Meet our new employee: Emmie DiCicco

We’re pleased to introduce you to Emmie DiCicco, a new Food Policy Planner working with our Food Team on a temporary assignment. We asked Emmie a few get-to-know-you questions so you can learn more about her and her background.

Q: Where are you from and what do you like best about your hometown?

A: I’m from Philadelphia, PA — the home of soft pretzels, ‘wooder ice,’ and the beloved mascot Gritty. I have so much love for Philly, particularly the attitude and the people. What other city can pull off the slogan, ‘No one likes us, we don’t care?’ In reality, there is such a caring, vibrant, and connected music, art, DIY, and activist community that finds room for everyone. It’s a bit of a hike from Texas, but you’d be missing out if you never visited.

Q: Tell us a little bit about yourself and what interested you in joining the Office of Sustainability.

A: Growing up working class in one of the country’s poorest cities inspired me from a young age to want to work towards a more just world. During my undergraduate journalism program at Temple University, I primarily covered community issues in low-income, neighborhoods of color — often blurring the lines between journalist and organizer. After graduating and working on political campaigns, I co-founded a grassroots organization to end corruption and voter suppression at the state level in PA. Seeing the crisis of how special interests, like big agriculture and big food, are able to prevent reform and enact real policy changes spurred me to continue my career in public policy.

In August, I started the Master of Global Policy program at the LBJ School of Public Affairs, specializing in food policy’s intersection with poverty, racism, and environmental devastation. My policy interests have been heavily influenced by both my lived experience and previous advocacy work, including with the Poor People’s Campaign, which is picking up where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr left off to end poverty.

After meeting Food Policy Manager Edwin Marty during a discussion in my ‘Green New Deal and Food’ class under Dr. Raj Patel, I immediately wanted to join his team to work on food systems at the local level in Austin. I feel really lucky to join the office and some of the best thinkers on sustainability.

Q: What are you most excited to accomplish during your time with the Office of Sustainability?

A: Right now, I’m excited to be working on a report that identifies the various policy levers that cities have to create a more resilient food system and decrease food insecurity — a task more critical than ever while we just experienced a crisis on top of a crisis. I’m also following state legislation introduced that could reduce barriers to access food safety nets.

I really appreciate the opportunity to gain experience working for the first time in government, rather than outside of it on the advocacy side.

Q: What are some of your favorite things to do or places to go in Austin?

A: Since moving to Austin, I have become a breakfast taco fiend, and trying new taco places is still one of my favorite things to do. Mr. Natural and Vegan Nom are at the top of my list, but Nissi VegMex is my next spot to check out.

One of my favorite places to unwind around Austin is volunteering at the Central Texas Pig Rescue. Before moving to Texas, I had no idea the joy that comes from sitting among hundreds of pigs. While I’ve enjoyed a slower-paced Austin than I’m used to, I look forward to shows and festivals returning to the city (whenever it’s safe to do so!)

Q: What is your favorite sustainable thing to do in your personal life?

A: Following a vegan diet is my favorite thing I do to reduce my carbon footprint because not only does it help mitigate climate change, it saves animals! I’m an avid cooker and baker, so I love finding new vegetables to prepare, ‘veganizing’ deserts, and sharing recipes. I also bike over driving whenever possible to reduce GHG emissions and sneak in exercise.

Q: What is your favorite food and why?

A: There are very few foods that I don’t like! One of my absolute favorites is mushrooms — they are funky, earthy, and can create some really wonderful textures. If I see something with mushrooms on the menu, I have to order it. I recently tried making pasta for the first time using a recipe for porcini mushroom ravioli from the ‘Wicked Healthy Cookbook’ by Chad and Derek Sarno and they were fabulous. Highly recommended!