Influencing Change: Highlighting Young Voices in Food and Sustainability

In the Leadup to the UN Food Systems Summit 

3 June 2021

9:30 a.m.- 11:00 a.m., EDT, Zoom


Organized in partnership with the Civil Society Unit, United Nations Department of Global Communications (DGC),  the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and Kitchen Connection, this Briefing will focus on the emerging themes of the UN Food Systems Summit. The event aims to encourage discussions on issues that affect food systems and to delve into the hearts of young influencers who are leveraging social media as advocacy tools for sustainable food systems change. The discussion will be complemented by introductions to current food systems initiatives that support youth and provide actionable tools for change.



Event Scenario



  • Hawa Diallo, Chief, Civil Society Unit, Department of Global Communications
  • Zitouni Ould Dada, Deputy Director, Office of Climate, Biodiversity & Environment, Food and Agriculture Organization, United Nations
  • Earlene Cruz, Director, Kitchen Connection


Session 1: Guided Panel Discussion – Tik Tok and Instagram Influencers

  • Sara Bond, Kitchen Connection  (Moderator)
  • Taylor Bright, Tik Tok Influencer
  • Sofia Castillblanco, Instagram Influencer 
  • Isaias Hernandez, Instagram Influencer 

Session 2: Introductions to Food Systems Initiatives

  • Lisa Daronatsy, Kitchen Connection (Moderator)
  • Sara Bond, Kitchen Connection
  • Lana Weidgenant, Action Track 2, Vice-Chair, UN Food Systems Summit  
  • Lindsey Hook, World Food Forum 
  • Victor Mugo, Youth Liaisons Group, UN Food Systems Summit 
  • Mike Khunga, Action Track 5, Vice-Chair, UN Food Systems Summit


  • Rei Shimzu, Assistant Professor, University of Alaska


Speaker's Bios

Hawa Diallo, Chief of the Civil Society Unit at the Civil Society and Advocacy Section, UN Department of Global Communications has extensive United Nations experience in public information outreach and fostering civil society partnerships, with a particular emphasis on youth and women’s organizations. Ms. Diallo began her United Nations career in 1987 in the Department of Public Information and has served in two United Nations Peacekeeping Operations in Cambodia and Somalia, respectively. She has also worked for the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN Habitat) in Nairobi, as an Associate Human Settlements Officer and as a Partners and Youth Officer. 




Zitouni Ould-Dada is currently Deputy Director in the Climate and Environment Division at the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in Rome. Before joining FAO, he worked as Head of Technology Unit at UNEP in Paris for 5 years. Prior to that, he worked for the British Government for 15 years holding several senior positions at Department of Energy and Climate Change; Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs; Food Standards Agency; Environment Agency; and Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and Food. He also worked for the French government on international climate change during France Presidency of the European Union in 2008. Read more




Earlene Cruz is the founder and Director of Kitchen Connection uses food as the vehicle to connect people to each other, in support of a better food system and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. The platform hosts educational experiences, online and in-person interactive cooking classes and events, bringing together farmers, indigenous peoples, chefs, and food activists who believe in and advocate for the need for everyone to have access to quality food.  Earlene completed her Master's degree in Social Entrepreneurship and Food Studies at the Gallatin school of New York University, where she is now a visiting professor focusing on food insecurity at the New York University College of Global Public Health. Her scholastic research specifically addresses the power of food to unite and/or divide people. Her passion is for bringing people together, especially through (food) culture and the power that it has to (often) transcend conflict. This work led her to be recognized as a James Beard Scholar. Her previous work included supporting film and bilingual programs through the French Embassy in New York City. There, she contributed to the book, The Bilingual Revolution, which has since been translated into eight languages. Her personal passion for bilingualism has led her to speak five languages.  She sits on the board of two nonprofits, promoting social entrepreneurship and peace through intercultural exchange. Previously, she served on the Youth Representatives Steering Committee of the United Nations Department of Global Communications.


