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2021 Chicago Market Board of Directors Candidate Statements


All the candidates for the Board of Directors were asked a series of questions to help the Owners of Chicago Market make an informed decision. Here are their responses:

Chris Burns

Why would you like to join the Chicago Market Board of Directors?
There are two primary reasons I am interested in joining the Board of Directors for Chicago Market.

First, as an early owner, I am a firm believer in the mission of the Market and want nothing more than to see the market open its doors to the community. By serving on the board, I can do my part to ensure the mission moves from concept to reality.

Second, I am a firm believer in giving back and lending my time to organizations that can benefit from the type of expertise I have developed over a decades long professional career.

Do you have previous Board experience?
I have served on the Board of Directors for Snow City Arts, a Chicago-based non-profit organization that provides one-on-one instruction in the visual arts, creative writing, music, theater,and media arts to patients at Rush University Children’s Hospital, Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, and Children’s Hospital University of Illinois. During my time on the Snow City Arts board, I served as Chairman of the Marketing Committee.

In my professional life, I have significant experience working with corporate boards.

What expertise (through your profession, education, volunteer experience, life experience, etc.) would you bring to the table to make you a good fit for this Board?
I come to Chicago Market with more than twenty years of experience in the fields of marketing and corporate strategy. Currently, I serve as the Chief Strategy Officer for a healthcare company where I have responsibility for marketing, product development/management, and enterprise strategy. Other professional highlights relevant to Chicago Market and its current stage of development include:

 My role as Director of Content & Entertainment Curation at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas Resort where I spent 3+ years as part of the pre-opening team developing the resort’s brand and curating all aspects of the on-property guest experience.

 More than 10 years of brand and strategy consulting experience where I have helped transform organizations ranging in size from startups to the Fortune 50 and in industries such as retail, hospitality, food and beverage, financial services, and healthcare.

Please describe any of your previous involvement with Chicago Market.
As both a long-time resident in the Uptown, Ravenswood, and Lakeview neighborhoods, as well as a supporter of the Market’s mission, I have been an owner since the early days.

What experience have you had with food co-ops in the past?
Aside from being an early owner in Chicago Market, I have no experience with food co-ops.

What food issues are you passionate about?
Two food-related issues are front of mind for me.

Trying to do my part to address the issue of sustainability is a personal priority for me and our failure to address the issues of social, human, economic, and environmental sustainability – either on a macro level (globally/nationally) or a micro level (city/neighborhood) – have been highlighted by a variety of issues ranging from COVID-19 to climate change. As a father, I’m genuinely worried that the world we are leaving behind will not be better than the one we inherited.

Similarly, because of my work in healthcare, I’ve had experience working on issues related to social determinants of health and the issue of nutrition, specifically as it relates to access to quality nutrition and food deserts, is a big concern for me as I have seen, firsthand, the impact it can have on our neighbors.

What else should we know about you that would make you a good candidate for this Board?
The only thing I would add is that through the combination of my professional experience and my personal convictions, you can rest assured that I will not only work as an advocate of the Market’s mission, but I will also work hard to ensure that it is an economically viable/sustainable endeavor.

Leslie Jenkins

Why would you like to join the Chicago Market Board of Directors?
I would like to join the Chicago Market Board of Directors for a number of reasons. As a relatively new transplant to Chicago (2020), I have been searching for a meaningful way to ground myself in the community. I have felt called to serve people on a more systemic level than my one-to-one clinical service delivery as a psychologist. I believe I possess a unique skillset that will create positive impact on social determinants of health through facilitating community access to Chicago Market.  

Do you have previous Board experience?
Previously, I served as an Associate Board Member at Home of the Innocents in Louisville, KY, which is a non-profit that provides residential and therapeutic care for children and youth who have been removed from unsafe situations. It was a working board focused on fundraising, leveraging network contacts for engagement and investment, and event planning. 

