Understanding Roots of Racism – Part 3: Food Insecurity – Recap and Resources

Thank you for joining United Way of Central Indiana at our third session of Understanding the Roots of Racism, an educational series on policies and practices of the past that have created barriers to service, resources and opportunities for Black Americans – many of which still exist today.

We hope you found our second session on food insecurity informative, and are looking forward to our upcoming session focusing on transportation.


View the Recording Below:



Meet Our Panelists:


Brandon Cosby


Brandon Cosby is the newly appointed Executive Director of Flanner House of Indianapolis, Inc., Indiana’s oldest community service agency for the Black Community focused on moving people from crisis and instability to a place of self-reliance and independence.


Prior to coming to Flanner House, Brandon was a Senior Education Leadership Specialist at Amplify Education Services. While at Amplify, he was responsible for developing and delivering on-site and remote individual and group coaching to principals, teacher leaders, and district-level leaders. Additionally, Brandon designs and provides Community and Parent Engagement Strategies that center on developing academic support networks for students. Before joining the team at Amplify, Brandon was the Founding Principal at Shortridge Magnet High School for Law & Public Policy in Indianapolis, Indiana. He also served as the Senior Fellow for High School Transformation at the Center of Excellence in Leadership of Learning at The University of Indianapolis. While there, Brandon helped develop and train more the 40 school administrators and instructional coaches.


He has served as a classroom teacher, assistant principal, principal, and a founding member of the first charter high school in the state of Indiana. He holds a B.S. from University of Indianapolis, and a M.A.T in Ed. Leadership from Oakland City University. Additionally, Brandon is an anti-racist activist and works in numerous communities around the country advocating for children of color.


Mr. Cosby is happily married to his wife, Former IPS Board Commissioner, Gayle Cosby. They have four kids: Darius (23), Sierra (21), Zion (13), and Kenji (6).


John Elliot


John is the President & CEO of one of the largest food banks in the US, Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana, distributing more than 35 million meals per year to 300,000 hungry Hoosiers in 21 central and southeastern Indiana counties. With 81 employees and more than 20,000 volunteer visits per year, Gleaners supports 585 local partners, including food pantries, school-based pantries, mobile pantries and school BackSack sites. As the largest hunger relief charity in Indiana, Gleaners’ annual budget of $88.6 million includes the value of distributed food. Gleaners operates a regional natural disaster hub for Feeding America and a regional produce center supporting network food banks in 9 Midwest states. John chairs the statewide food bank association, helps lead Indy Hunger Network and plays a leadership role in the national Feeding America network.


Prior to Gleaners, John led the public affairs team and served as media spokesman for The Kroger Co.’s Central Division, Indiana’s 2nd largest corporate employer. He managed media and government relations supporting 136 stores, primarily in Indiana and Illinois. John led Kroger’s support of employees in need, as well as community engagement and charitable activities, chairing Kroger’s charitable committee and distributing more than $15 million in annual contributions to hundreds of organizations. As a member of the division’s senior leadership team, John was involved in key decisions impacting operations, merchandising, economic development, finances and workforce and in statewide leadership roles on Kroger’s behalf. He represented the company on 9 industry association and other boards.


Prior to Kroger, John owned a private consultancy focused on strategic planning and organizational effectiveness for non-profits, local governments, higher-ed and business. John helped found and served as inaugural Executive Director of Hanover College’s Center for Business Preparation (now the Business Scholars Program), transforming how business is taught in a liberal arts environment, developing curriculum, co-curricular content and marketing plans while increasing faculty and alumni support.


John has considerable international experience, serving 10 years as a diplomat with the US Department of State in Washington, Burma, Taiwan, and Thailand. John worked on regional economic and trade policy issues involving China, Japan, ESCAP and the United Nations. He later served on the US Department of Commerce’s Export Council. John then led Asian business development and international operations for Inland Paperboard & Packaging. He developed Inland’s market entry strategy for Asia, expansion in Latin America and worked with the company’s European partner. He led other strategic efforts for Inland, including 8 mergers and acquisitions exceeding $1.5 billion in value, divestitures, transformational change and business process redesign initiatives, support of the company’s foundation and more than $100 million in strategic projects with enterprise-wide impact, including business intelligence and e-commerce strategies.


While his career has taken him around the world, John’s roots are in Indiana. He has deep passion for community service and has served on more than 25 community boards and committees. John has led and founded community endeavors focused on economic development, historic preservation and beautification. He is very active in his church; having led or served on more than a dozen church committees and led the church’s building expansion. A graduate of Hanover College with a BA in business, John later earned his MBA from Butler University and completed studies in Mandarin Chinese and Asian studies from the US Foreign Service Institute in Washington. John and his wife Karen, a school guidance counselor, are the proud parents of son George and daughters Katie and Jessica.

State Rep. Robin Shackleford


Indianapolis native, State Representative Robin Shackleford has dedicated her life to the principles of servant leadership. She has extensive experience in government, community and diversity affairs coupled with a strong background in project management, supervision, training and budgeting.


First elected to the Indiana House of Representatives in 2012, Shackleford represents the citizens of Indiana House District 98 and serves as ranking minority member of the Public Health Committee. She is also on the Financial Institutions, and Government and Regulatory Reform committees.


Shackleford is also the current chair of the Indiana Black Legislative Caucus and vice-president of the Women’s POWER Caucus.


Due to her passion for project management and transformational travel experiences, Shackleford currently serves as an independent travel consultant to expose clients to vast and stunning locales around the world.


With a career rooted in government affairs, Shackleford has worked as a policy and research specialist for the Indiana Health Care Association, where she developed public policy. Additionally, she gleaned extensive experience about issues impacting the Indiana General Assembly through positions she has held with the Indiana Department of Commerce, the Clerk of the Supreme and Appellate Courts, and the Indiana House of Representatives.


Shackleford is a graduate of Indiana University and IUPUI, having earned both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in public affairs. She served as president of the Indiana University Neal Marshall Indianapolis Alumni Chapter and board member for Indy Reads. She currently serves as board President for the Pathway Resource Center.



Other civic involvement includes National Coalition of 100 Black Women, Indianapolis Chapter; Eastern Star Church; National Black Caucus of State Legislators; Governing Institute’s Women in Government Leadership Program; Concerned Clergy; and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.


Dr. Shellye Suttles


Dr. Shellye Suttles is an agricultural economist with a focus on local and regional food systems, municipal food policy, agricultural energy production, and climate change’s impact on agricultural land use. Her research applies macroeconomic and microeconomic analysis to a variety of sustainable food system topics. Her areas of interest include energy consumption and opportunities for energy production in the food system, urban agriculture’s impact on public health, and socially disadvantaged farmers.

Suttles joined the O’Neill School as an assistant professor in 2020. She also serves as an assistant research scientist with Sustainable Food System Science at IU. Previously, she served as the food policy and program coordinator for the City of Indianapolis’s Office of Public Health and Safety and as an economist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service.

Suttles earned her Ph.D. and M.S. in agricultural economics from Purdue University.

Resources & Links:


SAVI Food Access Profile: http://profiles.savi.org/topics/dashboard.html?TOPICID=1000140

Getting Groceries – Food Access Across Groups, Neighborhoods, and Time: https://www.savi.org/feature_report/getting-groceries-food-access-across-groups-neighborhoods-and-time/

Reframing Hunger: https://www.frameworksinstitute.org/publication/reframing-hunger-in-america/

State of Black America: https://nul.org/state-of-black-america