Carter Oswood – Executive Director
Carter is a Cedar Rapids native who returned to the area after years spent living, working and studying in overseas. With a professional career encompassing photography, web design, business development, marketing, and creative writing, he is enthusiastic to utilize his skillset to further the organization’s mission. Carter has a deep passion for food systems and is determined enact tangible measures to increase equal access to nutritious produce. He currently serves on the Linn County Food Systems Council.
Emmaly Renshaw – Farm Manager
Emmaly grew up in the rolling hills of rural northeast Iowa. She graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in Landscape Architecture with an emphasis in Midwest Ecology. Both of the these experiences laid the groundwork for her love of gardening/farming, community health, and local food systems.
The past three years Emmaly worked with diabetes prevention and access to preventive health programming. “One message I heard repeatedly from pre-diabetic and diabetic individuals was they were ready to make dietary changes but lacked access to nutrient-dense food. Feed Iowa First is actively combating food insecurity through growing produce locally,”she says. “When invited to join Feed Iowa First it was a natural fit, and I am excited to work to expand access to nutrient-dense food and build relationships between organizations within our community.”
Emmaly lives in Cedar Rapids with her spouse, four kids (high school -age to kindergarten) and a few small pets. In her few moments of free time she enjoys biking, gardening, backpacking, and fixing things.
Kit Kirby – Farm Coordinator (AmeriCorps VISTA)
Kit planted roots in Cedar Rapids at the age of three and has considered it “home” ever since. She graduated from Kirkwood Community College with a degree in Culinary Arts and began working in various local restaurants. With a passion for food and a curiosity about where her food was coming from, she left the kitchen scene and started working as a farmhand at a local farm. There, her love of farming, service to others, and community became very apparent.
“I first heard of Feed Iowa First a few years ago while working with some friends of Sonia. The concept was simple yet one-of-a-kind — growing and distributing REAL food straight to those in need. What could be better?” she says. “I am so thrilled to be a part of this wonderful organization.”
In her free time, Kit enjoys spending time in the garden, doing yoga, cooking, and of course, snuggling her cats.
Dani Havel – Volunteer Coordinator (AmeriCorps VISTA)
Dani is from Mount Prospect, Illinois and graduated from The University of Iowa in May 2020. She received a Bachelor of Arts in Global Health Studies with minors in Psychology and American Sign Language. Throughout her time at Iowa, Dani held leadership positions in student organizations, such as Dance Marathon, Alpha Xi Delta Sorority, and GIVE Volunteers. She also volunteered abroad in Thailand, Laos, and Nepal. Starting June 2020, she is excited to facilitate methods to engage volunteers and assist with organizational event planning throughout her service.
Jessie Hilby – Gleaning Coordinator (AmeriCorps 4-H)
Jessie is a recent graduate from Iowa State University with a Bachelor of Science in Agronomy and a minor in Animal Science, as well as an Associates of Science in Agricultural Production. Jessie is passionate about farming, beef cattle, and nutrition-sensitive agriculture. She has learned much more about food production on short term trips to Brazil and Uganda. She is thrilled for the opportunity to help the people in Linn County receive greater access to fresh and nutritious produce while also strengthening the community. Starting in August of 2020, she has been focused on gleaning (gathering) veggies and fruits by contacting farms in northeast Iowa to help reduce their produce waste in the field, while simultaneously bringing in more food to be distributed here. Her goal is to use what she learns to create even more of a positive change in communities such as her hometown and on a global scale.
Board of Directors
Lynette Richards has spent her life engaging in a wide range of humanitarian endeavors. She has been a Food Activist for over 30 years; long before the term ‘Food Activist’ existed. Lynette founded and directed the Candle Project that operated in New York City and Iowa City from 1990 to 2005. The Candle Project provided good paying jobs for homeless families and had a simple structure; people in economic crisis were hired to make beautiful candles that were sold to national retailers including the Body Shop, Urban Outfitters and scores of other retailers. The Candle Project was featured on the Oprah Show, Good Morning America and People Magazine. Lynette’s innovative work was recognized during an invitation to The White House where this effort was recognized by the US Small Business Administration award as “National Business of the Year for Welfare to Work Initiatives”. Vice President Al Gore presented the award to Lynette. Lynette has volunteered with Feed Iowa First since 2011 and has served on the Board of Directors since 2013. Lynette’s favorite role is that of Distribution Director as she enjoys hearing the stories of the difference Feed Iowa First produce makes in the lives of Linn County residents that struggle with food insecurity. Lynette was a counselor at Metro High School in Cedar Rapids from 1999 to 2014 where she often took a personal interest in her students making sure they were fed and helped to remove obstacles that allowed students to flourish. Lynette also volunteered with Table to Table, an Iowa City nonprofit that redirects wholesome food to serve the hungry, from 1994 to 1999 and served on its Board of Directors from 1998 to 1999. She also currently serves as President of the Oakhill Jackson Neighborhood Association.