What expertise (through your profession, education, volunteer experience, life experience, etc.) would you bring to the table to make you a good fit for this Board?
Personally, I have been walking the long journey from growing up in food scarce environments, to learning to live well with food allergies and Lupus, to now bringing that lived experience full circle to treat my patients in a holistic fashion. Professionally, I am a mid-career, self-employed Licensed Clinical Psychologist & School Psychologist. These roles have afforded me expertise in understanding and changing patterns of human behavior, in systems-level consultation, and in solution-focused problem solving. 

Please describe any of your previous involvement with Chicago Market.
I became involved with the Chicago Market during Summer 2021 after a brief discussion with a current owner at a personal social event. After some research and a visit to the grocery store space, I quickly realized this organization is closely aligned with many of my personal and professional passions! It wasn’t long before I upgraded my ownership to Cultivating Owner. I have enjoyed getting in on the voting action as a co-op member as well as attending a board meeting. I hope that as the pandemic eases, I will be able to contribute to in-person volunteering and outreach. 

What experience have you had with food co-ops in the past?
My first and only co-op experience was as a consumer at Bloomingfoods, a local grocery in Bloomington, IN where I completed my doctoral work. The year was 2008, which coincidentally is my member number at the Chicago Market! 

What food issues are you passionate about?
I am passionate about the concept of food as medicine and teaching folks how to support their physical and mental health with high-quality, ethically sourced food. Many ailments that I treat in private practice involve a food/nutrition component in some way – in terms of identifying what may exacerbate symptoms and what might be a positive, health behavior change. A large subset of my practice are adults who suffer from chronic illness/pain, autoimmune conditions, or consequences of years of poor nutrition. While education is key, I understand all too well the overrepresentation of food deserts in communities of color and in other minoritized populations. I hope to provide representation to the Chicago Market Board of Directors so that these communities can be bridged to better health and wellness. 

What else should we know about you that would make you a good candidate for this Board?
Social justice is a way of life for me, especially given that I carry the socioeconomic privilege and advantages associated with having an advanced education. I firmly believe that within the complexities of elevating minoritized populations, access to local, sustainable, high-quality food and goods must be addressed. I am excited to use my professional training and lived experience to support the triple bottom line of the Chicago Market: People, Planet, and Prosperity.

Grant Kessler

Why would you like to join the Chicago Market Board of Directors?
I am currently a Board member. I've been passionate about working to serve the Chicago Market community and get us to an open store for a long time and truly enjoy the work. This is a period of rapid growth for the organization and I am happy to bring deep historical knowledge to the table while empowering new people and new ideas.

Do you have previous Board experience?
Prior to my involvement with Chicago Market, I did not have. I have now served on our Steering Committee for over a year (which was an ad hoc board) and on our Board for over seven years.

What expertise (through your profession, education, volunteer experience, life experience, etc.) would you bring to the table to make you a good fit for this Board?
I am a commercial photographer and marketing consultant, so I bring those skill sets to our team. I am also a detail-oriented project manager who is capable of monitoring a lot of moving parts and keeping projects on task.

I have extensive connections also to the local food producer network in our area so I'll be helpful briefing and introducing our general manager to the farmers and producers in our foodshed.

Please describe any of your previous involvement with Chicago Market.
I have been involved since the beginning in our Co-op. I led the Steering Committee, then the Board for over 8 years. I also lead our marketing and communications efforts and serve on the Organizational Development team, the Funding team, and the IT & Data Management team. The past few months I've been very involved transitioning and supporting Matthew Ruffi into the president role and in onboarding and orienting Dan Arnett in his general manager role.

What experience have you had with food co-ops in the past?
Other than shopping in them, I had no previous experience prior to becoming involved with Chicago Market. Of course now I have extensive experience in a start up (ours) and also am connected to a lot of other co-ops for support. Any time I'm traveling around the country now I make it a point to visit and shop the local co-op, eager to bring back ideas for us to incorporate or learn from.

