Phone: 718.773.3551 | Fax: 347.420.9736

2023 Planter Awards

Celebrating 25 years of Community Resiliency
May 3, 2023

We are in awe of the love and support of our sponsors, friends, partners, donors, elected officials, volunteers, and everyone that made our gala successful!


We’re excited to share that we raise enough funds to provide over half a million nutritious meals to New Yorkers in need!


Thank you to Giando on the Water, the event’s host, DeDe Brown, planning committee members, guests, and supporters who made the awards one to remember! The Planter Awards would not have been possible without the generous support of our sponsors: American Beverage Association, Monadnock Construction Inc., Victor and Clara C Battin Foundation, National Grid, Emblem Health, PSEG Long Island, Broadway Stages, and L+M Development Partners.


Special thanks to our streaming partner, Simon Pro Photo, and our IT partner Intacs Corporation.



Proudly Presented By
Streaming Partner


  • Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries
  • Senator Zellnor Myrie
  • Kate MacKenzie
  • Karen Washington
  • Noreen Springstead

Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries

Congressman Hakeem Jeffries has proudly represented New York’s Eighth Congressional District in the United States House of Representatives since taking office on January 3, 2013. The incredibly vibrant and diverse Eighth Congressional District encompasses neighborhoods like East New York, Brownsville, Bedford-Stuyvesant, Canarsie, Coney Island and Brighton Beach.


Congressman Jeffries was unanimously elected House Democratic Leader by his colleagues in January of 2023. In that capacity, he is the highest ranking Democrat in the House of Representatives and the first person of color to lead a major party in the United States Congress. He is also the former Chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, Whip of the Congressional Black Caucus and Co-Chair of the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee, where he helped develop the winning For The People agenda for the successful 2018 midterm elections when Democrats reclaimed the House. Congressman Jeffries served as an Impeachment Manager in the historic first impeachment of President Donald J. Trump, becoming the first African American man to hold that position. Paying homage to Brooklyn, Congressman Jeffries quoted The Notorious B.I.G. as he laid out the case against Trump.


In Congress, Congressman Jeffries has emerged as a tireless advocate for safer communities, affordable housing and lower costs. Recently, he helped guide communities in Central and South Brooklyn through the devastating COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent economic crisis. He played a leading role in the passage of measures that will create jobs and make life better for everyday families, like the historic Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and the Inflation Reduction Act.

Before his election to the House, Congressman Jeffries served for six years in the New York State Assembly. Prior to his career in public service, he practiced law at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP, and served as litigation counsel for Viacom Inc. and CBS. Congressman Jeffries received his bachelor’s degree at the State University of New York at Binghamton, earned a master’s degree in public policy from Georgetown University and graduated magna cum laude at New York University School of Law. Congressman Jeffries was born in Brooklyn, is a product of New York City’s public school system and lives in Brooklyn with his family.

New York State Senator Zellnor Myrie

Senator Zellnor Y. Myrie is a Brooklyn native and affordable housing advocate serving the 20th Senate District.


Since joining the Senate in 2019, Senator Myrie has served in leadership roles and won several major legislative victories, including New York’s strongest affordable housing and tenant protection laws in generations along with sweeping reforms to New York’s criminal legal system.


In 2021, as a rise in gun violence swept through communities of color across the state and the country, Senator Myrie wrote the nation’s first state gun industry liability law, taking aim at irresponsible dealers and manufacturers whose dangerous weapons end up on our streets. For this accomplishment and others, Senator Myrie was given the Founders’ Award from New Yorkers Against Gun Violence and named Gun Sense Lawmaker of the Year by Everytown for Gun Safety. In 2022, he was honored with the “20 Under 40 Leadership Award” by the Council of State Governments.


As Chair of the Elections Committee, Senator Myrie presided over historic election reforms including early voting, closing the LLC loophole, and simplifying the absentee ballot process. In 2021, he held voter-focused hearings across the state on improving election administration and protecting voting rights, and issued a landmark report containing over 50 recommendations to reform New York’s elections. He is the author of the John R. Lewis New York Voting Rights Act, which has been hailed as the strongest voting rights law in any state in the country.


Senator Myrie derives inspiration for his public service from his mother, who moved to Brooklyn 40 years ago from Costa Rica on the promise of a mattress in a friend’s apartment and a job at a factory. Myrie is a graduate of Brooklyn Technical High School and earned his B.A. in Communications and M.A. in Urban Studies from Fordham University. He later earned his J.D. from Cornell Law School.

Kate MacKenzie, MS, RD
Executive Director of The Mayor’s Office of Food Policy

As Executive Director of New York City’s Mayor’s Office of Food Policy (MOFP), Kate advises the Mayor on all issues related to food policy and the City’s food system. 


