Annette Nielsen, Executive Director
Annette Nielsen, MA is the Executive Director of the Hunter College New York City Food Policy Center. Until recently, she led the New York City office for the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets. Her role representing the Department provided a touchpoint for the agricultural and food industries in the greater metropolitan area, while supporting efforts across the state to build food systems and resiliency. Beyond working to extend access to healthful, farm-sourced food for all New Yorkers, her portfolio included facilitating the Commissioner’s statewide Community Gardens Task Force and the Procurement Advisory Group.
After a career with leadership posts in Washington, DC serving on the staffs of US Senators Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Edward M. Kennedy, Ms. Nielsen put her skillset to work in the food world. Whether policy or programming, she has engaged in the full spectrum of the food system from production to consumption: launching an incubator kitchen, collaborating on an 8,000 square-foot community garden, facilitating farm to institution initiatives, serving on the inaugural health and wellness committee as an elected member of a NYS board of education, as well as significant work in agritourism, precepting nutrition students and teaching culinary nutrition and food systems to medical residents.
Annette’s work as an award-winning food writer has appeared in national publications such as Adirondack Life, Eating Well, Edible, The Hill Rag, The NYC Food Policy Center, The Washington Post, and the Saratogian. She has served as a board member for the New York City Nutrition Education Network and Sidewalk Samaritan, is a member of the Food-Ed Steering Committee and the Policy Committee for the Food Ed Coalition at the Tisch Center for Food, Education; Policy at Teachers College, Columbia University, and the New York Women’s Culinary Alliance. She was appointed to NYC Mayor Eric Adams’ Transition Team for Food Policy and received the 2022 Food-Ed Coalition Outstanding Coalition Member award.
Annette earned her BA, Fine Arts from Colgate University, MA, Writing from Johns Hopkins, and completed her certification in Nutrition from Cornell University. She grew up in the Adirondacks and calls Harlem home.
Charles Platkin, PhD, JD, MPH, Executive Director Emeritus
Charles Platkin, PhD, JD, MPH is a Distinguished Lecturer at Hunter College in New York City and the former Director of the Hunter College New York City Food Policy Center. Additionally, Dr. Platkin is a nutrition and public health advocate, whose syndicated health, nutrition and fitness column, the Diet Detective appears in more than 100 daily newspapers and media outlets. He is also the founder of DietDetective.com, which offers more than 700 articles and interviews on nutrition, food, and fitness.
Additionally, Dr. Platkin was the founder of Integrated Wellness Solutions (IWS). IWS worked to develop corporate wellness initiatives including sophisticated online health tools, algorithm based diet and fitness programs, as well as print related content to market health behavior change. IWS also worked with pharmaceutical companies (including Roche and Pfizer) creating digital strategies and tools to assist with patient behavior change. These programs included the first ever Registered Dietitian nutritional counseling via email program with more than 100,000 patients.
Dr. Platkin was the president and founder of Marinex, a forerunner in health consulting and media relations. Additionally, he was the General Counsel and Vice-President of News Communications, Inc., a publicly-traded newspaper and magazine company based in Manhattan that published The Hill in Washington, and Dan’s Papers in the Hamptons, among others.
Dr. Platkin is the author of seven books. His first book, “Breaking the Pattern” was a bestseller in hardcover; it has been used by addiction clinics to assist patients with resolving drug and alcohol-related issues and more than 20 universities around the country as a text to teach behavioral change techniques to nutrition and dietetic counseling interns. His latest books are The Diet Detective’s Count Down (Simon and Schuster, 2007), The Diet Detective’s Calorie Bargain Bible (Simon and Schuster, 2008), The Diet Detective’s Diet Starter Kit (Diversion, 2011), and The Diet Detective’s All American Diet (Rodale, 2012).
Dr. Platkin is also the co-founder of MedicalBx, and founder of the Center for Food As Medicine.
May May Leung, PhD, RD, Research Director
May May Leung, PhD, RD is an associate professor of Nutrition at the Hunter College School of Urban Public Health. Her research expertise includes the development and evaluation of innovative health communication and community-based interventions to prevent childhood obesity. She also uses community-based participatory research methods, such as photovoice, to engage and empower youth residing in vulnerable communities. May May’s research projects have lead to partnerships with various community-based organizations in New York City, such as the Children’s Aid Society and New York Cares. In addition, she focuses on the translation and dissemination of evidence-based interventions and policies to reduce the risk of chronic diseases with the goal of enhancing the public health impact of initiatives. May May’s work extends internationally as she has worked with the World Health Organization, Shanghai Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Tsinghua University in Beijing, China. She completed her doctoral degree in Public Health Nutrition at the University of North Carolina’s Gillings School of Global Public Health (UNC). She earned her BA in Psychology from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor and her MS in Nutritional Sciences at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. Prior to her time at UNC, May May was an adjunct faculty member and project manager at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Nursing.
