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
Dr. Ronald Kleinman, President of the Board
Ronald E. Kleinman, MD is Physician in Chief 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.
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, Senior Program and Operations Officer
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.
Ayala Wineman, PhD, Research 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 has worked as a Research Associate at both Michigan State University and the University of Washington. She is also a Senior Research Fellow at the MwAPATA Institute in Malawi. Her research relates broadly to rural development and food security in sub-Saharan Africa.
Yale Warner, Associate Program Officer, Survey Associate: Europe
Alice Martin-Daihirou, Senior Advisor for Africa
Alice is a school feeding expert currently based in Cameroon. 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 for Africa, providing technical assistance and outreach on behalf of GCNF. Alice holds a Bachelors of Science – BS focused in Human Ecology/ Early Childhood Development from Howard University.
Languages: French, English and African creole
Rita Bhatia, Senior Advisor for 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
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
Priscilia Etuge, Survey Associate: Africa
Priscilia is a consultant in socio-economic assessments and sustainable natural resource management. She is currently a Global Survey Associate. She joined GCNF’s Global Survey of School Meal Programs in January 2019.
Priscilia holds a Bachelors degree in Agriculture and a Masters degree in Animal Breeding and Genetics, both from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Nigeria. 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 as a socio-economist and has headed several teams in conducting household and nutrition surveys, market surveys, farm and farming systems surveys, natural resource use surveys, as well as other sociological surveys. She also has a wide experience working with multi-stakeholders in development, including local communities, traditional authorities, officials in the private and public sectors as well as international donor-organizations.
She has worked as a Socio-economist in ODA/DfID and World Bank funded conservation and development projects in Cameroon and also headed two Non-governmental Organizations (NGOs) engaged in sustainable natural resource management. She is a trainer, facilitator and a health and wellness educator.
Currently based in Cameroon
Languages: English, French
Eth Ludmilla de Gois Vieira Nunes Rodrigues, Survey Associate: Africa
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
The Americas and China
Maria Martinez, Survey Associate: Latin America & Caribbean and North America
Maria Alejandra Martinez, professional background in Communications and Journalism with a Master’s degree in International affairs. Maria has always shown interested in addressing poverty, hunger, and nutritional security issues. She feels passionate about nutritional education in children, school meals, and biotechnology on seeds.
As an international consultant, she has worked in several international development organizations to eradicate hunger and other topics such as immigration policies, international correspondent for radio stations and newspapers, and diplomacy. She currently works on nutrition, social marketing, and other topics regarding food systems and public health for the Latin American Region.
Maria has other expertise and knowledge in evaluating, managing, and developing the Sustainable Development Global Goals at the United Nations (SDGs). She has also volunteered for World Food Prize Laureate Award and Global Child Nutrition Foundation.
Currently based in the United States
Languages: Spanish, English
Yvonne Yiru Xu , RD, CDE, MSPH, Survey Associate: China
Yvonne is a Registered Dietitian and public health consultant currently based in US. She brings her passion and knowledge for school meal programs to her role as a survey associate at GCNF. She recently published a paper on integrating nutrition programs into the education sector and is excited to be contributing to the Global School Meal Survey and the global database.
She is particularly interested in the double burden of malnutrition and non-communicable disease prevention and management in low- and middle-income countries. She has experience working on population surveys; health policies; health system evaluation; data analytics and visualization; nutrition quality of care; and epidemiology. Currently, she also works as a consultant for the World Health Organization South-East Asia Regional Office and Nutritional International. She holds a MSPH degree from Johns Hopkins University in International Health and is an experienced Clinical Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator. In her spare time, she enjoys doing photography and furniture up-cycling.
Currently based in the United States
Languages: English, French, German, Mandarin
Asia, The Pacific, & The Middle East
Mamta Gurung Nyangmi, Program Coordinator: Asia Pacific
Mamta is a development strategy consultant currently based in Nepal. She has over 15 years of experience in international and community development specializing in policy, advocacy, program design and project management.
Presently, Mamta is the Asia Pacific Coordinator for Global Child Nutrition Foundation leading its government engagement in over 60 countries, fostering partnerships, facilitating regional networks and managing its Learning Exchange project in India.
Prior to this Mamta was the Head of Education Support at the World Food Programme in Nepal where she spearheaded a holistic school health and nutrition operations, creating convergence of school meals programs with literacy, health and hygiene initiatives to enhance learning in rural public schools. She has worked extensively in safety net and social protection field including as Program Director at Chhaya Community Development Corporation in New York. Mamta has served in several leadership roles most recently as Board Chair at Asha for Sexual Violence Survivors and as Board of Director at Adhikaar for Human Right among others. Mamta has worked in the private sector and in the media covering print, radio, television and films.
With a passion for social and gender justice Mamta is deliberate about ensuring equality and inclusivity lens through her work. Mamta holds Bachelors in International Development from City University of New York and Masters in International Development from Cornell University.
Mary Bachaspatimayum PhD, Senior Program Associate, Learning Exchange and Global Survey of School Meal Programs
Mary has been with GCNF since 2019 starting as associate for Asia-Pacific region for the Global Survey of School Meal Programs. She has been facilitating and coordinating partners and stakeholders interactions for the India Learning Exchange Program-Phase I and II.
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 traveller Mary loves cooking and experimenting with regional cuisines.
Currently based in India
Languages: English, Hindi, Meiteilon
Kholood Alabdullatif, EdD, Survey Associate: Asia, The Pacific, & The Middle East
Kholood is a global leader from Saudi Arabia who aspires to understand the concept of leadership in different cultures. She has been with GCNF since 2019 working as an associate for the Middle East region for the School Meal Programs Global Survey. Kholood holds a Doctorate in Educational Leadership from Seattle University, and had worked as a research assistant during her academic studies. She also has experiences in educational consulting, unconventional instructional methodologies, philanthropy, and public speaking which have allowed her to design sustainable and scalable educational models that can be applied in adult learning and development research. In her spare time, Kholood is continually learning how to skip stones.
Currently based in Saudi Arabia
Languages: Arabic, English
Zhanna Abzaltynova, Survey Associate: Asia, The Pacific, & The Middle East
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
Nicole Jacquet, Survey Coordinator: Europe
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 is new with GCNF but has extensively collaborated with GCNF when working with WFP where she has 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