Who We Are

The GCNF team is a high-caliber group of engaged domestic and international leaders with public and private sector experience in child nutrition and related fields. GCNF’s Board of Directors, US Team, and Global Team work closely together to support school meal programs that help children and communities thrive globally.

Board of Directors

Ronald E. Kleinman, MD
Physician-in-Chief Emeritus, MassGeneral for Children
Charles Wilder Distinguished Professor of Pediatrics, Harvard Medical School
Kate J. Houston
Vice President
Former Global Head of Public Policy & Issues Management
Cargill, Inc.
Rafael Fábrega
Food for Development Office
Tetra Laval AB
Ashleigh Black
Former Director of Congressional Relations
Chicago Council on Global Affairs
Trish Ault
Communications Consultant
Valerie Nkamgang Bemo
Deputy Director
Global Development
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Michele Fite

Chief Commercial Officer
Motif Ingredients

Krysta Harden
President and CEO
U.S. Dairy Export Council
Susan Neely
President and CEO
American Council of Life Insurers
Tina May
VP, Rural Services
Chief of Staff to the CEO
Land O'Lakes, Inc.
Heidi Spahn
Global Community Investment Manager
Corteva Agriscience
Emily Ma
Head, Food for Good
Dr. Ronald Kleinman, President of the Board

Ronald E. Kleinman, MD is Physician in Chief Emeritus of the Massachusetts General Hospital for Children, Chair of the Department of Pediatrics at Massachusetts General Hospital, and the Charles Wilder Professor of Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Kleinman’s major areas of research interest include gastrointestinal immunology, nutrition support of infants and children, and nutrition and public health policy.

Dr. Kleinman’s professional affiliations include the American Gastroenterological Association, American Association for the Study of Liver Disease (AASLD), North American Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition (NASPGHAN), and American Pediatric Society/Society for Pediatric Research. He is the author of more than 150 peer-reviewed publications, chapters, monographs and 4 textbooks.

Dr. Kleinman was a founder and past president of the International Society of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity. He has been a member of the Medical Advisory Group on Diet and Nutrition Guidelines in Cancer for the American Cancer Society, the National Cholesterol Advisory Committee of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, a member of the Institute of Medicine committees on Standards for School Meals and Obesity Prevention for young Children, member of the Board of Directors for the David Ortiz Childrens’ Fund, the Global Child Nutrition Foundation, the ILSI Research Foundation, the U.S. Fund for UNICEF New England Regional Board, the Massachusetts General Hospital Physician Organization and Chair of the Board for Project Bread. He was the Chair of the NIH/NICHD Workshop Planning Committee for the Dietary Guidelines: Birth to 24 Months. Dr. Kleinman is a member of the External Advisory Board (EAB) for the Obesity Research Center at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Kleinman served as Chair of the Committee on Nutrition for the American Academy of Pediatrics and is the author of the fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh editions of the Academy’s textbook, Pediatric Nutrition, and served as the Editor-in-Chief for Current Pediatrics Reports.

US Team

Arlene Mitchell, Executive Director

Arlene was appointed Executive Director by the Board of Directors of Global Child Nutrition Foundation in April 2014. Prior to that, Arlene served for nearly six years at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, where she was Deputy Director for Access and Markets in the Agricultural Development Program.

Earlier in her career, she served as an executive in the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) where she led the global school feeding effort; managed international technical assistance and training activities for the U.S. Department of Agriculture; and was both a volunteer and staff member with the U.S. Peace Corps. Arlene’s varied experience also includes running a restaurant and a snack machine business, invalid care, and a variety of other gambits.

Heidi Kessler, MS, SNS, Deputy Director

Heidi joined the GCNF team in December 2019 and provides valuable leadership, management, and guidance to GCNF programs and operations.  

Heidi is a passionate school food advocate who believes that school meals are essential in raising a healthier generation of children. As a well-known trainer, speaker, and expert in environmental, policy, and systems changes that support healthy eating, Heidi has created innovative models and tools for school wellness that are used across the United States. Heidi provides training, facilitation, technical assistance, grant writing, program development and evaluation services to school districts, universities, state agencies, non-profits, and industry partners on school nutrition. 

Heidi’s previous roles include Chief Programs Officer at Chef Ann Foundation and Executive Director of the Smarter Lunchrooms National Office at Cornell University. As a senior leader of the childhood obesity prevention program, Let’s Go! 5-2-1-0, Heidi was a key member in the development, implementation, and evaluation of a multi-sector childhood obesity prevention program, now used across the globe. 

