable housing, as well as youth employment and career training through New City Café. Since July 2018, 441 Ministries has hosted Foodlink’s Curbside Market, providing weekly access to fresh produce to their neighbors year round. They also provide produce, as well as gardening and nutrition instruction, through the Beechwood Community Garden. Paul currently serves as the administrator for New City Fellowship Beechwood Church.


Administrative Members

Mike Bulger is a Rochester native who returned to the city in 2016 to join Common Ground Health as Healthy Communities Coordinator for the Healthi Kids Coalition. He holds a Master's degree in Food Studies from New York University. Mike’s professional experience includes positions in food service, farmers market management, and culinary nutrition education. His hobbies include music, running, and exploring food as both an eater and home cook.


Elizabeth Murphy loves to cook, eat, and connect with people and explore the world through food. She works in Rochester’s City Planning Office on local policy and planning efforts related to housing, transportation, community development, and community health. She grew up in the South Wedge and lives in Maplewood.


Julia Tedesco is the president and CEO of Foodlink, a nonprofit dedicated to ending hunger and building healthier communities in the Greater Rochester/Finger Lakes region of New York. Over the past decade, she has led the organization’s evolution from one of the country’s oldest food banks, to an innovative food resource center and public health organization focused on addressing the root causes of food insecurity, including chronic poverty and systemic racism. Julia is a lifelong resident of Rochester, and lives in the Charlotte neighborhood with her husband and three children.


The Food Policy Council will form subcommittees that will involve more members of the public. (Read the FPC bylaws here). These FPC subcommittees will be a chance for you to contribute your expertise, experience, and wisdom!



Our Work

Municipal Plans & Policies | Urban Agriculture & Community Gardens | Youth & Food

The Rochester FPC is working across three priority areas:

  1. Municipal Plans & Policies
  2. Urban Agriculture & Community Gardens
  3. Youth & Food

Click here to learn more about our action plan.


To date, hundreds of community members have taken part in the work of the FPC. Take a look at these resources to learn more about our process:

-          In August 2020, we held a series of public meetings to discuss the local food system and this project. Read about what we learned here and watch the webinar here.

-          Rochester seeks ideas for new citizen-led food policy council. WXXI News. Aug. 5, 2020.     

-         Cooking Up Change, a series of web events held in April 2021, were an opportunity for community members to provide feedback and input on the Food Policy Council structure and application process. Over 100 people took part in these events.

-         New Food Policy Council looking to drain Rochester's 'food swamp. CITY Magazine. April 30, 2021.


If you would like to get updates on our progress, or contribute your own knowledge, skills, and ideas, please join our mailing list. Sign up by emailing



Frequently Asked Questions

What is a food system?

Yale Office of Sustainability. (2020).


The food system is everything that is involved in growing, processing, transporting, sourcing, marketing, selling, and purchasing food, as well as managing food-related waste. All of the relationships, businesses, workers, policies, and programs that relate to food shape our food system. A healthy food system ensures that foods are accessible and affordable for all, and supports community health, social equity, and the natural environment.

What is a food policy council (FPC)?

In many cities across the country, food policy councils have been formed to work on improving their local food systems. A food policy council is an organized group of stakeholders, such as community members, non-profits, education, businesses, and/or government, working together to implement or change policies that impact the food system. Food policy councils can be an official part of government or independent of government. Issues that food policy councils work on can include increasing access to affordable, healthy food; improving food procurement standards for schools and other institutions; supporting healthy food businesses; and reducing food waste. 

There are many different kinds of food policy councils, so how does Rochester's FPC work?

Throughout 2020 and into 2021, Common Ground Health, Foodlink, the City of Rochester, and local residents worked to determine the best model of food policy council for Rochester. Questions included how many people should make up the council, who needs to be represented, and how the council will function. After a long process of community input, the planning team decided on a resident-led model. The FPC will be made up of 13 members. These 13 members will prioritize issues and form subcommittees to work on specific food policies and areas of the food system. These subcommittees will be open to the public. You do not have to be a FPC member to get involved!

You can read the Rochester FPC bylaws here.