Racial Equity Audit for Food Systems Networks

Racial Equity audit for food systems networks

Racial Equity Audit for Food Systems Networks: a tool for identifying where food systems networks need to focus resources in order to more fully advance racial justice, equity, diversity and inclusion throughout network design, leadership, and operations.

From September-December 2021, a multi-racial team of FSLN members co-created an equity audit prototype specific to food systems networks. Our goal was to offer a simple tool for food systems networks to gauge where they need work to advance racial justice, equity, diversity and inclusion in network design, leadership, and operations. As a ‘prototype,’ the audit is meant to evolve as users of the tool provide feedback from their experiences and make it their own. You are invited to offer feedback or suggestions for the audit after you complete it through the form at the bottom of this page.

This audit is not a test of your individual commitment to equity, nor does it mean the network will “pass or fail” based on the responses you gather. Centering racial equity and inclusion is an ongoing journey, not a destination; we hope this audit can be a tool to help you celebrate where you are achieving your goals and identify areas of growth that need more attention. 

As your network’s definition and understanding of equity and intersectionality evolves, we encourage you to think of advancing racial equity as an ongoing thread of your work, not a single task to be checked off once completed. If your group is in the early stages of this work, we recommend dedicating time to your collective education, and using some of the tools designed for different stages of this continuum included in the “resource” prompts in this document. 

What do we mean by a network?

Network design may be fluid and may evolve based on the leadership and its participants. There is no one way to create a successful network. Even so, many networks do share some characteristics: 

  • A coalition or group of people working toward a shared goal with shared values. 
  • Members have diverse competencies and skill sets.
  • Collaborators are part of the decision making.
  • The creation of social capital is a goal of any network. We define social capital as the value derived from positive connections between people. In terms of racial equity, this may require additional work to establish trust, increase connections between members, reduce harm for BIPOC members, and address the complex dynamics present within groups of people with different racial identities.
  • Key elements include:
  • Open communication between members; 
  • Multiple opportunities for interactions; 
  • An easy exchange of ideas and resources, different methods of collaboration, and reciprocity. 

Recommendations for using the Racial Equity Audit for Food Systems Networks:

There are a variety of approaches to using this tool:

Your network will need to come together to adapt this process so that it works well for your members and the culture of your network. Examples of an audit process could include members individually answering the questions and then adding them to a shared copy of the audit to be reviewed over a series of meetings, or your network may want to utilize these questions as conversation prompts during a meal together. 

This process takes time:

Racial equity relates to every part of your network, and is a personal as well as collective journey. Give yourself ample time to complete the audit and consider your next steps. 

Community agreements can help when things get difficult:

This process can be overwhelming, so it is important to have a set of community norms or group agreements for those completing the audit. When tensions arise, how can the group handle them well? There is additional guidance on this in the ‘setting the stage’ section of the audit. As you complete the audit, notice what comes up for you and reflect on that through the process. Regardless of your approach, we encourage members to be as transparent as possible with each other and your collaborators about what next steps you can take to center racial equity in the network. 

Considerations before digging in:

We encourage the network to identify a point person to manage the process for distributing, collecting, sharing, and acting upon the feedback collected through the audit. We recommend getting participation from network leaders, network members, and others to gain a full perspective. The collected responses from network leaders, network members and others will indicate where the health and perception of the network currently is and will offer some ideas as to what areas the network should focus on improving.  As food system leaders, we all can think of creative methods of shared learning that are positive and grounded in the community; we encourage the network to explore different ways to work on the tasks suggested by this audit.

  • Take time to read the audit before starting to complete its sections, reflecting deeply on your individual reasons for participating in this process. 
  • Reflect on the network’s development, its purpose, who created it, what structure was chosen for it, and why.
  • Make quiet time and space in your day for adding your responses for each section. Take a break between sections and give yourself permission to revisit your answers from previous sections after completing the next.
  • A wide range of people from the network should take this audit and then trade or share their answers.
  • Consider the relationships and working agreements amongst the group completing the process. Are you ready to have difficult conversations that support the growth of the organization?

Next, what is the network to do with this audit once completed?

The journey is never over! Our suggestion is to share the results with all network members and use notes from each section to decide next steps for further addressing what came up through the process. Those next steps may include changes to network practices and processes, group discussion, readings, assistance from outside facilitators, or using available racial equity tools as a group or on an individual basis. Decide on a frequency for taking another look at the audit and where the network is in its racial equity journey. 

If you have questions about the Racial Equity Audit for Food Systems Networks, reach out to [email protected] or [email protected]. You can also offer feedback or suggestions for the audit through the form at the bottom of this page.

Click Here to start the Audit!


Case Studies: The following are case studies of groups evaluating and addressing racial equity and inclusion within their group:

Network Resources:

White Supremacy Narratives:

Background materials

Equity tools:

Network Equity Audit Cohort

Many thanks to this group of network leaders who came together in the fall of 2021 to co-create the Racial Equity Audit for Food Systems Networks!

Kiana Coleman

Kiana Coleman is a master’s student (graduating in May ’22) in the Food Science Dept. at Penn State. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Chemistry from the University of California, Santa Cruz—which is one hour south from her hometown of Oakland, CA (in the SF Bay Area).  Kiana serves as the secretary for the Black Graduate Student Association (BGSA) on the Penn State campus, the food science department’s Diversity, Equity, Inclusion (DEI) Committee, and the President’s Commission for Racial/ Ethnic Diversity. Kiana’s time working on the racial equity audit has been a valuable learning experience and she is excited to see how the audit will continue to grow.

