Nikfarjam headshot

Emerson Fellow

Michelle Nikfarjam

27th Class, 2020-2021

Michelle, a second-generation Iranian-American raised in Massachusetts, is an M.A. graduate of the University of Oregon’s (UO) International Studies and Food Studies Programs, a UO Promising Scholar and a David L. Boren Fellow. She comes to the Emerson Fellowship having recently returned from Rajasthan, India where she conducted research on the role grassroots movements and civil society organizations play in addressing barriers to organic production and farmer sovereignty among small, marginal and tribal producers. While in India, she worked as an economic justice and sustainable agriculture intern with the Centre for Community Economics & Development Consultants Society addressing issues related to hunger and poverty reduction, peoples’ participation in government and decision making, and the protection of human rights in the process of development. Prior to attending the University of Oregon, Michelle received her B.S. in Sustainable Food and Farming with honors from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst where she focused on diversified organic vegetable production and food system education. She was the co-founder of the UMass Food Forest Garden, ¾ acre edible forest landscape dedicated to teaching students and community members about regenerative and climate-resilient agriculture. Michelle’s work has been inspired by firsthand experience embedded within the food system as an organic farmer for three full seasons. Her commitment to food justice and food sovereignty was solidified during her undergraduate through her work with Food for All Program, an initiative that produces and recovers vegetables, herbs and flowers for local relief organizations in Amherst and through her service on the Grow Food Amherst Steering Committee.

Field placement: Project Bread

Boston, Massachusetts

Michelle completed her field work with Project Bread in the Child Nutrition Outreach Program (CNOP). Funded by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, CNOP works to improve access to underutilized federal child nutrition programs working directly with districts, Summer Food Service Program sponsors, and communities to provide technical assistance and innovative solutions to ensure these programs make the most impact on the children who need them. In her role, Michelle analyzed the impact of COVID-19 on food insecurity among children in Massachusetts and aggregating evidence regarding the impacts of USDA instated waivers/flexibilities on child nutrition programs.

Policy placement: Alliance to End Hunger

Washington, DC

Michelle worked with the Alliance to End Hunger, a multi-sector coalition of 100 member organizations that work to build the public and political will to end hunger at home and abroad. She supported the Alliance's diverse advocacy portfolio through the creation of advocacy and educational materials, articles, webinars and trainings. Michelle covered topics ranging from legislation, food systems, and hunger and equity.