Decolonizing the Food System

On May 8, 2023, Shape Up SF and the SFDPH Healthy Eating Active Living (HEAL) Team convened a virtual conversation with this diverse panel of experts and food advocates who will share their unique perspectives and offer insights into how we may decolonize the food system. Watch the webinar above or view the slides. Read the notes with resources from the webinar.


Shakirah Simley (she, her) a writer, seasoned organizer, and community development and policy strategist with almost 2 decades of experience working on social justice, food, gender and racial equity issues. She is the Executive Director of the Booker T. Washington Community Service Center, one of SF’s oldest Black-led and serving community-based organizations, and home to some of the only permanent supportive affordable housing for transitional aged youth in SF. A champion for racial equity and collaborative leader, Shakirah Simley continues to address systemic issues that have impacted generations of San Franciscans, while uplifting the lives of families, youth and seniors at Booker T.  Shakirah has a proven track record of public service, having previously served as the inaugural Director for the Office of Racial Equity for the City and County of San Francisco, served as a legislative aide for the SF Board of Supervisors, and the leader of the Southeast Community Center in Bayview. She is a graduate with honors from the University of Pennsylvania and a former Fulbright Scholar to Italy. She serves as a Board member for SPUR, the Alliance for Girls and Foodwise. She is a former food artisan and forever food justice advocate. She has been featured in local and national publications including the SF Chronicle, KQED, New York Times, Eater, Bon Appétit, SF Standard, and National Geographic. Shakirah was recently honored as a ‘Talented Twenty-Five’ by the San Francisco Sun Reporter and awarded a prestigious SEERS Fellowship by the Haas School of Public Service at Stanford University. The daughter of a social worker and granddaughter of a Black Panther, Shakirah was born and raised in Harlem, New York. Shakirah has lived in San Francisco for over 14 years, working to change access and opportunity for low-income communities and generations of young people to come.

Dr. Rupa Marya is a physician, activist, writer, mother, and a composer. She is a Professor of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, where she practices and teaches internal medicine. Her work sits at the nexus of climate, health and racial justice. Dr. Marya founded the Deep Medicine Circle, an organization committed to healing the wounds of colonialism through food, medicine, story and learning. She is also a co-founder of the Do No Harm Coalition, a collective of health workers committed to addressing disease through structural change. Dr Marya was recognized in 2021 with the Women Leaders in Medicine Award by the American Medical Student Association. She was a reviewer of the American Medical Association’s Organizational Strategic Plan to Embed Racial Justice and Advance Health Equity. Because of her work advancing health equity, Dr. Marya was appointed by Governor Newsom to the Healthy California for All Commission, to advance a model for universal healthcare in California. She has toured twenty-nine countries with her band, Rupa and the April Fishes, whose music was described by the legend Gil Scott-Heron as “Liberation Music.” Together with Raj Patel, she co-authored the bestselling book Inflamed: Deep Medicine and the Anatomy of Injustice.

Esperanza Pallana is a strategic leader whose passions are community led economic development through the food lens, equity and justice. She has worked with nonprofits for over 20 years with an emphasis in leadership, systemic change, and policy advocacy. Her work has supported social justice entrepreneurs and movement leaders in removing policy barriers, consolidating resources and accessing grant and lending capital for their nonprofits and small businesses. As Executive Director of Food & Farm Communications Fund, a participatory grantmaker, Esperanza is committed to community-controlled capital structures, narrative shift and emboldening transformative systemic change.

Anjali Prasertong, MPH, RDN is a writer and public health dietitian focused on food systems, racial equity, and nutrition. She led an innovative city-funded corner store program in New Orleans that increased fresh food access in low-income neighborhoods, and worked with food entrepreneurs in the city looking to operationalize racial equity in their businesses. Now living in Denver, Colorado, she currently writes the reader-supported newsletter Antiracist Dietitian (, and serves as a speaker and consultant on issues related to food and equity for local governments, nonprofit organizations, and professional groups in the US and Canada.


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