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Jaylen Cates

Clinical Assistant Professor




O: 919-966-0396

Jaylen Cates (she/they), a Chapel Hill native, has over 15 years of experience in North Carolina’s nonprofit sector. In 2012, they graduated from the UNC MSW program with a Community, Management, and Policy Practice concentration. They are excited to transition into academia, bringing their extensive experience and commitment to social justice to the classroom. They aim to impart practical insights on authenticity, relationship development, and collaboration to the next generation of social workers and community organizers. Jaylen’s journey in social justice and community development, particularly within food systems, started in their youth. Growing up in a family deeply committed to ethical food practices, they gained valuable insights from various roles in the food industry, including retail grocery and restaurant management. In 2007, Jaylen transitioned to a position with Volunteers for Youth. Here, they managed volunteer activities at community gardens, introducing youth to growing and donating vegetables, leading Jaylen to recognize the need to bridge the gap between young people and their food sources. This firsthand experience of food disparities motivated them to pursue a Master’s degree at UNC’s School of Social Work, focusing on policy systems and community organizing to promote equity in food systems. Currently, Jaylen remains active with the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association’s Policy Team, where they have worked since 2012 to provide crucial educational support to a network of activists navigating policy and advocacy at the state and federal levels. They are also instrumental in fostering the growth of the NC Food Network through their continued role with the Community Food Strategies team. Throughout their career, Jaylen has emphasized authenticity, relationship building, and collaboration as catalysts for systemic change. Jaylen resides in Efland, where they are an avid gardener and enjoy pickling various culinary delights. In 2023, they transitioned to using their chosen name, Jaylen, from their birth name, Jared. Jaylen and their neighbors successfully organized against a proposed rezoning for a mega gas station in 2021 with A Voice for Efland and Orange.

Primary Program

Masters Education

Research and Professional Interests

Community-Based Food Systems
Food Access
Community Development
Shared Governance