Category Archives: Past Lab Members

Kristopher Walton

Kris is a first-year Master of Urban Planning Student within the University at Buffalo’s Department of Urban and Regional Planning.  Prior to enrolling in the graduate program, Kris attended Illinois State University, where he received a degree (BA) in Geography.  After two years working in community food systems, Kris attended Syracuse University, where he completed a certificate of advanced study in Food Studies.  Kris began working in the Food Lab in September of 2018.  As a member of the Food Lab team, he hopes to pursue his research interests in food justice in communities of color and the impact of urban renewal by engaging communities within the Western New York region and promoting health and wellness via the food system.

Domonique Griffin


Domonique Griffin, a proud Buffalo native, is a Park Faculty Development Fellow at The Park School of Buffalo, an Arthur A. Schomburg Fellow (UB), and a second-year Master of Urban Planning student with a concentration in Neighborhood Planning and Community Development at the University at Buffalo.  Domonique graduated cum laude from Trinity College (Hartford, CT), where she earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Educational Studies and American Studies.  Domonique was named the President’s Fellow for American Studies, received The Richard K. Morris Book Award for Excellence in Education, and was awarded The Steven D. Levy ’72 Urban Programs Senior Research Prize for her senior thesis, “They Were Never Silent, You Just Weren’t Listening: Buffalo’s Black Activists in the Age of Urban Renewal.”

Domonique gained initial experience in research and education during her undergraduate career by interning with the Hartford Hospital Anxiety Disorder Center at the Institute of Living and The Santa Rosa Homework Centre in Arima, Trinidad.  She continues to follow her passion for research, education, and youth development through her academic and professional activities.  As a research assistant in the Food Systems Planning and Healthy Communities Lab, Domonique serves as the team lead for projects that promote food equity and entrepreneurship in Buffalo, NY.

Micaela Lipman


Micaela F. Lipman is a PhD student in the Department of Urban and Regional Planning at the University at Buffalo.  Prior to joining the Food Lab, Micaela graduated from Cornell University with a BA in Development Sociology with minors in International Development and Applied Economics.  Micaela has worked in academia and the nonprofit sector to explore creative solutions at the nexus of adolescent development, food policy, economic equality, and community organizing.  She has also worked on county-level projects with food policy councils, regional projects in upstate New York, and international projects while studying abroad in East Africa and the Andes region of South America. Micaela’s research interests lie in food sovereignty, the unique food system experiences of adolescents, and exploring best practices across disciplines to secure food justice. Micaela can be reached at

Samendy Brice

Samendy is a first-year Master of Architecture student at the University at Buffalo.  Her academic interests include designing low-income housing, small businesses, and researching developing countries within the Caribbean.  Prior to joining the Food Lab, Samendy earned her Bachelors in Architecture with a minor in Education from the University at Buffalo.  Samendy joined the Food Systems Planning and Healthy Communities Lab as a volunteer research associate in July of 2018.  Samendy is currently involved in research and design across Lab projects to aid diverse communities through education, food, and inclusion. This work has helped supplement her current education through understanding planning from a community and food perspective.  Outside of the Food Lab, Samendy enjoys painting and biking.


Cassandra Granville

Cassandra Granville is an Emerson National Hunger Fellow at the Food Systems Planning and Healthy Communities Lab.  Prior to the Food Lab, Cassandra graduated with a BA in Community and Global Public Health from the University at Michigan.  During her time at the University of Michigan, she gained public health research experience supporting the work of agencies local to Southeast Michigan and national health systems such as Kaiser Permanente. Her urban planning coursework during her junior and senior years were transformative in her decision to pursue a career as a city planner. After graduation, she worked as a research assistant at the Ford Policy School where she conducted research and made recommendations to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services on strengthening work supports, reducing benefit cliffs, and utilizing two-generation approaches to poverty alleviation.  In the Food Lab, Cassandra supports the work of an evaluation project through the United Way of Buffalo & Erie County and General Mills Foundation.

Biplab Bhattacharya


Biplab is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering at the University at Buffalo.   His research interests involve the application of operations research (OR) and systems engineering techniques to solve problems encountered by industry and global health systems.  Prior to joining the Food Lab, Biplab earned a Diploma in Business Management and Bachelor of Technology in Mechanical Engineering from the Symbiosis International University in Pune, India.  He later earned his Master of Science in Industrial and Systems Engineering from the University at Buffalo.  Biplab is a graduate research assistance at the Community for Global Health Equity (CGHE).  Through his work at the CGHE, Biplab has collaborated with colleagues from Engineering & Applied Sciences and Epidemiology & Environmental Health to address healthy inequities in pharmaceutical supply chains in low-resource countries.  He has also worked in the Western New York area to increase health literacy among the Karen refugee population.  In the Food Lab, Biplab plans to develop a better understanding of challenges in food systems.  More information on Biplab can be found on his website,

Wendy Mendes

Dr. Wendy Mendes is a scholar-practitioner specializing in the social and health dimensions of urban planning, policy, and local governance. She holds a PhD in Geography from Simon Fraser University (Canada), and was awarded a Postdoctoral Research Fellowship at the University of Toronto’s Centre for Urban Health Initiatives. Her academic work draws from over 17 years of applied experience as a municipal social planner and social policy consultant on topics including sustainable food systems, healthy cities, social infrastructure, and social innovation.

As one of the first municipal food systems planners in North America, Dr. Mendes provided strategic leadership over the City of Vancouver’s extensive sustainable food systems portfolio for more than a decade. This included facilitating the formation of The City of Vancouver’s first Food Policy Council, overseeing the Greenest City Action Plan Local Food Goal Area, and leading the co-creation of the City of Vancouver’s award-winning Food Strategy.


