SoFAB Talks in DC

The Southern Food and Beverage Museum has a series of programs in Washington, DC, The Washington DC Roundtable Series, that is designed to offer an open public forum to engage the public and to raise awareness of a range of food related issues that can affect the health and economic wellbeing of the citizens and families of the South. Generally, these discussions take place behind closed doors with a minimum involvement from those affected. We seek to change that attitude and promote active participation from the public.

Tackling Summer Hunger: Connecting Kids with Summer Meals in partnership with Share Our Strength, took place on Wednesday, May 16th. The Summer Meals Roundtable discussion brought together leading anti-hunger experts to discuss how we can connect more families in need to summer meals programs.  USDA summer meals programs are an important resource for families with school age kids at risk for hunger during the summer.  Share Our Strength has developed a new Summer Meals Evaluation Toolkit and a Summer Meals Outreach Toolkit, which helps connect kids at risk of hunger with the meals they need this summer. Members of Congress can play a critical role in making it easier for their constituents to learn about and get connected to summer meals programs.  Deloitte LLP generously provided the funds for both the Roundtable and the Toolkit.


Sid Abrams is currently a Principal in Deloitte Consulting where he is focused as the Lead Consulting and Lead Client Service Partner for a number of the firm’s most important clients, as well as the leader for Strategy & Operations Partner / Director Recruiting.  Prior to this Sid was the Strategy Operations Leader for Deloitte’s Consumer Products Practice and prior to Deloitte was the North American Managing Partner of another professional services organization. Sid currently serves as a Director on the Board of Share Our Strength and is a member of the Finance Committee. Sid holds a B.A. degree from the State University of New York at Stony Brook and an M.A. degree from Montclair State University.


Kate Atwood is the Executive Director of the Arby’s Foundation. Prior to joining the Arby’s Foundation this spring, she spent two years as a cause-marketing consultant, helping companies build philanthropic strategies that aligned with their brands, their people, and their values. Kate’s non-profit management experience began eight years ago when she founded Kate’s Club, an organization that serves to support and empower children and teens facing life after the death of a parent or sibling.  Having lost her own mother at the age of 12, Kate’s vision was to build a place for grieving children to have fun, develop friendships, and learn to cope with their loss.  Kate served as the organization’s Executive Director for six years.  Her first book, entitled “A Healing Place: Help Your Child Find Hope and Happiness after the Loss of a Loved One” was released by Penguin Books in November of 2009.


Following his highly acclaimed 13 year pastry chef career and critically acclaimed cookbook,Dam Good Sweet, Desserts to Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth New Orleans Style [Taunton Press, 2009,] Louisiana native David Guas is seen muscling up Gumbo to shouting out Louisiana parish names [meaning your order’s up] at his down-home restaurant, Bayou Bakery, Coffee Bar & Eatery.  It is a rustic ‘funkified’ southern-style hangout in Arlington, Virginia, featuring southern comfort fare and his signature desserts. David Guas was a finalist from both the James Beard Foundation and the Institute of Culinary Professionals; Food & Wine magazine named Dam Good Sweet as One of Three Best Dessert Cookbooks of the year. O Magazine [Oprah Winfrey] honored Guas for her ten-year celebration as one of the Ten Best Pastry Chefs in the Country to present a cake in her honor.  Guas himself was a finalist for Food & Wine’s People’s Best New Chef in the Country for 2011.   The hunting, fishing, Harley-riding pastry chef has made regular appearances on NBC’sToday Show, de-mystifying everything from Jambalaya, Gumbo, Pastry Dough to Mardi Gras King Cakes for the nationwide viewing audience.


Dawn Hoffman has been a project manager and analyst with Global Strategy Group’s research practice area since 2002. Dawn specializes in public opinion research and strategic communications for advocacy organizations, associations, and government agencies. Her work focuses on the areas of public health and public education. She has conducted hundreds of studies for clients like the New York City Department of Health, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Broad Foundations, Robin Hood Foundation, KIPP Foundation and the Hispanic Federation. Dawn spearheaded GSG’s annual polling on the Conscious Consumer, a nationwide study which explores the nexus between social values and purchasing behaviors in the consumer marketplace. Dawn holds a B.A. from Cornell University.