Deb Engmark’s career in horticulture management spanned over twenty years and includes experience as a small business owner of a garden design, maintenance and planting business that led her to a career as head gardener at a National Trust for Historic Preservation site. In 2011 her volunteer commitment at a local food bank introduced her to Sonia Kendrick and the early idea of Feed Iowa First. Growing food, on donated land, for those who otherwise did not have access to healthy alternatives while providing experience to those wanting to learn the practice of farming not only seemed like a great idea, Sonia was doing it. Deb believes that communities thrive when every resident has the same opportunity to participate. That any person in our country, our state or our town could not fulfill their full potential due to consistent access to healthy affordable food is unnecessary and unjust.
Dora Bopp has served on the Feed Iowa First board of directors since its inception. Dora’s educational background includes an AAS in Parks and Natural Resources, BAS in Management and a Master of Science degree in Holistic Nutrition. Dora’s professional work has included Project Management, Community Development and Program Management in the for-profit and non-profit sectors. She passionately believes in the power of nutritious, whole foods to best strengthen the health of our community.
Jane is a retired teacher and school counselor. Both positions gave her an opportunity to work closely with families with housing and food insecurity issues. She enjoyed assisting families to find resources in the school and community that would help their children to succeed. In addition to working on food insecurity issues, she has always maintained a garden and was an active Master Gardener for 15 years. Now grandchildren, traveling, community volunteering and working for Feed Iowa First fill her time. She feels strongly that no person should be without food when our nation has an overabundance. Feed Iowa First enables me to help the food insecure in Linn County in a way that is respectful and nutritious.
A senior systems engineer at Rockwell Collins, Joe became involved with Feed Iowa First in 2012 when he heard Sonia talk about her vision for the organization and noticed Rockwell Collins was surrounded by lots of unused land. Under Joe’s leadership, Rockwell Collins started its first garden the next spring. The garden now includes fifty 100-foot rows that are managed by approximately 100 volunteers. Joe also started a garden at Hillside Wesleyan Church and is an active member of the Feed Iowa First board. Joe encourages Iowa organizations and volunteers to get involved in Feed Iowa First. He says that being outside and tending to the garden provides a great balance to his busy schedule, and it has introduced him to many members of the community. Plus, it’s such a great cause. “When I think of the phrase ‘What Would Jesus Do?’ the first thing that comes to mind is that Jesus said to feed the hungry. How much more direct can you get?”
Anne Langebartels recently graduated from the University of Northern Iowa with a degree in Interactive Digital Studies and Nonprofit Management and a minor in History. She has done marketing and design work for several organizations, including the Northeast Iowa Food Bank and the Center for Energy and Environmental Education, and has a strong interest in marketing, fundraising, and organizational planning for nonprofits, which led her to Feed Iowa First.
Matt is a Cedar Rapids native who lived in Minneapolis and Chicago before returning to his hometown in 2019 with his husband, David Maier, and immediately began volunteering with Feed Iowa First prior to joining the Board of Directors. With a Bachelor of Architecture from Iowa State University and a Master of Interior Design from Harrington, Matt has a strong ability to project manage systems. The system he has grown to be particularly passionate about is food. He believes inequalities and exploitations in our food system are a source of many inequalities and exploitations in our social structure, and that incremental changes by any one person can have a profound effect on improving many peoples’ lives. Matt is chair of the Volunteer Committee, and is currently the ambassador for the Brucemore site.
Grant Stoddard is an attorney at Simmons Perrine Moyer Bergman, PLC. He learned about Feed Iowa First while serving as a judicial law clerk for the husband of fellow board member, Jane Melloy, in 2019. Inspired by the work Feed Iowa First was doing, Grant organized a group of youth from his church to volunteer at the Collins Aerospace urban farm site. That group continues to benefit from regular volunteer work with the organization. Grant developed an interest in gardening while working as a temporary gardener at Temple Square in Salt Lake City, Utah. On his way home from work at that time, he would often think to himself that it would be a good idea to turn unused public spaces into gardens to feed the hungry. Now, as a board member with Feed Iowa First, he is helping to turn that fledgling idea into a reality.
Past AmeriCorps VISTA Service Members
Logan LeTellier - Farm Coordinator (AmeriCorps VISTA)
Logan began his service in August of 2019 and has helped the organization to build its capacity in the area of food production. He participates in all aspects of program building; seed starting, soil blocking, tilling, transplanting, harvesting, distribution and creating the master plan.
August Stolba - Farm Coordinator (AmeriCorps VISTA)
August Stolba is participating in his second year of AmeriCorps service, previously serving in Green Iowa AmeriCorps focusing on energy efficiency and sustainability outreach and education initiatives. August studied Design Ecology at The Evergreen State College, focusing on the anthropogenic factors that affect climate change and concluding that food systems are the foundation of creating economically, socially and environmentally sustainable communities.
August Stolba and Anne Langebartels with the AmeriCorps VISTA program visiting our Grow Don’t Mow program at The Accel Group.
Feed Iowa First welcomed two new members from AmeriCorps to our team of talented volunteers in August 2018. AmeriCorps VISTA Service Members are awarded to organizations to help provide direct service and capacity building. The Center for Energy and Environmental Education at the University of Northern Iowa has partnered with the Northeast Iowa Food Bank and Feed Iowa First to utilize AmeriCorps VISTA Members to improve food security in Iowa. Feed Iowa First is so grateful for their talents and the contributions they make on a daily basis.