About Us

Leadership Committee


Dell deChant

Dell deChant is the Convener of the University of South Florida Food Sovereignty Initiative.  He is a Master Instructor in the Department of Religious Studies and has served at USF since 1986. The author of three books, over 30 articles in professional publications, and chapters in twelve books, deChant's specialization is religion and contemporary cultures. His current research focuses on religious, literary, and ecological expressions of Agrarianism as they manifest in American popular culture. Dell is Chair of the Environmental Committee of the City of New Port Richey, the Convener of the USF Food Sovereignty Initiative, a founding member of the Food Policy Council of Pasco Country, a member of the Florida Food Policy Council and the Board of Directors of Ecology Florida.

Monica Petrella

Monica Patrella

Monica Petrella a passionate advocate for regional food systems. She first learned about the power of regional economic systems while attending the Small Farms Conference hosted by UF IFAS in 2012. She attended the University of Florida whereshe graduated with her B.S. in Food and Resource Economics supplemented with a minor in Organic and Sustainable Crop Production. She then later attended the University of Vermont to earn an M.S. in Community Development and Applied Economics, specializing in Community Food Systems. She has worked on small farms, in farm-to-table restaurants, volunteered in community gardens, and met a variety of stakeholders in the Tampa Bay Food System. Previously she has been involved in community organizing and political advocacy but recently started a new position at Hillsborough County as the Food System Coordinator. In her day to day job with the County she helps stakeholders and organizations create, refine, or specialize their strategic plans that help fit their programming into a larger community approach for food system development. Additionally, she is constantly researching best practices from other community's in hopes to help localize efforts here in Hillsborough County.
“My interest in food sovereignty is embedded in my position as the Food System Program Coordinator for Hillsborough County. The power of good food is more than simple nutrients. Through food, an individual can be empowered to participate in other forms of civic engagement which can strengthen social capital and contribute to lasting community development. As the City of Tampa and Hillsborough County are beginning to focus their efforts on grassroot community connected solutions that will result in increased health equity, community nutrition, and access, I hope to facilitate robust partnerships that will result in high impact and lasting outcomes. My background in community and economic development enables me to assist food system stakeholder’s specific needs while helping them identify their role in a community-wide and collective project.”

Heewon L. Gray

Heewon Gray

Heewon L. Gray is an Assistant Professor in Nutrition & Dietetics program at the USF College of Public Health. She has an extensive experience in community nutrition research, including food environment assessment, nutrition education program development and evaluation, and food policy and systems change in low-income minority communities. She joined the USF Food Sovereignty Initiative (FSI) in 2019 and spoke at the second USF FSI Summit in 2020 as a keynote speaker, and currently serves as a member of the leadership committee. She promotes healthy eating behaviors and wellness in vulnerable populations through the food sovereignty lens. She currently serves as a principal investigator or co-investigator for multiple federal grants, and published over 40 peer-reviewed journal articles and presented over 100 scientific abstracts at national and international conferences. She is the chair-elect of the Research Division of the Society for Nutrition Education and Behavior. Locally, she served as a member of Hillsborough County Public School Wellness Policy and a member of the Childhood Obesity Advisory Group for the Florida Department of Health in Hillsborough County.

Winnie Mulamba

Winnie Mulamba

Winnie Mulamba is the Sustainability Planner for USF St. Petersburg campus. In her role, Winnie oversees the tracking and reporting of greenhouse gas emissions and other sustainability data on campus. She coordinates various student environmental groups to further implement green projects while helping to increase faculty research in this realm. In addition, she also works with numerous stakeholders to move sustainability forward on campus and in the community. Winnie is a Kenya native whose goals have always been geared towards supporting a growing economy without leaving no one behind. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Marketing and worked with a Kenyan government agency to provide top quality certified seeds, sustainable food production training and support to the farming community in East Africa and Beyond.  She later earned her dual Masters in Sustainability and Project Management from the University of South Florida. While pursuing her Master’s in Sustainability, Winnie was appointed the internship coordinator for the college. She helped fellow students navigate the internship and capstone process and developed partnerships between the college and local, regional and global organizations. She also organized the Sustainability Internship Expo. Then to add even more to her busy schedule, Winnie sought to acquire project management and data analytic skills. It resulted in her pursuing a second degree in Management. By the time she graduated from USF Tampa, she had earned two Master degrees in three years. Now as a board member for the USF Food Sovereignty Initiative (FSI), Winnie hopes to use her knowledge and experience to build community food systems that are socially, financially and environmentally sustainable. She believes that a healthy community = a happy community = a highly productive and vibrant community.

William Schanbacher

William Schanbacher

William Schanbacher is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Religious Studies and co-founder of the Food Sovereignty Initiative (FSI). His work with the FSI developed out of his research and publications on poverty, human rights and the global food system. In addition to his publications on food sovereignty he is also interested in the intersection of urban agriculture and social justice, particularly in relation to food justice and race, gender inequities, and postcolonial forms of oppression. His publications on food sovereignty include: Food as a Human Right: Combating Global Hunger and Forging a Path to Food Sovereignty (Praeger, 2019), The Politics of Food: The Global Conflict between Food Security and Food Sovereignty (Praeger, 2010), an edited volume, The Global Food System: Issues and Solutions, Ed. (Praeger, 2014). He also has a forthcoming book, co-authored with Whitney Fung, titled: Food Insecurity: A Reference Handbook (ABC-CLIO, forthcoming, 2022), which addresses the history of food insecurity and food sovereignty in the United States.