Heidi earned a BA in Psychology from Guilford College in North Carolina and later an MS in Nutrition from Northeastern University in Boston. She is a master gardener, herbalist, and forager.

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Emily Fredenberg, MPA, MAIR, Senior Program Officer
Emily joined the GCNF team in April 2024. She brings ten years of experience in program management, advocacy and partnerships in the global food security and nutrition space. Emily spent six years with the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) in Rwanda, Lebanon and Italy. During this time, she helped to launch and manage a national school meal program in Lebanon and led communications efforts to expand Rwanda’s home-grown school meal program towards national coverage. Prior to GCNF, Emily was at The Rockefeller Foundation where she managed a portfolio of grants supporting global food security and nutrition.

Emily holds a Master of Public Administration and Master of Arts in International Relations from Syracuse University’s Maxwell School. She is passionate about nature and in her free time enjoys hiking and skiing in the mountains of Alaska. You can read more about Emily and connect with her on LinkedIn.
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Katherine WankelmanOperations and Program Coordinator; Survey Associate: The Americas

Katherine joined the GCNF team in 2022 after previously working as an intern in 2018. She graduated from Saint Mary’s College, Notre Dame, in 2020 with a Bachelor’s in Social Work and a Bachelor’s of Arts in Gender and Women’s Studies. She is particularly interested in the way that school meals can bridge gender gaps in education. She is an avid baker and enjoys spending time outdoors. 

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Yale Warner, MSc, Associate Program Officer
Yale has worked with GCNF since July 2019. He first assisted with the production of country-specific reports and the following year he aided the data cleaning process. Yale completed his undergraduate degree in 2020 from the University of St Andrews in Scotland with a MA (Honours) International Relations and Social Anthropology degree, First Class. He then obtained a MSc International Development degree with Distinction at St Andrews, writing his dissertation on how home-grown school meal programmes can contribute to “decolonial development” and adaptation to climate change.  
Ayala Wineman, PhDResearch Coordinator

Ayala began working with the Global Child Nutrition Foundation in 2018. She holds a M.Sc. and Ph.D. in Agricultural, Food, and Resource Economics from Michigan State University and is now also an Assistant Professor in the Department of Agricultural, Food, and Resource Economics at Michigan State University. Her research relates broadly to rural development, food systems transformation, food environments, and food security primarily (but not only) in sub-Saharan Africa.

Laurie Miller, Nonprofit Financial Advisor

Laurie joined the GCNF team as a financial advisor in July 2022 to provide higher-level guidance on the organization’s financial systems, reporting and compliance.

Laurie has devoted the last 20+ years to the art of financial and operational leadership for mission-driven organizations. She began her career as a CPA with an MBA, working in public accounting and corporate Seattle but inevitably recognized her affinity for the not-for-profit sector. Laurie honed her strategic nonprofit business skills over 16 years at IslandWood, an organization focused on experiential environmental science education. She then spent three years in New Zealand where she provided strategic guidance to a start-up group of sustainable companies formed to benefit the local New Zealand communities.

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Global Team

Senior Advisors

Alice Martin-Daihirou, Senior Advisor, Africa

Alice is a school feeding expert currently based in Cameroon. She worked for several years with the UN World Food Programme, occupying various senior level positions at headquarters and in the field. Alice has long been a friend and supporter of GCNF and is a regular participant and presenter at the Global Child Nutrition Forum. Presently, Alice serves as Senior Advisor, Africa, providing technical assistance and outreach on behalf of GCNF.  Alice holds both a B.S. focused in Human Ecology/Early Childhood Development and an M.Sc. in International Studies from Howard University

Languages: French, English and African creole 

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Rita Bhatia, Senior Advisor, Nutrition

Rita is a nutrition expert currently based in India. Rita brings extensive experience in managing public health nutrition programmes working with Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), and UN agencies dedicated to protection, food security, nutrition, food fortification, education and HIV and AIDS. Her career emphasis has been on conceptualization, planning, management and evaluation of programmes. Rita believes in coaching and mentoring young public health professionals. She acts as a resource person for public health nutrition training and workshops around the world. She has been the course director for nutrition in emergency training in Asia and the resource person in the middle-east.

