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Women Warriors Week Five: Susan Payton

Each week, the Guiding Circle of the Fund for Women and Girls selects one Woman Warrior from submitted nominations to spotlight. This week features our fifth honoree.


Connecting to Community Through Food During COVID-19

One woman uses passion for food to expand her impact

Susan Payton has taken an active role from the very beginning of the COVID-19 crisis. As an instructor at Youngstown State University, she quickly pivoted to teaching her courses online, including a food lab as part of student coursework. She worked with students one-on-one, providing support and encouragement in addition to her teaching duties.

Susan has also shifted focus and expanded her support of the local community in her role as manager of Cultivate Café on the Northside of Youngstown. Partnering with ACTION and its faith-based organization members and the Common Wealth Kitchen Incubator, Susan creates healthy menus, shops for the food, and coordinates the preparation, cooking, and pick up of 250 hot meals weekly that are delivered to low-income seniors throughout the Valley. A Lake-to-River Cooperative/Cultivate Cafe collaboration with Mercy Health and Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corporation provides a weekly produce box to people enrolled in the Fruit and Vegetable Rx program. These are folks from throughout the Mahoning Valley who have a condition affected by diet. Susan works with a local produce distributor and, as the season progresses, with local farmers to put together a varied box of produce that is healthful, useful, and appealing. Coordinating packing boxes and monthly pick-up for more than 300 recipients requires some serious multi-tasking, organization, and communication skills which Susan exemplifies to staff and partners.

Tuesday evenings are for “Cooking with Susan,” a Facebook Live hour from her home kitchen. Recipes, tips, pie-making pointers, and lots of fun interaction provide a note of levity in this challenging time. In her spare time, Susan sews masks to donate to the Salem Community Hospital.

In addition to all of that, Susan is a wife, mother, sister, and daughter. Always a busy person, she has stepped it up during the COVID-19 crisis, serving her community through and with food–something that truly connects us all. Susan is a true Woman Warrior on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic, and it is women like her who will help our community make it through this #Together.


If you know a woman doing great things during these uncertain times, please nominate her for Women Warriors today!