Conversation – Change the World with Your Next Bite! (12:30pm)

Austin is a foodie town. We are obsessed with getting the best flavor and trying the chefs’ hot new menus. But Austin is also connecting with the earth in the conversation about what we eat and how.

Ronda Rutledge

Ronda Rutledge, Executive Director at Sustainable Food Center

Ronda serves on the Farmland Access and Preservation working group of the Austin/Travis County Food Policy Board and is Vice Chair of One Voice Central Texas, advocating for policy changes that help support hunger relief and sustainable agriculture. She also serves on the Advisory Committee of Austin Community College’s agriculture program in Elgin as well as AISD’s School Health Advisory Council.

Ronda is an alumnus of LeaderSpring – a two-year Executive Director fellowship – as well as the Anderson Foundation Fellowship and Leadership Austin’s ESSENTIAL Class of 2014. Prior to joining SFC, Ronda served as Executive Director of the American Indian Child Resource Center in Oakland, CA. While there, she completed training from the Indiana University Center on Philanthropy Fundraising School. Previous experience includes a Rotary International Group Study Exchange to South Africa.

She currently serves as a volunteer on the Austin Powwow Committee of Great Promise for American Indians. She is married and has twin daughters – River and Raven – along with furry feline family members.


Chef Hugh Acheson

Author of the James Beard Foundation Award Winning Cookbook A NEW TURN IN THE SOUTH: Southern Flavors Reinvented for Your Kitchen, Pick a Pickle: 50 Recipes for Pickles, Relishes, and Fermented Snacks, and THE BROAD FORK: Recipes for the Wide World of Vegetables and Fruits. He is a chef/partner of the Athens, Georgia, restaurants 5&10, The National, the Atlanta restaurant Empire State South, and The Florence in Savannah. He is a James Beard award winner for Best Chef Southeast and was named a Best New Chef by Food & Wine Magazine. Hugh competed in Bravo’s Top Chef Masters, Season 3 and currently stars as a judge on Top Chef.

His mantra when it comes to provisioning is this: local first, sustainable second, organic third. Local has impact and impact produces change. Small steps will win this race and those first small steps are about your local sphere. Hugh believes small steps that one takes as a consumer are multifold: shop at your local farmers market, frequent local independent restaurants, buy locally roasted coffee, learn how to garden, don’t eat overly processed foods, know the person who raises your eggs. This has nothing to do with a political stance and everything to do with a community stance. He believes in the place he lives and finding ways to make it great everyday.


Erin Lentz, Assistant Professor of Public Affairs at UTA, Sustainable Food Policy Board Member

Erin C. Lentz received her PhD in Sociology and an M.S. in Applied Economics and Management from Cornell University. Erin is currently pursuing two parallel research agendas. First, she examines issues of food insecurity, US and international food aid and assistance polices, and response analysis – the portion of the programming cycle in which an agency identifies what transfer to distribute (cash, food, or vouchers). Second, she studies the relationships among subjective wellbeing, community attributes, relative deprivation, and inequality in sub-Saharan Africa.

Erin has received a Fulbright Fellowship to Bangladesh to research the secondary effects of food aid in local communities. She has worked or consulted with CARE, the United Nations World Food Program, and numerous other international NGOs on markets, food security and food assistance programs. Over the past decade, she has published extensively on these issues in both academic and policy venues. Among others, her research has been in featured in New York Times, Washington Post, and National Public Radio.

Max Elliot

Max Elliot, Executive Director at Urban Roots

Max joined Urban Roots’ original parent organization, YouthLaunch, in August 2006 and co-founded Urban Roots the following year. Max is now the Executive Director of Urban Roots. Max received a BA in American Studies from Tulane University, a Master’s Degree in Environmental Studies from the University of Essex in Colchester, England, and a Master’s Degree in Social Work from the University of Texas at Austin (May, 2012). In 1999, he received a certificate in Ecological Horticulture from the Center for Sustainable Food Systems at the University of California at Santa Cruz. In Central Texas, he has worked with Austin Community Gardens and with several local organic farms including Tecolote Farm, Oasis Gardens, and Pure Luck AAA Goat Dairy. Max served on the City of Austin/Travis County Sustainable Food Policy Board from 2009-2011.