2019 Board Candidate: Katherine Tsantiris

Present occupation

Senior Government Relations Manager, Ocean Conservancy

Community involvement

Coastal Cleanup volunteer
WABA (Washington Area Bicycle Association) member

Education

Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies: Masters of Environmental Management (2015)
University of Connecticut: Bachelors of Science in Environmental Science, specialization in Resource Economics (2012)

Why are you interested in serving on the Board?

I have always been passionate about sustainable food systems, from supporting local farmers to seeking out organic labels or foods with no pesticide use, to trying to limit packaging waste in the food we purchase. I have seen a lot of this in practice at the TPSS Co-op and I am interested in getting more involved in supporting such a pillar of the community. I have a background in environmental management, with a Masters of Environmental Management from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies and experiences ranging from working with local kelp farmers in Connecticut to working at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. My current job at Ocean Conservancy, where I focus on marine debris and plastic waste, has also made me more interested in learning about how to reduce packaging and support a circular economy for plastics and packaging materials. I would welcome the opportunity to support the thriving Takoma Park and Takoma, DC community and serve on the board of directors for the food co-op that I am proud to shop at every week.

What experience or involvement have you had with the TPSS Food Co-op or other cooperative enterprises or Boards of Directors?

We joined as TPSS Food Co-op members this year, and now it is the only place I go for groceries (I also shop at the Takoma farmers market almost every Sunday). I love going there every week, and I am always impressed by the selection that it has of the food that I look for! The seasonal selection is always excellent, and I enjoy that it supports local farmers. It also has a great bulk section, which is great for cutting down on single-use plastic waste. I have never had a bad experience there. In addition, before moving to Takoma we were CSA members and I also supported local fisheries and shellfish hatcheries through community supported fisheries in Connecticut.

In terms of my experience on the board of directors for other organizations, I served on the board of directors for a Guatemala-based non-profit, Alticultura, an organization that works to empower local farmers and educate the community about sustainable agriculture practices and climate change. I have also served on the board of directors of Cleats and Training, Inc. - a nonprofit that donates sports gear to teams in under-served communities. The organization partners with Banda Bola Foundation to donate sports equipment and other necessary items (including school supplies) to villages in Malawi.

What skills, qualities, formal training, education, or professional or volunteer experience would you bring that directly contribute to the mission of the TPSS Food Co-op?

I have a masters degree in environmental management from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. This included extensive coursework in sustainable food systems. As a graduate student, I also worked at the Yale Farm on their "Seed to Salad program" where we educated local elementary school children in New Haven, CT about how produce grows. The program started by planting seeds and culminated with all of the kids picking the produce to make salads for lunch.

I have also worked at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, where I examined the the effects of various "eco-labelling" schemes on fisheries supply chains. I have worked in a Senate office, where I helped manage the natural resources portfolio and I now work at an ocean conservation non-profit based in DC called Ocean Conservancy. I have experience editing websites, facilitating meetings, helping to manage budgets, writing newsletters and communicating to the public on key issues. I am also knowledgeable about how to promote sustainable food systems and environmentally sound business practices. I think my background would make me a true asset to the board.

What is your favorite Co-operative Principle and why?

My favorite co-operative principle is "concern for the community." A co-operative should be looking out for the best interests of the community both by honoring the community's history and striving for improvement.

There are a lot of ways to define community - from households/groups of households to neighborhoods. But I think that food is always at the center of it, and there is such a power in that. I am inspired by the power of communities, and I think that a food co-op is both a reflection of a community and a protector of community identity.

Is there anything else you’d like to share or address?

On a practical level, I think I have a lot of the skills and experience it takes to serve on the board, and I would be able to dedicate the required amount of time for board-related duties. I am also fascinated by food supply chains (I read books about the food industries in my spare time - the most recent about the tomato industry). I am interested in how to improve other aspects of sustainability in food, including reducing packaging waste and carbon footprints. I would love the opportunity to be on the board to both bring my expertise and continue to learn.