Rhonda M. Jackson is the New Orleans Campaign Director for Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry Campaign.  In this capacity, she oversees the organization’s implementation of the “No Kid Hungry” campaign’s priorities including coordinating agencies participating in the free summer meals program and breakfast in the classroom. Prior to this role, Jackson served as Gulf Coast Program Manager for Oxfam America.  In this capacity, she oversaw the organization’s hurricane recovery program which sought to ensure the rights and needs of poor and vulnerable communities were addressed in state and federal recovery efforts. Throughout her career, Jackson has served on nonprofit boards, and has been appointed to numerous committees. She has also spoken on several panels, delivered presentations to local and state conferences and testified before Congressional panels.  A native of New Orleans, and 2010 Fellow in the Effective Leadership Program of the Center for Leadership and Public Values at Duke University and the College of Business of Sothern University (Baton Rouge). A graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University, Jackson received a Master’s of Social Work degree, with a concentration in policy and administration and an undergraduate degree from Xavier University of Louisiana.


Bob Lanier is a legend both on and off the court. As NBA Cares Ambassador, Lanier routinely works with youth-serving programs that support education, youth and family development, and health-related causes. Lanier also serves as Special Assistant to the Commissioner with specific responsibilities in the areas of refereeing, basketball operations and public service. In 1978, Lanier was selected by the Professional Basketball Writers Association (PBWA) to receive the J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award for outstanding community service and in 1981 the YMCA presented him with the Jackie Robinson Award for service to youth, good citizenship and leadership.  In June 2000, Lanier was the recipient of the Horizon Award, presented annually by the Joint Leadership Commission of the United States Congress and the Board of Directors of The Congressional Award Foundation to individuals who have made an exceptional impact on the lives of America’s young people.  In 2007, Lanier received the National Civil Rights Museum Sports Legacy Award for his significant contribution to civil and human rights internationally in the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  Most recently, Lanier was named co-recipient of the 2009 Mannie Jackson’s Basketball Human Spirit Award in recognition of his passion for the game of basketball and his continued commitment to community service. In addition to his work with NBA Cares, Lanier remains active with many other organizations related to children and education. He also has served as honorary chairperson of the Thurgood Marshall Scholarship Fund and holds two honorary doctorates, one from St. Bonaventure and the other from Siena College.


Sophie Milam is Senior Policy Counsel at Feeding America, the nation’s largest hunger relief charity. As part of the public policy team, Sophie develops and advocates for policies and programs to reduce hunger. Specifically she works to secure resources supporting the work of food banks and emergency food providers and to strengthen federal nutrition programs. Her primary focus is on SNAP (formerly food stamps) and child nutrition programs. Sophie led Feeding America’s efforts during the 2010 child nutrition reauthorization, helping to secure $4.5 billion in new investments to improve the access and nutritional quality of programs that serve children in and out of school. She currently heads the organization’s efforts to protect federal nutrition programs from funding cuts and harmful policy changes as part of deficit reduction. As chair of the 40-member Food Policy Working Group, Sophie builds partnerships to engage diverse organizations in hunger and nutrition policy and coordinate their advocacy efforts. Sophie is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.



Josh Wachs is the chief strategy officer for Share Our Strength®, a national nonprofit that is ending childhood hunger in America. Wachs is the first person to hold this position and is a member of the organization’s executive team. Wachs is responsible for developing and implementing the long-term strategy for Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry® Campaign, the organization’s national effort to end childhood hunger in America by 2015. Central to that effort is defining and managing the organization’s role at the federal, state and local levels; building the organization’s fundraising capacity; increasing its profile among key influencers; measuring organizational impact; and fostering inter-departmental collaboration around the goal of ending childhood hunger in America by 2015. During his tenure, Wachs has launched Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaigns to end childhood hunger in more than one dozen states and cities by creating public-private partnerships that bring together leaders from state and local government, corporations, private foundations, and local nonprofits. Wachs has built relationships with national organizations and political leaders nationwide, and led the effort to develop a strategic plan for expanding the No Kid Hungry Campaign to more states across the country. Wachs graduated from Oberlin College and lives in the District of Columbia with his wife Molly and three children.


