Xavier is the superintendent of the Portland Public Schools since July of 2016. During his tenure, Mr. Botana has spearheaded the development and implementation of the district’s Comprehensive Plan: The Portland Promise. He has worked with the Board and staff to make closing the opportunity and achievement gaps across groups of students central to the district’s work.
Prior to coming to Portland, Mr. Botana served as Associate Superintendent of the Michigan City Area Schools in Indiana for six years. He held a variety of educational positions before that time, including serving as Chief Academic Officer for the Portland Public Schools in Oregon, and working as an administrator and teacher in the Chicago area.
Mr. Botana holds a Master’s degree in Educational Administration and completed his superintendent's endorsement program at Northwestern University.
Kristen is the President of Good Shepherd Food Bank, Maine’s largest hunger relief organization. Good Shepherd Food Bank works with a network of more than 400 nonprofit organizations to distribute 22 million meals a year throughout the state to people in need. Before her role as President, she was the founder and program director of Cooking Matters Maine, a local chapter of Share Our Strength’s nationally recognized cooking and nutrition education program for low-income families.
Prior to her work with food security, Kristen worked for over a decade in the private equity and business consulting fields. After volunteering for hunger relief organizations, she decided to make her passion for ending hunger her occupation. She received her undergraduate degree from Boston College and her Master’s in Business Administration from Boston University, where she studied both entrepreneurship and nonprofit management. Kristen currently serves on the Board of the Maine Philanthropy Center and is a member of the Boston Federal Reserve Bank’s Community Development Advisory Council.
Elizabeth Pratt, MPH, is the Maine SNAP-Ed Program Manager at the University of New England. She oversees this statewide obesity prevention program funded by the USDA Food & Nutrition Service and administered by Maine DHHS Office for Family Independence. Elizabeth holds a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology from Bates College and a Master’s degree in Public Health from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Prior to her work at Maine SNAP-Ed, she worked for the Portland Public Schools on a grant, Cities Combating Hunger through Afterschool and Summer Meal Programs (CHAMPS) funded by the National League of Cities and Food Research & Action Center.
Jessica Puzak served in FoodCorps in 2017-2018 with Cultivating Community, working with the former Fred Hall Elementary school teaching gardening and cooking lessons. She also assisted Food Fuels Learning in their district-wide assessment process interviewing members of Portland Public Schools to identify existing food security measures, and what possibilities exist for improvement. She is currently the cafeteria team leader at Amanda Rowe Elementary school, where her focus is to increase participation in the garden-to-cafeteria model, bringing more support in for the School Lunch program, and more opportunity for students to engage with the food system they are a part of.
Maryan Isack is a student a the The Food Studies Program at the University of Southern Maine entering her senior year. She is a health science major with two minors; one being holistic and integrative health and the other being food studies. Maryan has had several years of involvement regarding food justice work as she has a passion for it. She has previously been involved in several of Cultivating Community youth programs such as the Youth Growers program and the food warriors program throughout her high school days. Maryan hopes to go into the health care/public health field while advocating for food justice and food security for a healthier tomorrow where food will be seen as medicine and a human right.
Maurice previously worked at a San Francisco restaurant owned by Wolfgang Puck and other celebrity chefs and later opened a restaurant with a friend in Portland, Maine. He has been teaching at Southern Maine Community College (SMCC) since 1999 and I has degrees from the University of Illinois and the Culinary Institute of America.
Besides culinary skills, Maurice works with SMCC students to teach them how to take instruction, how to follow through on their learning, how to work well with other people, how to engage with customers. He believes that employers want people with those types of life skills in addition to culinary skills.
Roberto has served as an At-Large School Board member since 2016 and is the current chair of the Portland Board of Public Education. Roberto and his wife are proud parents of a Lyseth Elementary School 5th grader and have been actively involved in their school community since moving to Portland in 2013. Roberto has worked as a Physical Therapist Assistant for over 15 years and also currently owns and operates a small business in Southern Maine providing home vegetable garden services for his clients.
Roberto is originally from Puerto Rico and lived in Miami, Florida before relocating to Maine in 2011 with his wife and daughter. Roberto is proud to now call Portland his home and sought to serve on the School Board in order to be connected to his community in a deeply meaningful way while being a strong advocate for public education.
Cecily cut her teeth in school food work as the co-creator of a marginally successful garden experiment at her high school in Cape Elizabeth. A decade later, after stints in arts management and farming in Italy and India, she returned to school food, first managing Youth Programs with Slow Food USA and then by co-founding FoodCorps. Cecily received her B.A. from Bowdoin College, her M.A. from NYU and currently lives in South Portland with her daughter, who is probably getting sick of her annual exclamation, “I think our vegetable garden should be bigger next year!”
Renee Page is the Assistant Director for Healthy Communities of the Capital Area, a local public health organization that serves southern Kennebec County, where she oversees nutrition, obesity prevention, and access to local foods projects. She coordinates the Maine Farm to Institution Network and is the Maine Core Partner to the National Farm to School Network. Renee approaches farm to institution work with a public health lens and sees it as a way to combat obesity and improve health through increased access to fresh, local foods and helping local communities thrive. She holds a Masters degree in Public Health and did her undergraduate work in Food Science and Human Nutrition and Business Management and Accounting. Renee is a lifelong Mainer who loves the ocean and in her free time enjoys boating, fishing, cross-country skiing, camping (the tent kind), and restoring her 1860's farmhouse with her family.
After graduating from the University of Maine with a Bachelors of Music in Performance, Ryan landed a job with the United States House of Representatives. He left the House to start his own commercial, micro-scale, diversified farm, which grew to become the largest year-round CSA in Maine. While building his farm business, Ryan became interested and involved in food and agriculture policy, and has lobbied and written extensively about both. Ryan joins FoodCorps, as the Maine Program Manager, after working with the Natural Resources Council of Maine to establish Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument, and writing the book, literally, on school food waste reduction.
Chef Samantha Gasbarro
Chef Samantha Gasbarro, SNS, is a Johnson & Wales University graduate with a degree in Culinary Nutrition. Her love of food and nutrition resulted in a 10-year career in restaurants and as a personal chef for professional athletes during which she also taught healthy cooking classes at a cooking school
for kids and adults in the Boston area. She found her culinary skills and passion for creating healthy eating habits combine when she moved to Maine and began a career in school nutrition. She spent 5 ½ years as the Chef for the Windham-Raymond Schools, where she created new and healthy recipes,
increased scratch cooking while training staff, developed farm to school programs and taught kids the importance of healthy eating all while increasing participation for that district. She spends most of her summer training school nutrition professionals in different areas of the country and in Maine on culinary skills and improving food quality in their kitchens. In addition to trainings, she serves as the Executive Chef for Healthy School Recipes, a website designed to give school nutrition programs easy access to delicious and nutrition recipes. Chef Sam also serves as an active member of the Culinary Institute of America’s Healthy Kids Collaborative and is on the Advisory Board for the Institute of Child Nutrition’s
Culinary Training and Education Initiative. She believes that through school meals, nutrition education and exposure to new and healthy foods we can create a generation of healthy eaters.
Esmé will be a junior at Smith College, studying Government with a minor in Economics and a concentration in Sustainable Food. Her interest in food sustainability was sparked during a project at Casco Bay High School on agricultural workers' rights in the U.S., and it continues to expand. As a former student of the Portland, ME Public Schools, she looks forward to working to address the food security of students.