Simone Benz

Simone is a strategic thinker, collaborator, and community builder. She is the Advocacy Manager for Sustainable Food Center (SFC), a 501(c)(3) based in Austin, Texas, which works to transform the food system to nourish our health, land, and livelihood. In her current role, Simone leads the organization’s strategic and policy initiatives at the local, state, and national levels. Before devoting her work full time to policy and advocacy, Simone led community engagement and organizing efforts in support of equitable food access initiatives in Austin’s Eastern Crescent. Simone pursued dual Bachelor of Arts degrees in both Environmental Studies and International Relations from Franklin University in Switzerland and is currently pursuing an Executive Master in Public Leadership at the University of Texas LBJ School. Simone was raised in Managua, Nicaragua.

Darlene Wolnik

Darlene Wolnik has been a national advocate and trainer for farmers markets for more than 20 years. Since the early 1980s, she has worked as a community organizer on issues that adversely affect at-risk communities: pocketbook issues (affordable health care, utility rate reform), environmental justice (right-to-know, water management), increasing equity (design of community collaboratives, and place-making) while working to reduce institutional barriers to civic engagement. Since 2000, she has focused on the development of community-led farmers markets across the U.S. to place sustainably-produced and just food production at the center of economic, ecological, social, and human wealth.  She has worked with FMC since its inception and joined as staff in 2015.   Dar lives in New Orleans LA, the land known as Bulbancha, Choctaw for the “place of many tongues.”

Nikki Seibert

Nikki Seibert is a passionate advocate for increasing connectivity, equity, and resilience in the local food system. She is the proud owner of Wit Meets Grit, supporting food and farming organizations in fulfilling their missions across the Southeast as well as working as a consultant with New Venture Advisors. One of her primary activities is the creation and coordination of the Growing Local South Carolina statewide local food system network under the USDA Regional Food System Partnership program. Related projects include the SC Food Hub Network, the SC Local Food System Roadmap Project, and the SC Farmer Resource Guide. Mrs. Seibert also serves in the following roles: advisor for graduate students in the Masters of Environmental Studies Program at the College of Charleston, advisor to the SC Food Policy Council, member of the Rural Resource Coalition Local Foods Subcommittee, participant in the SC SARE Advisory Committee, and current Riley Fellow.

Meaghan Donovan

Meaghan Donovan is the Senior Educational Program Specialist for the CCOF Foundation where she develops and coordinates educational programming for the organization’s Organic Training Institute. Prior to joining CCOF, Meaghan worked extensively in both the sustainable-agriculture and education fields. Her diverse experience includes installing habitat restoration plantings on farms and ranches, deciphering food safety regulations for farmers, promulgating grass-roots policy campaigns, developing environmental-science curricula, and working as a technician in plant science laboratories. Meaghan holds a bachelor’s degree in plant science from Cornell University and a master’s degree from the Agriculture, Food, and Environment program at Tufts University. 

Amyrose Foll

Amyrose Foll is seeking to dismantle and transform the regional foodshed and create community-driven systems based on collectivism and respect for nature. Before becoming the Director of Future Harvest’s Beginner Farmer Training Program in 2021, Amyrose founded The Virginia Free Farm, which works to provide free nutrient dense food assistance to those in need and plants and seeds (free of charge) to community gardens, schools, and community-based organizations. It is a hub for educating young people in the Richmond metro area about indigenous agriculture & lifeways. Amyrose’s strong background in healthcare and her native heritage (Penobscot/Abenaki) is what prompted her to begin advocating for food sovereignty, security, and preservation of indigenous food culture through seed saving & distribution. Amyrose is also a U.S. Army veteran, former fire fighter-paramedic, and nurse. She has a background in Biology & Healthcare, in addition to a Master’s in Health Information Management, and digital marketing. She holds certificates in viticulture & fruit tree production, poultry production, and well as woodlot management from Cornell University and is the Director of Alumni Partnerships for Soul Fire Farm.

Malik Coburn 

Malik “Sol” Coburn is a crate digging, oracle card reading, eclectic earth servant and learning teacher hailing from Potawotami/Miami/Illinois territory – also known as inner city Chicago. Their developmental years were spent immersed in a loving community of family & friends, different religious institutions, school systems, and local political landscapes. Sol has dedicated their life to finding spaces where care for the earth, people, and sharing resources is embraced and illuminated.

Andrew Carberry 

Andrew is a Senior Program Associate at the Wallace Center where he serves on the Food Systems Leadership team. He has previous experience working on farm to school, food safety, program evaluation, and working with local and state coalitions in Arkansas. Andrew was drawn to this work by its relational aspects and the endless opportunities to learn. He is a graduate of the College of William and Mary and holds Masters’ degrees in public health and nutrition from the University of Tennessee. Outside of work, Andrew enjoys backcountry camping with his wife and taking care of his 70-pound pet tortoise.

Tracey Boulandi 

Tracey Boulandi is a Program Associate with the Wallace Center at Winrock International. Before Wallace, Tracey worked in USAID International Development program implementation, supporting projects in Haiti, Senegal, Kenya, Bangladesh, and Laos. She has a Master of Public Administration degree from American University. Tracey is passionate about agricultural cross-cutting sectors of sustainability, economic development, social equity, and community connection on a global scale.

Network Equity Audit Feedback

Thank you for your interest in the Racial Equity Audit for Food Systems Networks. Please use this form to share any feedback on the audit. Responses are anonymous unless you share your email for follow-up. Thanks for your feedback!