The first roundtable of 2012 was held on January 30th, this time the topic was Previewing the Farm Bill: A Discussion of the Sugar Program. The Farm Bill is coming up for re-authorization this year, and as always, there are proposals to radically alter the existing system. The panel focused on the Sugar Program, and the panelists presented the opinions and positions of sugar growers as well as of industrial customers that produce food products that are sweetened with sugar.  The Honorable Henry Bonilla served as the panel moderator. The panelists were: Luther Markwart, chairman of the American Sugar AllianceJack Pettus, vice president of Government Relations, American Sugar Cane League;  Randy Green, president of the Sweetener Users Association; and Frances Smith, board member and adjunct fellow of the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

About the Panelists

The Honorable Henry Bonilla was a United States Congressman from 1993 to 2007.Henry was a key member of the U. S. Congress for those 14 years.  After his first election in 1992, Henry quickly made his mark. He was featured by TIME magazine as one of America’s Top 50 Up and Coming Young Leaders.  During his last term in office, Henry was rated as the 7th most influential member of Congress in the Power Rankings by  In his last six years in office, Henry was Chairman of the Agriculture Subcommittee on Appropriations.  He worked closely with both Democrats and Republicans to get his bill through the House and Senate every year. On the political front, Henry also became a national player.  He was one of ten people George W. Bush chose to be on his first presidential steering committee.  Later, Henry was chosen to co-chair the Republican national conventions in Philadelphia and New York City. Henry is now in his third career as a Partner with The Normandy Group, a bipartisan government relations firm based in Washington, D. C.

Robert Randall Green is the president of the Sweetener Users Association. In a career that began in 1982, Randy Green has seen food, agriculture and derivatives policy from the inside. His experience spans the House and the Senate, the executive and legislative branches of government, and the private sector.  He has seen service as the chief of staff for the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry; as a lobbyist for U.S. agriculture and food clients; and as a Deputy Under Secretary of Agriculture.  At McLeod, Watkinson & Miller, which he joined in February 1999, Mr. Green makes available to a variety of the firm’s clients his expertise in futures and derivatives law and regulation, trade policy, price and income supports, animal health issues, food safety regulation, nutrition issues, trade association management and legislative procedure and strategy. A frequent speaker at farm and agribusiness seminars and meetings, and a member of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s official trade policy advisory system, he is the senior government relations representative for the firm. During the course of his private and public-sector career, he has been closely involved in five omnibus farm bills, as well as major legislation in the areas of derivatives and financial reform legislation, food safety, and nutrition policy.

Luther Markwart is currently the Executive Vice President of the American Sugarbeet Growers Association in Washington, DC since 1982, representing 10,000 sugarbeet growers in 11 states. He was raised on a family dairy farm in eastern Michigan and grew sugarbeets for 9 years as a 4-H project. His grandparents and parents had raised sugarbeets since 1933. He has served as the Executive Vice President of the Farmers and Manufacturers Beet Sugar Association in Saginaw, Michigan, the Chairman of the industry-wide American Sugar Alliance, the Advisor to the U.S. Congress, the Department of Agriculture, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, and other federal agencies that have direct or indirect impact on the domestic sugar industry. He lives in McLean, Virginia with his wife, Terri, and three children, Christian, Lauren and Megan.

Jack Pettus has worked in the Washington, DC, political and policy arena since 1987, shortly after completing his Masters in Public Administration at the University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa.  Jack began his career as a Special Assistant to the Doorkeeper of the U.S. House of Representatives, before joining the legislative staff of the Chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture in 1988. Over the past two decades, he has served as Washington representative and consultant for diverse interests, including service on the Boards of Directors of the North American Export Grains Association and Farm Policy Facts. Jack has represented the Louisiana sugar cane industry since 2001 and has served as Vice President for Government of Government Relations for the American Sugar Cane League since 2006.  Jack has also served on the Executive Committee of the American Sugar Alliance since 2006 and is past-Chairman of ASA.