During her positions with the United Nations and NGOs, Rita provided leadership in public nutrition and health program. Rita is currently a freelance consultant involved in country portfolio evaluations, capacity development, and board member of local and international NGOs and on technical advisory panel. Rita has Master’s degrees in Nutrition from India and Social Development from University of Wales, Department of Development Studies, United Kingdom.

Languages: Hindi, English

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Liliane Bigayimpunzi, Survey Coordinator: Africa

Liliane is a school feeding expert currently based in Burundi. Liliane has worked with GCNF both as a consultant and as a volunteer and attended a couple of fora. In January 2019 she served as the Deputy Coordinator for Africa in the 2019 Global Survey of School Meal Programs.

Liliane has extensively worked in the safety net and social protection domain and has served as a Programme Policy Officer, Education, Gender and Protection and as a Health, Nutrition and Education Programme Officer at the World Food Programme. In that position, she greatly contributed to the transitioning towards home grown school feeding and the introduction of milk in the food basket. Liliane has held project management positions with both UNESCO and UNICEF before joining WFP.

Before joining the United Nation organisations, Liliane served in various senior positions as Civil servant in her country. 

Liliane holds a Degree in Communication from the Institut des Hautes Etudes de Communications Sociales, Bruxelles (Belgium) and a Masters in Gender Studies from Université Lumière de Bujumbura.

Liliane is passionate about arts (literature, music, sculpture) and has a particular interest in questions relating to the protection of the environment.

Languages: French, English, Kirundi

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Priscilia Etuge, Survey Associate: Africa

Priscilia is a consultant in socio-economic assessments, sustainable natural resource management and monitoring and evaluation. She is currently a Global Survey Associate. She joined GCNF’s Global Survey of School Meal Programs in January 2019.

Priscilia holds a bachelor’s degree in agriculture and a master’s degree in animal breeding and genetics. She is currently carrying out research for her doctorate degree in Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences at the University of Buea, Cameroon, with a focus on food security.

She has over 25 years of working experience carrying out socio-economic assessments, natural resource management, monitoring and evaluation, and working with multi-stakeholders in development. She has worked in ODA/DfID and World Bank funded conservation and development projects in Cameroon and headed two Non-governmental Organizations. She is a trainer, facilitator and a health and wellness educator.

Currently based in Cameroon
Languages: English, French

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Eth Ludmilla de Gois Vieira Nunes Rodrigues, Survey Associate: Africa
Ludmilla is an international development professional with master’s in international Relations from the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro and in European and International Governance from the University of Geneva and the United Nations Institute for Training and Research. In her professional experience, she has worked with several UN organizations and NGOs on agribusiness enterprise development for value chain inclusion, livelihoods for migrants and refugees through value chain analysis, the Mozambican enabling environment for sustainable enterprises. Currently, she works as an international consultant with research on impact evaluation and as a Survey Associate with GCNF
Currently based in Mozambique
Languages: English, French, Portuguese, Spanish
Moses Collins Ekwueme, Survey Associate: Africa

Moses is a public health specialist with extensive experience in nutrition programme implementation, health financing, sexual and reproductive health, and research.

He has worked as a nutrition specialist in the World Bank-financed Accelerating Nutrition Results in Nigeria Project. Prior to this, Moses has managed and successfully rounded-up an RMNCAH program (funded by Nutrition International) that provided nutrition education and sexual and reproductive health services to women of reproductive age in Abuja, Nigeria.

Moses has substantive survey experience— he played a key role in the data collection and analysis exercise of the Lagos State Household Survey on Health Expenditure and the 2019 National Health Account of Nigeria, while working with the Health Financing Unit of the Federal Ministry of Health.

He holds a Masters in Global Health (Nutrition) from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and is an incoming PhD student of Nutrition and Health Sciences at Emory University.

Currently based in Nigeria

Languages: English
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The Americas

Mariel Mendiola, Global Survey Team Lead: The Americas

Mariel is a public health and nutrition professional experienced in managing, implementing, monitoring, and evaluating multiple projects on subnational, national, and regional levels, collaborating on the development of frameworks, tools, and resources, conducting health situational analyses and assessments about the health systems of the countries from the Americas region, as well as providing technical assistance to Ministries of Health on the adoption of regional initiatives.

She has served the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) since March 2019, where she has been collaborating in the identification of global health needs and priorities for the design and development of high-impact proposals, liaising among stakeholders, achieving new partnerships, political and multi-sector engagement, supporting grant-funded initiatives, as well as collaborating with multicultural and multidisciplinary teams across sectors. 