Sara Bond is a Master of Public Health student at New York University, a communications intern at Kitchen Connection, and a Research and Writing Intern at FoodTank. She is a food media research assistant at the SeedProgram under the direction of Dr. Marie Bragg, a member of NYU's Global Action for Urban Health Lab, and incoming co-president of the student group Nutrition Without Borders. 




Lana Weidgenant is Vice Chair of the Shifting to Sustainable Consumption Patterns Action Track for the UN Food Systems Summit 2021. She is a young activist involved in international food systems, including through roles as a Real Food Systems Youth Ambassador and a Youth Core Group Leader for the Act4Food Act4Change campaign facilitated by GAIN and the Food Foundation. Lana is also part of the climate movement as a youth climate strikes organizer and Deputy Partnerships Director of Zero Hour, a youth-led climate justice organization.





Lindsey Hook is a co-lead of the cooking track of the World Food Forum and an avid traveler and food lover. She was born and raised in the US and has lived in Italy for the past 7 years.





Victor Mugo is a firm believer that the youth hold the key to the transformation of food systems, Victor is a youth in agriculture advocate and climate activist mobilizing the youth to transition to climate resilient agriculture and agricultural entrepreneurship. He is the Regional Coordinator for Nourishing Africa & the Climate Smart Agriculture Youth Network (CSAYN), a lead author for UNEP’s Global Environmental Outlook for Youth-Africa and a Borlaug-Adesina Fellow. He is also the Co-Chair of the Youth Liaisons to the UN Food Systems Summit (UNFSS) that works to ensure that the youth’s representation, meaningful participation, ideas and solutions are of critical importance in shaping the global deliberations on transforming food systems.




Sofia Castillblanco, is a sixteen year old food enthusiast and entrepreneur from Nicaragua, who enjoys exploring, discovering and creating through cooking. Since she was twelve, she immersed herself into her social media platforms where she shares her recipes and her day to day as a teenager. She built a community of “chefs en casa” (chefs at home) that follow her on culinary adventures. Sofia has always concerned herself with giving exposure to Nicaraguan small businesses and entrepreneurs; especially during the sociopolitical crisis in Nicaragua and the covid-19 pandemic. She not only uses their products in her recipe videos, but she supports them from the inside out with branding, quality control, networking, creating digital content of their own and giving feedback that will allow them to grow and enhance their brands within the local market.




Isaias Hernandez is an Environmental Educator and creator of QueerBrownVegan where he creates introductory forms of environmentalism through colorful graphics, illustrations, and videos. He seeks to provide a safe space for like-minded environmentalists to advance the discourse around the climate crisis.





Lisa Daronatsy is dedicated to the mission of service for others by means of food justice. Lisa is currently interning with Kitchen Connection and is entering her second year in New York University’s Master of Public Health Nutrition program. Lisa’s academic and professional backgrounds are diverse, with experience in topics ranging from international sourcing and production to fitness and nutrition coaching.Lisa believes food systems and population nutrition are two pivotal, powerful topics in today’s global world. Lisa feels called to advocate for health equity through nutrition and believes the path forward will require an evolution of innovative solutions to historic and present challenges.




Mike Nkhombo Khunga is a nutrition professional with years experience working with Civil Society, private sectors and government to address high levels of malnutrition in Malawi. Mike joined Civil Society Organisation Nutrition Alliance (CSONA) where he focuses on nutrition budget analysis to reveal nutrition financing gap and training community media to develop programs that will increase community awareness on nutrition. Mike leads youth nutrition project in Malawi, empowering community youths to become nutrition champion. Mike is a strong Youth Leaders for Nutrition and has represented Malawi at global events like TICAD7, RESULTS advocacy Tour USA, Global Gathering Nepal and Mandela Global Citizen Festival.  Currently he is the Vice-Chair for UN Food System Summit Action Track 5; building resilience to vulnerabilities, shocks and stress.




Rei Shimzu's research interests are in social determinants of health behavior change related to dietary quality. She is particularly interested in addressing dietary disparities among young adults through interventions, coalition building, and food policy. Her overall research goal is to examine how psychosocial constructs, such as poverty, mental health, violence, and interpersonal relationships affect food-related decision making.