Frances B. Smith is an Adjunct Fellow with the Competitive Enterprise Institute, where she focuses on trade and international issues affecting consumers. She is also the founder and coordinator of International Consumers for Civil Society, an umbrella group that has 24 nonprofit organization members in 13 countries around the world and is an NGO with several international organizations. Smith served from 1994 – 2005 as Executive Director of Consumer Alert, a national consumer group. Smith has testified before Congressional committees and regulatory agencies, has been a participant in numerous public meetings of regulatory agencies, and has commented on regulatory issues both domestically and internationally.


The second Roundtable was held on November 2, 2011, with the topic: Fighting Hunger: An Update on SNAP. The panelists addressed the various issues in the regulation of Food Stamps (SNAP) in America. Barbara Hilden introduced the panel and began the discussion of SNAP. Max Finberg explained the SNAP program and it’s intended beneficiaries of those citizens living below the poverty line and those in emergency situations. Ed Cooney discussed the importance of the program and the benefits of allowing participants to make their own food decisions to maintain participant dignity and to keep the system practical. Ellen Vollinger then reiterated the importance of SNAP and discussed the program as an economic indicator and an economic incentive. Caryn Long then brought up the solutions offered by opponents to SNAP, and showed how they were not sustainable.  Congressman Cedric Richmond of Louisiana was also in attendance, and offered his views on the SNAP program.

About the Panelists

Congressman Cedric L. Richmond is a results oriented public servant committed to fighting and winning for the Orleans and Jefferson Parishes of Louisiana. A lifelong native of New Orleans, he bore witness to 2005 Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and the disastrous oil spill of 2010. Cedric is dedicated to renewing, restoring, and rebuilding his hometown better than ever. In fact, Cedric has supported his community through elected office for over a decade. In Congress, Cedric serves on the Committee on Small Business where he supports bringing innovation to market, investing in American entrepreneurs, and increasing local participation in the federal procurement process.  He is the Ranking Democrat on its Healthcare and Technology subcommittee and a member of the Subcommittee Contracting and Workforce.

Edward M. Cooney became the Congressional Hunger Center’s (CHC) Executive Director on February 5, 2001. Prior to joining CHC, Ed was an anti hunger advocate at the Food Research and Action Center and Connecticut Legal Services. From September 1997 to January 2001, Ed held two senior positions at the United States Department of Agriculture as Deputy Administrator for Special Nutrition Programs and Special Assistant for Nutrition to USDA Secretary Dan Glickman. Ed was a member of USDA’s Senior Executive Service, the government’s top management team. As an advocate or nutrition program administrator, Ed has work on every major children nutrition and Food Stamp bill since 1977.

Max Finberg is the Director of the USDA Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. He has dedicated his career to serving others, especially hungry people. He has a wide range of experience in the government, non-profit, and political arenas. In May 2009, he was appointed by Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to direct USDA’s Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.Previously, he was the first director of the Alliance to End Hunger, a non-profit organization that engages diverse institutions in building the public will to end hunger, both in the United States and worldwide.

Barbara Hiden is the Vice President of Federal Affairs for the American Beverage Association, the trade group that represents the nation’s non-alcoholic beverage industry.  She has spent most of her career representing beverage bottlers covering a range of issues impacting the industry in the areas of health and wellness and packaging and recycling.

Caryn Long serves as Senior Policy Counsel in the Washington, D.C. office for Feeding America (formerly known as America’s Second Harvest). Feeding America is the nation’s leading domestic hunger-relief charity, supplying food to more than 37 million Americans each year, including 14 million children and 3 million seniors. In her role at Feeding America, Caryn works to analyze and influence legislation and policies that will alleviate hunger in America. Since joining Feeding America in 2008, Caryn has been involved in development and analysis of budget and legislative proposals and government policies relating to food and agriculture, federal nutrition, and anti-hunger programs.

Ellen Vollinger is Legal Director for the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC).  She has responsibility for directing FRAC’s advocacy on behalf of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP/Food Stamps).  Ellen has led FRAC’s efforts to bolster SNAP/Food Stamps, particularly to serve working families, legal immigrants and victims of disasters.  She has worked with administrators, elected officials, industry representatives, and non-profit partners on strategies to provide a more accessible and effective nutrition assistance safety net.  She serves on the eGovernment Payments Council.