What food issues are you passionate about?
I care very much about expanding the local food economy - there is distribution work to do to make what's being grown in our area more readily available to us all. And at the same time, I care that the farmers are a part of the solutions and that the solutions work for them as well as for the consumer. I'm glad to say that Chicago Market has the same goals, as well as the goal of making local, sustainable, healthy food more accessible and affordable for all. Chicago Market is poised to make change in this area and Owners should be very proud and excited about that.

What else should we know about you that would make you a good candidate for this Board?
I am very determined to accomplish our goals and am able to dedicate a lot of time to this project.

I also very much enjoy the community networking required of Board members. In order to be a positive force in our community, we need to be connected, respected and at the table with all the other amazing businesses and service organizations in our area. I've done a lot of these kinds of meetings to date and welcome the continued opportunity to build these relationships.

John Law

Why would you like to join the Chicago Market Board of Directors?
I love food! Not just eating great, fresh meals (although that’s certainly part of it!), but understanding the impact of food production on our natural ecosystem and the role food plays in our communities.

I believe in the mission of the Chicago Market and the positive impact it is having on the Uptown community, even without a permanent home. As a self-proclaimed urbanist who has spent his life and career working toward improving how cities and communities function (and thrive), I believe I can be helpful in expanding that impact, both now and in years to come as the Market enters a permanent home.

Do you have previous Board experience?
While I do not yet have experience as an elected Board member, I have served on several committees for various non-profit and professional organizations. Most relevant, I have long been involved with Chicago Habitat for Humanity as a member of the Site Selection Committee, where I helped organize and run community design sessions to collectively envision new affordable housing in the Greater Grand Crossing and West Pullman neighborhoods. I was also an early member of my company’s Sustainability Committee. In this role, I led several projects, one of which was a program to partner with low-impact food vendors for all office lunches, eliminate single-use plastics, and initiate an office-wide (and, eventually, building-wide) composting program.

What expertise (through your profession, education, volunteer experience, life experience, etc.) would you bring to the table to make you a good fit for this Board?
As a city planner and urban designer for a large architecture firm, I have led diverse teams and helped create active, sustainable places in neighborhoods locally and globally. I have many years of experience in Chicago working with various City agencies on zoning approvals, public realm design, and community engagement projects.

Currently, I’m on a sabbatical from work to pursue a master’s degree in Sustainability. Through this program, I am learning from industry leaders in renewable energy, environmental justice, food systems, and corporate environmental policy – all of which apply to the long-term goals of the Chicago Market.

Please describe any of your previous involvement with Chicago Market.
I became a cultivating owner in 2018 and participated in the first owner loan campaign. I have really enjoyed visiting the Uptown Market and attending some of the virtual events during the pandemic.

What experience have you had with food co-ops in the past?
Unfortunately, I have not lived in close enough proximity to a brick-and-mortar food co-op to make it a regular source for groceries – that’s part of the reason I’m so excited about Chicago Market. However, I am a long-time supporter of local CSA and farm-share programs.

What food issues are you passionate about?
My primary interest in our current food systems is reducing waste at all stages – from limiting resources used in production, minimizing packaging and logistics impacts, and avoiding food spoilage.

Additionally, I am passionate about our collective challenge of climate change, which is profoundly influenced by (and, in turn, has impact on) food systems. The Chicago Market can set an example for improving health on a planetary and personal scale by shortening transport distances from farm to store, reducing packaging, encouraging regenerative farming practices, and offering alternatives to high-GHG foods like beef and dairy.

Food access and availability are other areas of interest. As a student and professional, I have examined the impact of food options and grocery deserts on low-income communities in Detroit and other cities.

What else should we know about you that would make you a good candidate for this Board?
As a member, I have been impressed with the professionalism and progress the co-op has made. In addition to my interest in seeing this Market come to life, I am excited about the opportunity to connect with my neighbors and co-owners who share an interest in accessible, local, and sustainable food.

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Voting is conducted online and begins immediately after our Annual Meeting on September 23, 2021 and will be open for one week. Owners will receive an email from Chicago Market explaining the voting process.


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