Select publications

Mendes, W. & Sonnino, R. (2018). Urban food governance in the global north. In T. Marsden (Ed.). Handbook of Nature. London: SAGE. pp. 543-560.

Mendes, W. (2016). Urban Food Systems and Governance. Second Edition. In M. Koc, J. Sumner and A. R. Winson (Eds.). Critical Perspectives in Food Studies. Don Mills ON: Oxford University Press.

Mansfield, B. & Mendes, W. (2013). Municipal food strategies and integrated approaches to urban agriculture: Exploring three cases from the global north, International Planning Studies. 18 (1): 37 – 60.

Mendes, W., Nasr, J., with Beatley, T., Born, B., Bouris, K., Caton, Campbell, M., Kaufman, J., Lynch, B., Pothukuchi, K., & Wekerle, G. (2011). Preparing future food system planning professionals and scholars: Reflections on teaching experiences. Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development, 2 (1): 15 – 52.

Mendes, W. (2008). Implementing social and environmental policies in cities: The case of food policy in Vancouver, Canada. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 32 (4): 942 – 967.

Mendes, W. (2007). Negotiating a place for ‘sustainability’ policies in municipal planning and governance: The role of scalar discourses and practices. Space & Polity, 11 (1): 95 – 119.

Thaint Thu


Thaint is a junior at Hutchinson Central Technical High School. Thaint was recruited to the Food Lab through a partnership with the Massachusetts Avenue Project (MAP). Thaint has worked  as a mobile market specialist at MAP for three+ years and has been in the Food Lab for seven+ months.

In the Food Lab, Thaint works on a project focused on the food experiences of refugees in Buffalo, a project called Dealing with Disparities in Food Access among Refugees (DDFAR).

Thaint also makes connections between her work with MAP and the Food Lab. Most recently, she led a photo contest for MAP youth . MAP youth were asked to take photographs of their food environment and community. Winning youth received a prize for their work.

What is your primary role in the Food Lab? I work on the DDFAR project as a transcriber, typing out what I interpreted from listening to an interview that’s recorded from Burmese/Karen to English.

Why did you decide to apply to work in the Lab? I wanted to be a part of the DDFAR project and be able to work around my community. I also wanted to do something that involves colleges just so I can be “prepared” and see what goes on in college environments.

What are you excited to work on or be involved with (in the lab) this year? I am excited to see where the DDFAR project is headed to and to be a part of the Food Lab’s new website.

What are your career goals (or, goals for your educational career – what would you like to accomplish or add to your resume before graduation)?  I would like to attend Fredonia college. I plan on graduating college with a degree in medicine (for pediatrics).

Tell us one hobby/activity you enjoy outside of work and school.I enjoy reading, my favorite book series is the “Series Of Unfortunate Events” by Lemony Snicket. 

Danielle Vazquez

Danielle, who started with the Food Lab as an undergraduate intern, is now a graduate assistant pursuing a dual-degree in business administration and public health. She is also a Western New York Prosperity Fellow.

As a member of the Food Lab Danielle has assisted in research covering food access issues in Buffalo, New York to sanitation systems in the Global South. She is currently assisting in a study with the Massachusetts Avenue Project focused on the experiences of customers who use mobile markets that sell fresh food in urban neighborhoods.

When not busy with lab and school work, Danielle is likely to be outdoors running!

Former Research Team Members

An outstanding group of researchers have contributed to the research of the Food Lab.

  1. Nathan (Nate) Attard, MUP 2015, UB
  2. Sol-Hyon Baek, PhD, Geography ’12, UB
  3. William Becker, MArch and MUP candidate, UB
  4. Cristina Delgado-Howard, MS Architecture ’15, MUP ’13; Research Analyst, UCSF Department of General Pediatrics
  5. Bree-Ana Dukes,  BA ’13, UB; Tutor/Mentor Buffalo Promise Neighborhood Americorps
  6. Eliza Feero, BA 2018 (expected), Brown University, Providence, RI
  7. Patrick Gooch, MUP, JD ’13, UB; Senior Planner, Chautauqua County Department of Planning and Economic Development
  8. Jessica Hall, MUP ’13, UB; Health System Strategy Analyst, Harris Health System, Houston, TX
  9. Sylvia Kelly, BSc ’13, Pace University, New York, NY
  10. Maryam Khojaseth, MUP 2015, UB; PhD candidate, University of Pennsylvania
  11. Bhakti Kulkarni, MUP ’08, UB; Urban Planner, Pune Area, India
  12. Katherine V. Markel, MUP, JD ’08, UB; Attorney with Hogan Willig, Buffalo, NY
  13. Kailee Neuner, MUP ’10, UB; GIS Urban Planner, LaBella Associates, Buffalo, NY
  14. Travis Norton, MUP ’14, UB
  15. Sarah Miller, BA 2016, University of Vermont, Burlington, VT
  16. Alex Ruch, MPH ’13, UB; PhD Candidate, University of Iowa, IA
  17. Jessica Kozlowski Russell, MUP 2008, UB; Sustainability Engagement Coordinator, University at Buffalo
  18. Sarah SanGiovanni, MUP 2014, UB
  19. Hailey Stern, MUP 2015, UB
  20. Alex Brian Ticoalu, University at Buffalo
  21. Annette Wong, BSc ’13, UB; Marketing Associate, CoachMePlus, Buffalo, NY
  22. Pavan Yadav, MUP 2008, UB; Technical Lead, ESRI, Redlands, CA