Stories / Impact, Awards

The 2020 Leadership Award Honorees

Recognizing five visionaries for their work in creating a better food world

JBF Editors

May 07, 2020

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James Beard Awards medallion

Today we announced the recipients of the 2020 Leadership Awards (presented in association with Deloitte), a program which spotlights the important and complex realms of sustainability, food justice, and public health.

The Leadership Awards are especially poignant during this difficult time for the restaurant industry. These honors raise awareness of timely food issues by celebrating the visionaries responsible for creating a healthier, safer, and more equitable and sustainable food system. The Leadership Awards recognize specific outstanding initiatives as well as bodies of work and lifetime achievement. The Foundation will award each 2020 honoree a $10,000 cash prize to continue their impactful and important work. 

This year's recipients are:

Phillip and Dorathy E. Barker
Co-Founders, Operation Spring Plant, Inc. (OSP)
Phillip and Dorathy E. Barker co-founded Operation Spring Plant, Inc. (OSP), a grass roots nonprofit organization based in Oxford, North Carolina, alongside Reverend Z.D. Harris, Dr. Benjamin Chavis, and Reverend Leon White to save the state’s only two remaining black dairy farmers in 1987. Their passionate work in establishing OSP as a resource for African-American, limited-resource farmers and concerned urban citizens has led its local community in the fight against unjust and discriminatory business practices in the foodservice industry. The mission of Operation Spring Plant is to provide technical and financial assistance to limited-resource, minority family farmers who need to engage in timely seasonal planting activities, and who need marketing outlets for the sale of their crops to maintain their livelihood. Together, Phillip and Dorathy also own and operate Olusanya Farm, raising greens, beef cattle, and producing compost in Oxford, North Carolina. 

Rosalinda Guillen
Executive Director, Community to Community Development (C2C)
Rosalinda Guillen is a widely recognized farmworker, rural justice leader, and serves as the executive director of Community to Community Development (C2C), a women-led organization dedicated to food sovereignty and immigrant rights. The oldest of eight, she was born in Texas and spent her first decade in Coahuila, Mexico. Her family emigrated to LaConner, Washington in 1960 and she began working as a farmworker in the fields in Skagit County at the age of 10. Guillen has worked within the labor movement with Caesar Chavez’s United Farm Workers of America and has represented farmworkers in ongoing dialogues of immigration issues, labor rights, trade agreements, and strengthening the food sovereignty movement. As executive director of C2C, Rosalinda is dedicated to building a broader base of support for rural communities and sustainable agriculture policies that ensure equity and healthy communities for farmworkers.

Abiodun Henderson
Executive Director, The Come Up Project featuring Gangstas to Growers
Abiodun Henderson is the executive director and founder of The Come Up Project which features Gangstas to Growers, an agribusiness training program focused on empowering formerly incarcerated young adults through agriculture, employment, and entrepreneurship. Abiodun led the organization’s core programming to develop its first product, Sweet Sol, a hot sauce that’s produced by trainees in partnership with SWAG Co-op, a Southwest Atlanta farmers’ organization dedicated to sustainable urban food systems. By providing a living wage stipend to participants, the program is also designed to allow individuals with past criminal records, who are largely barred from jobs that would pay a livable wage, to amass seed money for their business ventures. In addition to her tireless work with the Come Up Project, Abiodun has also been a community organizer in Westside, Atlanta for over seven years, and under her leadership as garden coordinator, the Westview Community Garden is now community-owned after being bulldozed in 2015. Abiodun also helped create and manage the Westview Empowerment STEAM Camp from 2013 to 2015 and is a board member of the Georgia Cooperative Development Center.

Mark and Kerry Marhefka
Owners, Abundant Seafood
Mark and Kerry Marhefka are the owners and operators of Abundant Seafood, a seafood purveyor providing sustainably sourced fish to restaurants in the Carolinas and Georgia. The son of a commercial fisherman, Mark Marhefka began fishing for a living the day after he graduated from high school in 1979. Prior to joining Mark to run Abundant Seafood, Kerry was a fishery biologist for the federal government working primarily on establishing marine protected areas (MPAs) off the southeast U.S. coast. Both Mark and Kerry have long résumés of working closely with the scientists and the government to improve the health of the resource and the viability of the industry. Mark began as an advisor to the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council in the 90s, serving as chairman of both the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council’s Snapper Grouper and Marine Protected Areas Advisory Panels, as well as participating in many stock assessments and other resource management bodies. Kerry now serves on the Snapper Grouper Advisory Panel as well the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council’s System Management Plan Working Group. She has worked with the North Atlantic Marine Alliance and the Business Alliance for Protection of the Atlantic Coast to fight drilling off the South Carolina Coast.

Caleb Zigas
Executive Director, La Cocina
Caleb Zigas is the executive director of La Cocina, a nonprofit working to solve problems of equity in business ownership for women, immigrants, and people of color. He began volunteering for La Cocina in 2005, the same week that the organization opened, which is a personal testament to both the power of volunteerism as well as an appreciation for the hard work of grass roots organizations in the Bay Area that make La Cocina a possibility. At La Cocina, Caleb has grown with the organization and has been the executive director since 2010. In his time with the organization, he has been named a Yoshiyama Young Entrepreneur, recognized by Inc. Magazine as one of "5 Community Organizers Making a Difference," and was nominated for the Basque Culinary Center World Prize. Caleb built the original infrastructure for La Cocina's award-winning incubator program, launched the San Francisco Street Food Festival, advocated for policy change in mobile food vending opportunities in the Bay, and has been a part of more than 30 brick-and-mortar openings. And, while he loves the food component, ultimately this job is about people, about opportunity, and about equity, and that's what drives the work.

Read full press release here.

Learn more about the JBF Leadership Awards.