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Final Outcome: Community Hunger Solutions Ends Partnership with NFSN

NFSN continues to exhibit performative equity work while refusing to accept responsibility for the racial harm they caused.

The final version of Wisconsin NFSN Partners' letter to National Farm to School Network Advisory Board:

July 12, 2022

Dear National Farm to School Network Advisory Board,

We, the undersigned, are writing this letter to the National Farm to School Network (NFSN) in regards to the statement made by Ms. Janna Parker detailing racial harm that she and others, especially Women of Color, experienced while working at NFSN. Ms. Janna Parker and Ms. Krystal Oriadha, former staff at NFSN and Women of Color, have reported incidents of microaggressions, racial bias, and multiple types of harassment from white leadership at NFSN. We believe Ms. Parker and Ms. Oriadha’s statements and we acknowledge the courage, energy, and exhausting emotional labor expended to endure and speak out about their experiences.

We all work at primarily white-led non-profit organizations and networks supporting Farm to School efforts in Wisconsin. Our organizations are all currently NFSN partners and are listed on the NFSN website. As a necessary part of racial justice work, we are all learning how to recognize and remove white supremacy from our own beliefs and the actions of our organizations. To make mistakes is part of the learning process, but it matters greatly how we deal with those mistakes. For this work to be successful, we must join together to maintain integrity, open communication, public and honest acknowledgment of harm, and a unified commitment to healing racial harm.

In response to Ms. Parker’s December 17, 2021 letter to NFSN Partners announcing her resignation and summarizing instances of ongoing and systemic racial harm, it is our understanding NFSN’s own fiscal sponsor and Human Resources manager, Tides Foundation, led an investigation. Although she has now parted ways with NFSN, the Executive Director, Helen Dombalis, about whose actions much of Ms. Parker’s letter was focused, was put on an extended paid administrative leave at the expense of the funders and members of NFSN.

We recently learned that a report resulting from this investigation was shared with Ms. Parker and concluded that while she indeed experienced microaggressions in the workplace, the incidents did not have a measurable effect on her position, her ability to do her job, the outcomes of her work, her opportunity for promotion, or any other aspect of her employment with NFSN.

To maintain our status as NFSN partner organizations, we need to feel comfortable in the investigation process and conclusions. There are several reasons that we do not feel confident in the steps that NFSN has taken in response to Ms. Parker’s letter. Most importantly, Ms. Parker disagrees with the report’s assessment of her lived experience. In her letter, Ms. Parker outlines instances of whitewashing and clearly states how this has impacted her work. It is not possible to determine the impact or effect that microaggressions, racial harm, or harassment has on a person. Secondly, NFSN has not offered complete and transparent information regarding the processes employed during the investigation to its partners. NFSN did not hold a meeting to discuss the process with partners or to share the findings and only offered responses to inquiries from individual members rather than providing all partners comprehensive and regular updates. Thirdly, the existing relationship outlined above between Tides Foundation (the investigating entity) and NFSN is an apparent conflict of interest. Ms. Parker reported multiple instances of Black women at NFSN filing complaints with Tides Foundation’s HR, and no major action has been taken to establish a safer work environment. Since these issues are ongoing and unresolved, it is time for an investigation to be conducted by an outside third party.

NFSN has claimed to be committed to racial justice with their bold “Call to Action” for racial equity. We know that authentic white allies do exist within NFSN, but meaningful racial equity work cannot be performed while denying the impact of racially motivated aggressions within the organization itself.

We ask that the NFSN take responsibility for these incidents by undergoing a new investigation through an outside organization that is not the fiscal sponsor, human resources manager, or other affiliate of NFSN. We believe this objectivity to be necessary. As part of a new investigation, we call for a determination of reparations and propose that NFSN undergo restorative justice processes to heal those involved and to restore trust in the organization’s partners and funders. We also ask that NFSN share publicly whatever information it legally can regarding the fact that there have been reports of racial harm within the organization.

Ms. Parker stated in her letter, “I am going to share my truth and my experience in the hopes that someone in a position of power will care and act and move to change things, particularly so that other People of Color will not experience what I have or what I have seen others experience as well.”

Ms. Parker stated in her letter, “I am going to share my truth and my experience in the hopes that someone in a position of power will care and act and move to change things, particularly so that other People of Color will not experience what I have or what I have seen others experience as well.”

We ask that those in power at NFSN care, act, and move to make changes. We ask NSFN to:

  • Engage in an external investigation process, to be completed within the next year by an investigating body other than Tides Foundation.

  • Be proactively transparent and communicative about how the investigating body is chosen and how the investigation will be conducted.

  • In keeping with Ms. Parker’s request: a public apology from the Tides Foundation and NFSN for their awareness of and for fostering a culture where their employees are complicit in such racial harm.

