Thank you for joining us for Food Disruptors — How Innovation and Sustainability Are Feeding Our Neighbors on May 23, 2023. We hope the panel discussion helped inform and inspire you around food justice for our most marginalized communities.
If you were unable to join us, please check out the virtual event video recording.
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Asiaha Butler is Co-Founder and CEO of the Resident Association of Greater Englewood (RAGE), in Chicago. She offers education, youth development, economic development, and civic empowerment to uplift, inspire, and change perceptions of her neighborhood.
As a leader in Economic Justice, Butler chaired the Englewood Quality of Life Housing and Public Spaces Task Force, created the Buy the Block Homeownership Program, and also founded a local housing development company. Under Butler’s leadership, she launched the R.A.G.E. Economic Upliftment Program (The Re-Up), which is laser-focused on commercial and residential real estate development, homeownership, and developing innovative strategies to help create pathways to generational wealth. Among other community roles, she was a founding member of the Greater Englewood Community Development Corp., helped develop a comprehensive educational plan for local schools, and engaged residents in plans grounded in community planning and development.
Butler holds a B.S. in Business Administration from the University of Phoenix, and a M.A in Inner City Studies Education from Northeastern Illinois University. With countless recognitions and awards for her leadership, Butler has become one of the most recognized and powerful voices from the Englewood community. She has spoken at the Aspen Ideas Festival, as well as the Illinois Black Legislative Caucus, and her work has been featured in numerous local news stories, including Chicago’s NBC 5 and WTTW. You can learn more about the work of R.A.G.E. at www.ragenglewood.org.
Dion Dawson is a food-based social entrepreneur, philanthropic leader, and founder focused on health equity through an innovative and logistical lens. Dion's penchant for challenging the solvency of food insecurity through the stabilization of last-mile delivery and logistics has reinvigorated the traditional food distribution model. With data-driven operations, consistent quality, and a deep commitment to a resident-informed process that meets residents and recipients where they are, he prioritizes the end-user experience.
Dion founded Dion’s Chicago Dream, a nonprofit organization that delivers a week’s worth of fresh produce to the doorsteps of food insecure Chicagoans, totals more than 450,000lbs of fresh produce provided, 18 jobs created and one powerful movement. Dion is an award-winning military journalist, public relations & communications expert, philanthropist, and son of Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood.
His philanthropic achievements include being named an Echoing Green Fellow, 2023 University of Chicago Civic Leadership Academy Fellow, 2023 Chicago Bulls Martin Luther King Legacy Award recipient, and 2021 American Express NGen Fellow.
Lieutenant Jermaine Harris
Jermaine Harris is a 20-year veteran of the Chicago Police Department. He currently serves as a Community Policing Lieutenant where he develops community-based strategies involving law enforcement and nonprofit partners. Jermaine is a Chicago native who was born on the city’s West Side in the Austin community and is now a resident of North Lawndale. He is a graduate of Whitney Young High School and a United States Marine Corps veteran.
Jermaine holds pride in his ability to explore nontraditional policing roles. At the heart of his philosophy to positively impact the lives of Chicagoans is a goal to employ social justice as a violence prevention strategy. Addressing issues of access and equity has yielded positive results in both reducing violence and improving the quality of life for residents in some of the city’s most under-resourced neighborhoods. While leading the community policing strategy in Chicago’s 15th District, Jermaine’s initiatives attributed to a 26% decrease in gun violence from 2017 to 2019. Upon assuming leadership in community policing strategies for Chicago’s Area Four which includes the 10th, 11th, and 15th police districts on Chicago’s West Side, Jermaine again created impact by helping Area Four reverse the nationwide violence surge and reduce homicides in 2021 and 2022 compared to 2020.
Jermaine served on Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s transition team for Public Safety and Accountability. He is a working group member of the National Police Foundation Council on Policing Reforms and Race, a University of Chicago Civic Leadership Academy alum, a Leadership Greater Chicago Signature Fellow, and a member of the Economic Club of Chicago. Jermaine was recently named an Eisenhower USA Justice Fellow where he traveled to Europe to explore police and community partnership building. In recognition of the impact he has made in improving safety outcomes, Jermaine was invited to serve as a featured panelist during the 2022 White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health. Jermaine has also co-founded two premier community organizations: Chicago Westside Police & Youth Sports Conference, a sports-based youth development program that serves 1,000 youth annually, and Community Leadership Fellows, a grassroots leadership development program for emerging leaders in Chicago.
Jermaine holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice from Kaplan University and a Master’s Degree in Public Safety Administration from Calumet College of St Joseph.
Ruby Ferguson, MS, MEd, RD, LDN is the Senior Director of Strategic Relationships and Community Planning at the Greater Chicago Food Depository.
She is also Chicago’s first Food Equity Policy Lead in the Mayor’s Office. In this role, she has stewarded the work of the Food Equity Council, where city and community partners collaborate to advance the priorities of the Food Equity Agenda with the goal of transforming Chicago’s food system into one that is just and vibrant.
Driven by the belief that access to good health is a fundamental human right, Ruby has committed her academic and professional career to addressing the root causes of health inequities in her community. Her experience as the Director of Nutrition at a Federally Qualified Community Health Care Center, where she oversaw WIC clinics, clinical dietitians, and a cooking program, showed her the transformative power of food to give back agency to community over its own health.
Ruby holds a BA/BS from Spelman College, an MEd from Auburn University in Exercise Physiology, and MS from the University of Illinois at Chicago in Human Nutrition.
CEO & Co-Founder,
Resident Association of Greater Englewood (R.A.G.E.)
Dion’s Chicago Dream
Lt. Jermaine Harris
Community Policing Lieutenant,
Chicago Police Department
Ruby Ferguson, MS, MEd, RD, LDN
Food Equity Policy Lead, City of Chicago Mayor’s Office;
Senior Director of Strategic Relationships and Community Planning, Greater Chicago Food Depository
About Neighborhood Exchange Series
The Neighborhood Exchange brings together Chicago nonprofit, government, and business leaders to share ideas and foster connections. Each event features an engaging conversation about the various community-led strategies and cross-sector partnerships that are transforming Chicago’s neighborhoods.