Mariel is passionate about global health, food and nutrition, maternal and child health, systems strengthening, and international development. 

Currently based in the United States
Languages: Spanish, English, and German

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Gilberto Morales, Operations and Program Coordinator, Survey Associate: The Americas
Gilberto holds a master’s degree in industrial engineering from Universidad de los Andes in Colombia. He has been with GCNF since 2023 and is currently based in Colombia. Gilberto has over 8 years of experience working in public policy at a national, regional, and international level in topics of risk management, data science, advocacy, and implementation. Gilberto has also experience working as an adjunct professor in multiple universities on the topics of project management, analytics, and logistic optimization. Currently also a consultant for the World Bank and the Institute for Health Technology Assessment (IETS) in Colombia. He has previously been affiliated with the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) and the Center for Optimization and Applied Probability (COPA) at UniAndes.
Currently based in Colombia
Languages: English, Spanish, Portuguese 
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Asia & The Pacific

Mary Bachaspatimayum PhD, Deputy Coordinator, Asia & the Pacific

Mary has been with GCNF since 2019 and started as associate for Asia-Pacific region for the Global Survey of School Meal Programs. She facilitated and coordinated partners and stakeholders interactions for the India Learning Exchange.

A social anthropologist with more than 10 years of research experience in academic, professional and civil society organization settings. She has been associated with studies on nutrition, school education, rights and entitlements and maternal health. Her primary expertise is in mixed-method research and ethnographies. Her skill set includes devising online/remote data collection systems using open source platforms. Mary has significant experience in design and organization of learning events including trainings, conferences, round-tables. She has also been managing editor of the Journal of Contemporary Thoughts-an interdisciplinary journal advancing theory in humanities.

An avid reader and traveler Mary loves cooking and experimenting with regional cuisines.

Currently based in India
Languages: English, Hindi, Meiteilon

Mary Bachaspatimayum
Melissa Pradhan, Survey Associate: Asia & the Pacific

Melissa holds a Master’s degree in Climate Change and Sustainable Development from the Asian Institute of Technology, Thailand. She has been with GCNF since 2019 and is currently based in Nepal. Melissa has over 5 years of experience working closely with high-level government officials on policy and governance programs. Currently also a consultant for the International Water Management Institute under the CGIAR consortium, she has previously been affiliated with the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, and Oxford Policy Management.

Currently based in Nepal
Languages: English

Zhanna Abzaltynova, Survey Associate: Asia & the Pacific

Zhanna is a Global Survey Associate and has worked for GCNF Global Survey of School Meals Programs since March 2019. Zhanna is currently based in Kazakhstan. She has over 10 years of administrative experience working for international businesses. She holds Bachelors in English Language Teaching from Kazakh University of International Relations & World Languages (Kazakhstan), Bachelors in Management from Almaty Management University (Kazakhstan) and Masters in Business Administration from Blekinge Institute of Technology (Sweden). Currently, Zhanna is working on gaining a new specialization in the field of Digital Marketing & Media from Duke University Continuing Studies.

Zhanna is a life-long learner and always focuses on her self-growth. Her interests are photography, yoga, travelling, zumba and languages.

Currently based in Kazakhstan
Languages: Russian, English

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Europe & the Middle east

Nicole Jacquet, Survey Coordinator: Europe & the Middle East

Nicole, a former Senior Programme Advisor first with the Food and Agriculture Organization and then with the World Food Programme, is currently based in France and Italy. She holds a Masters in International Relations from the University of York (UK). She extensively collaborated with GCNF when working with WFP where she served in various capacities in Angola, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea-Bissau, Senegal, Mauritania, Burundi and Rome. Her last position until the end of 2017 was WFP Country Director a.i. in Burundi where she managed two major operations: a Country Programme and a Protracted Relief and Recovery Operation of a value of approximately USD250 million over four years. School meals was the major programme implemented in the country. 

Currently based in Italy and France

Languages: English, French, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish

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Majd Sheik, Survey Associate: the Middle East

Majd originally hails from the vibrant lands of Palestine and graduated with her Bachelor in English Language and Literature with a minor in Translation in 2018 from Birzeit University. Prior to joining the GCNF team, Majd taught English and did project management and coordination. 

Currently based in Palestine
Languages: Arabic, English

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