Elle Mari is the Director of Urban Food Equity. Elle develops and leads projects to improve equitable access to good food through an asset-based approach. Elle and her Urban Food Equity team lead place-based food access interventions at urban farms and gardens, food pantries, small grocery markets, and other community-based settings. Elle is also an urban agriculture advocate and systems thinker, providing guidance to several food system groups, projects, and policies in San Diego and statewide. She directs the San Diego Urban Growers’ Collaborative, a project working with San Diego’s urban farmers to support the viability of urban farms and increase fresh local produce access for low-income neighborhoods. Elle is a culturally competent technical assistance provider, directly assisting farmers in navigating food assistance benefits programs and developing critical farm infrastructure supports.
Elle has a Master’s of Science in Food Systems and Society and a BA in Community Psychology. She has worked in the public sector supporting underserved neighborhoods to help communities thrive for nearly 20 years, with a passion and drive to tackle projects in health equity and food justice. She is also a motivated mentor and adviser, and thrives when working with students and early career professionals.
Elle was honored with the 2016-2017 UC San Diego Exemplary Staff Employee of the Year award. She published a chapter on mobile produce markets and food justice in Food Justice in US and Global Contexts: Bringing Theory and Practice Together (2017). Elle was featured in the San Diego Union Tribune as a notable person in San Diego for her work with small neighborhood markets (2017). She was recognized by the San Diego Chapter of the American Planning Association in 2018 for her market makeover and community gathering space project at African Caribbean Market in City Heights. Elle also led a notable food access transformation project at Center City Market, serving City Heights’ Somali community in 2019. Lastly, Elle received the 2022 Fannie Lou Hamer Legacy Food Equity Award from local Black-led food justice organization, Project New Village, for her long-time collaboration and support of the organization’s Good Food District development.
Elle joined the Center for Community Health in 2014.