  • In keeping with Ms. Parker’s request: Immediate halt to leading racial equity work on behalf of the National Farm to School Network community, including facilitating workshops and forum conversations, producing and distributing NFSN materials on best practices or guidelines, and applying for or accepting any funding related to that work until an equity analysis is completed and improvements are implemented.

  • In keeping with Ms. Parker’s request: If requested by the author, immediate removal from NFSN’s archives of work done by Employees of Color while they experienced racial trauma at NFSN; returning said work to its original authors.

  • Hold all partners, affiliated organizations, and outside contractors to the same standards of racial justice and equity to which NFSN aspires, including Tides Foundation.

  • In keeping with Ms. Parker’s request: Be transparent in the ongoing equity systems analysis (who is funding, who is performing, what is their track record).

  • In keeping with Ms. Parker’s request: Commit to reparations for all Employees of Color, who worked under Helen Dombalis, which should be determined in collaboration with the impacted employees and should be in addition to any separation agreements previously made.

We also ask that NFSN reply to this letter within two weeks of receiving it and share their response with the broader NFSN community of partners and members. If we, as NFSN Partners, do not see steps towards change, repair, and healing, we will resign our Partner status with NFSN.


Erica Krug

Farm to School Director


Hawthorn McCracken

Farm to ECE Outreach Specialist


Deb Moses

Farm to ECE Outreach Specialist


Renata Solan

Communications Director


Jeanette Burlingame

Program Manager

Community Hunger Solutions

Amy Meinen

Statewide Partnerships Lead


Daithi Wolfe

Senior Early Education Analyst

Kids Forward

And their response:

We appreciate your time and care in considering both recent events for the staff of the National Farm to School Network as well as your roles as allies and partners in this work. In doing so, please know that the board and staff, many of whom are also people of color, have taken on considerable additional responsibilities and emotional labor as we’ve worked to address the concerns raised by former staff members with diligence and in keeping with our Call to Action. We do not take this moment, or our roles within it, lightly and we appreciate your understanding and patience.

To that end, we want to assure you that it is our strongest desire to learn from this experience and to share those learnings as part of our accountability moving forward. And we have also learned in great depth over the past several months that our ability to do so is limited by the need to maintain confidentiality in order to protect the privacy and safety of NFSN staff, past and present. While the NFSN board and staff work together to translate our learnings and lived experiences into visible and transparent action, we have shared your specific requests with the Tides Center and are working in partnership to respond directly to Janna Parker with regards to the requests made in her letter.

We would welcome a direct conversation with the Wisconsin partners and members of the Executive Committee to further discuss the concerns raised in your letter. We also plan to communicate more broadly to our partners about the concerns raised. In the meantime, please consider the following updates:

External Investigation: A third party investigator was hired by Tides to re-examine all of the investigation processes, materials, and findings from the investigation initiated by Ms. Parker’s letter issued at the conclusion of her employment with NFSN. The Executive Committee met with this external investigator and found their findings to be thorough and satisfactory, and that their work was conducted with demonstrable personal and professional understanding of the racial dynamics at play. In addition, the NFSN Advisory Board also hired and retained external legal counsel with a specialty in employment law to assure our leadership that Tides actions, findings, and any resulting actions were in keeping with current legal best practices and our Call to Action.

NFSN’s Equity Work: NFSN's commitment to racial equity work and the Call to Action remains firm and is a vital part of mission implementation. We cannot commit to halting all racial equity work, and we are committed to moving forward with intentionality and additional support systems in place. The organization is engaged in externally facilitated conversations that are examining results from the racial equity audit, and developing a racial equity action plan that will be reviewed by partners for input. The racial equity action plan will be accompanied by an accountability plan for implementation. We are also working with external consultants to support NFSN’s racial equity projects, with a focus on partners informing NFSN’s positionality and moving forward at the speed of trust. This work is necessary for addressing the concerns you have expressed and is an important part of transformation. We will be able to share draft goals and actions with our partners shortly.

Tides HR Practices: Tides has invested in additional training for HR Managers on conducting investigations - especially when there are issues related to racial equity and microaggressions.

As volunteer board members who are passionate about this work, we are working tirelessly to address these concerns, invest in healing, and chart a path forward that is informed by what we’ve learned and also centered in racial equity. We understand that your decision to maintain or resign your partner status is yours alone. We hope that you continue to engage with NFSN as a partner, and we ask that you recognize our shared commitment to these values and offer understanding that the weight and responsibility of the moment is held deeply by this team. Please let us know if you would like to find a time to discuss further while we prepare a communication for our partners to share these updates.

With Appreciation,

NFSN Executive Committee

Sommer Sibilly

Laura Edwards-Orr

Haile Johnston

Anneliese Tanner

Jennifer Gaddis

Unfortunately, since this response clearly continues NFSN's history of performative equity work while lacking any actionable steps towards accepting responsibility for their actions, Community Hunger Solutions has chosen to end our membership as an NFSN partner organization.

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