Rabbi David Azen
Rabbi David Azen founded and serves as CEO of Fresh Producers, a CA based non-profit which has launched the Fresher initiative to bring healthier prepared meals and fresh produce to underserved neighborhoods. Fresher Sacramento is the first iteration of the model, combining fresher foods sales, nutrition and cooking classes, job training and asset building in one comprehensive model. Rabbi David graduated Princeton University (’80) and was ordained by Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (’86), with awards in Creative Biblical Interpretation, Philosophy and Chaplaincy. Rabbi Azen has had a varied career, serving congregations of various sizes while also working outside of synagogues as a writer, actor and producer. The only man of the cloth to play Adam in Eden in a musical fable he conceived and produced, he also received a Fellowship in Film from Temple University and won a National Educational Media Network award for teacher training tapes. His mantra is: “There is no box outside of which to think.” For the last six years Rabbi David has been building Fresher as a replicable model for empowering youth as agents of constructive change. With funding from The California Endowment, the Silicon Valley Foundation, Sutter, Kaiser Permanente, the Sierra Health Foundation, Wells Fargo, Rabo Bank and others, Fresher (incorporated as a non-profit and working until now as Fresh Producers) has trained over 500 youth to become nutrition educators and advocates, and enabled them to develop workforce skills, entrepreneurship and financial literacy. Fresher has pioneered healthy fundraising through produce sales, established produce stands and farmers markets and distributed hundreds of thousands of servings of fresh fruits and vegetables in underserved neighborhoods, as well as putting in garden beds and establishing a gardening curriculum at the Sacramento County Youth Detention Facility. This model of combining entrepreneurial and health education has been demonstrated to lead to healthier choices and workforce readiness, along with a sense of professionalism and greater self-efficacy.