The first Roundtable on May 25, 2011 was Advances Against Obesity: Key Perspectives and Insights, presented by the American Beverage Association. The panelists (featured below) are all leaders in the food and beverage industries and are working to revolutionize consumers’ access to nutrition information, allowing consumers to make more informed food and beverage choices. The panelists discussed the concerns of consumers about beverages and snacks and obesity then discussed how their industries are approaching the problem. Kimberly Reed from the IFIC discussed the importance of education and physical activity as a part of dealing with the issues. The audience offered their own input and a lively discussion followed. Thank you to everyone who participated.

About the Panelists

Maureen Storey, PhD. is senior vice president for science policy with the American Beverage Association.  Storey oversees strategic development and execution of science policy and initiatives that have an impact in the scientific arena as well as positioning the beverage industry as a leader on challenging policy issues. She is a member of the American Society for Nutrition, the Institute for Food Technologists and the American Dietetic Association.

Scott Faber is the Grocery Manufacturers Association’s vice president of federal affairs. In this role, Faber oversees policy development and advocacy for GMA. Prior to joining GMA, Faber served as an expert on food, agriculture and water policies for two national environmental organizations. He serves on the board of directors for Protected Harvest, a certification organization, and has served on federal advisory committees on agriculture and energy issues.

Kimberly Reed is Executive Director of the International Food Information Council Foundation in Washington, DC. She also serves as Senior Vice President for Membership, Communications, and Strategic Initiatives at the International Food Information Council (IFIC). In addition to leading the development of the Foundation, Ms. Reed oversees IFIC’s Media Relations, International, and Trends and Consumer Insights Programs.

Lisa Katic is the principle of K Consulting and is a registered dietitian and expert in scientific and regulatory programs in a number of areas including nutrition, biotechnology and food labeling. She has appeared on all the major evening news programs including CNN, CBS, ABC and Fox, and has testified on Capital Hill on critical nutrition and food safety issues.


Sweet Taxes and Beverages: An Industry Perspective was the first SoFAB Talk held on January 25, 2011 on Capitol Hill in the Dirksen Senate Office Building. Many thanks to U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu for her assistance in setting up the location. Baylen Linnekin and Jim McGreevy presented their positions and discussed the implications of taxing and regulating food. This Talk also serves as a preview of the 3rd Annual Words in Food Symposium that will be held at the Southern Food and Beverage Museum in September. The theme of the 2011 Symposium is Hungry in the South.

Baylen Linnekin is the founder and executive director of Keep Food Legal. Baylen has worked as a food and beverage attorney and holds a master of laws degree (LL.M.) in agricultural and food law. He’s also a food writer and founded Crispy on the Outside, an irreverent group blog focusing on food, food politics, and food regulations. His arguments from the panel can be found here, on OKRA.

Jim McGreevy is the Senior Vice President of Government Relations for the American Beverage Association. Before joining the ABA, Mr. McGreevy was a senior associate at the Larkin Hoffman Law Firm in Bloomington, Minnesota. Learn more about Jim here.

For a summary of his presentation at the Talk, follow this link.

Matt Echols is the Vice President Corporate Government Relations, The Coca-Cola Company. He was appointed to this position in August, 2010. Matt was unable to speak at the Preview Panel, but his support and assistance in putting it together was invaluable. Learn more about Matt here.

SoFAB’s Board of Directors wishes to thank Matt Echols and The Coca-Cola Company for their support of the recent DC “Preview Panel” held at the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Tuesday, January 25, 2011.  Your support of our vision and a major public policy issue is greatly appreciated.

Maureen Storey, PhD.  is senior vice president for science policy with the American Beverage Association.  Storey oversees strategic development and execution of science policy and initiatives that have an impact in the scientific arena as well as positioning the beverage industry as a leader on challenging policy issues. She is a member of the American Society for Nutrition, the Institute for Food Technologists and the American Dietetic Association.