Under Mayor Adams, Kate leads the City’s Good Food Purchasing commitments, focused on increasing access to healthy, sustainable foods for the over 238 million meals and snacks served daily by City agencies, from public schools to senior centers. Through this work, MOFP seeks to provide greater transparency into all aspects of food procured by the City of New York. She also ensures the City’s food standards are upheld by agencies. She drives the action to advance Food Forward NYC, the City’s first ever 10-year food policy plan, that lays out a comprehensive policy framework to reach a more equitable, sustainable, and healthy food system by 2031. 


Kate is a recognized leader, with over two decades of experience fighting for food security and broader anti-poverty solutions in New York City and nationally. She comes to the Mayor’s Office from nearly two decades in non-profit organizations and academia.    


Kate holds a master’s degree in Public Health Nutrition from Columbia University and a bachelor’s in Nutritional Sciences from Cornell University. She is also a registered dietician.

Karen Washington, Co-Owner, Rise & Root Farm
Co-Founder, Black Urban Growers

Karen Washington is a farmer and community activist, striving to make the New York City a better place to live. As a community gardener and board member of the New York Botanical Gardens, she worked with Bronx neighborhoods to turn empty lots into community gardens. 


As an advocate, and former president of the New York City Community Garden Coalition, she stood up and spoke out for garden protection and preservation. As a member of the La Familia Verde Garden Coalition, she helped launch a City Farms Market, bringing fresh vegetables to the community. 


In 2010, Co- Founded Black Urban Growers (BUGS) an organization supporting growers in both urban and rural settings. Karen is a board member of Soul Fire Farm and organization committed to undoing racism and injustice in the food system. Former board member and co-founder of Farm School NYC, leading workshops on growing food and food justice across the country and Why Hunger advisory board bringing grassroots support organizations aimed at ending hunger.


In 2012, Ebony magazine voted her one of their 100 most influential African Americans in the country, in 2014 was the recipient of the James Beard Leadership Award and in 2019 co-founded Black Farmer Fund aimed at supporting black farms and businesses with capital and resources in New York State.

  • In 2020 Essence magazine name Karen one of their Essential Heroes recipients.
  • In 2021 Forbes magazine named Karen as one of their 50 over 50 impact leaders.
  • Since retiring from Physical Therapy in 2014, Karen is Co-owner/Farmer at Rise & Root Farm in Chester, New York. 

Noreen Springstead, President & CEO of Partnership for a Healthier America

Noreen Springstead is the President and CEO of Partnership for a Healthier America (PHA) and has more than three decades of experience in the hunger space. Noreen is focused on expanding PHA’s mission of transforming the food landscape and pushing forward PHA’s goal of adding 100 million additional servings of vegetables, fruits, and beans to the marketplace around the country by 2025.


Noreen comes to PHA after serving as the Executive Director of WhyHunger—a 48 year-old global organization working in over 30 countries to end hunger and advance the human right to nutritious food, by providing critical resources to support grassroots movements and fuel community solutions rooted in social, environmental, racial and economic justice.


At WhyHunger, Noreen guided the organization’s philanthropic vision of solving the hunger crisis, seeking to implement systemic change to tackle the root cause of hunger, and building social justice for all. Noreen’s vision shaped WhyHunger’s programmatic, philanthropic, and marketing strategies.


Under Noreen’s direction, WhyHunger established successful partnerships with diverse companies such as Hard Rock International, Albertsons, Audacy New York, SiriusXM, ASCAP, and the Institute for Integrative Nutrition among others. As part of WhyHunger’s signature program Artists Against Hunger & Poverty, Noreen built long-term relationships with notable artists including Bruce Springsteen, Yoko Ono Lennon, Carlos Santana, their management and record labels, resulting in millions of dollars of support for WhyHunger and its community-based partners.


Noreen is frequently called upon as a thought leader to discuss the hunger crisis and was named one of the most powerful female change makers by SHAPE magazine in 2019 and a Notable Non-Profit leader by CRAIN’S New York Business in 2021. Noreen uses her platform to challenge the dominant narrative about hunger and its solutions and has been featured in The New York Times Magazine, Fast Company, WCBS Newsradio 880 and The Record among other outlets.


Noreen started with WhyHunger in 1992 as a front desk assistant and quickly worked up the ranks. Noreen is a graduate of Rutgers University and has a BA in Political Science. A lifelong leader and learner, Noreen completed the Harvard Kennedy School Executive Education Course Leadership, Organizing and Action and a course at the University of Notre Dame Non-Profit Business Excellence Continuing Education Program.

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