Sycamore May, Communications and Operations Manager
Sycamore May’s journey into the world of food policy has been shaped by her academic pursuits, earning a Master of Science in Food Policy from the University of London and a BFA in Writing, Literature, & Publishing from Emerson College. With a focus on hands-on impact, Sycamore has held various food systems roles, most recently as the Director of Sustainability & Communications at Handsome Brook Farms, leading sustainability efforts for positive social and environmental change. Prior experiences as a Research and Writing Fellow at Food Tank, and an Urban Farm Educator at Sprout by Design underscore her deep commitment to sustainable food systems, education, and advocacy. Sycamore is dedicated to fostering collaborative solutions that drive positive change within the realm of food policy.
Jon Chin, MFA, Staff Researcher
Jon Chin is an engineer and social entrepreneur working in the food security space since 2010. He has earned a Master’s degree from New York University studying the intersection between English Education, Natural Language Processing, and Machine Learning. He has also earned a Master’s of Fine Arts from Brooklyn College where he specialized in poetry in response to crisis and how literature makes sense of, records, and ultimately heals the human condition. He is the founder of Share Meals, a non profit that leverages software and hardware to solve food security problems in unique ways. He has given a TEDx Talk, been featured in the New York Times, and won several awards for his work.
Jon is also an English professor in the City University of New York system and his classes are attended so much by laughter that they are often asked to pipe down.
Emily Solomon, Program Assistant
Emily Solomon is from Brooklyn, New York. She graduated from Pennsylvania State University in 2020 with a B.A in Broadcast Journalism. Shortly after she moved to Rome and obtained an M.A in Food Policy and Sustainability from the American University of Rome. She is now back in New York City and writing part-time for the NYC Food Policy Center at Hunter College as well as working full time at Green Top Farms.
Marissa Sheldon, Contributing Writer
Marissa Sheldon earned a Bachelors degree in Community Health from Brown University and an MPH from the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health. She was a Public Health Prevention Specialist fellow at CDC and gained valuable experience working at both the federal and local levels. When the three-year fellowship ended, she became the Community Outreach Coordinator for a research study at NC State University that focused on increasing access to healthy foods and safe places to be active.
Marissa currently works as a child care provider for her nieces and nephew while maintaining a passion for hunger relief efforts and nutrition research and education.
Leah Butz, Senior Research Associate
Leah Butz earned her Bachelor’s degree from Northeastern University, where she studied Linguistics & English. Before coming to the Food Policy Center, Leah did research under Dr. Janet Randall at the Northeastern University Linguistics & Law Lab, working to improve comprehension of jury instructions. She also previously worked in the restaurant industry in Boston, Massachusetts, where she developed a strong interest in food and sustainability. She is especially passionate about the issue of food waste in this country and finding sustainable alternatives to sending excess food and scraps to the landfill.
Anna Speck, Research Associate
Anna Speck earned her Bachelor’s degree from the Macaulay Honors College at CUNY Hunter College, where she studied Nutrition and Food Science. Before joining as a research associate, she was an intern for the Center during her final year of college, during which time she participated in mulitple research projects regarding food access in NYC. She is passionate about sustainability and improving local food systems to ensure healthy food access for all.
Yelitza Aguilera | Juan Pablo Chavez Salas | Brianne Kennedy | Sania Khan | Stefanie Mael | Jonah Rebert | Ellie Serres | Meiqi Zheng
Lilliam Barrios-Paoli, PhD
Lilliam Barrios-Paoli, PhD is a Senior Advisor to President at Hunter College additionally she is the Chair of The Board at NYC Health + Hospitals. Dr. Barrios-Paoli is the former Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Lilliam Barrios-Paoli. Dr. Barrios-Paoli is an experienced leader known for innovation. She has managed five city agencies under three mayors, and has spearheaded major reforms, such as the opening of 10 senior centers, including those servicing the visually impaired and LGBT populations. She brings a deep background in working with New York’s nonprofit community.In 2008, following a long career in both city government and the nonprofit sector, Dr. Barrios-Paoli was appointed commissioner of the New York City Department for the Aging (DFTA). Prior to this appointment, Ms. Barrios-Paoli’s public service included appointments as commissioner of several agencies during the Giuliani and Koch Administrations, including the New York City Human Resources Administration, the nation’s largest public welfare agency with a budget of $6 billion. Before that, she headed the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development and the New York City Department of Personnel. From 1987 to 1989, Ms. Paoli also was commissioner of the city Department of Employment, where she oversaw employment services to more than 85,000 city residents annually.
Dr. Barrios-Paoli also has been a leader in the nonprofit sector. Prior to joining DFTA, she was president and CEO of Safe Space NYC, Inc., a nonprofit organization serving more than 25,000 at-risk children and families in nearly 40 different program sites throughout Queens and Manhattan. With an annual budget of over $18 million, Safe Space provides counseling to thousands of at-risk children and families facing poverty, child abuse, domestic violence and medical problems. As senior vice president and chief executive for community investment of the United Way of New York City (UWNYC), a nonprofit fundraising organization that distributes over $88 million annually to New York City nonprofits,
Dr. Barrios-Paoli was instrumental in creating and implementing standards and goals of the September 11th Fund, among other achievements. The fund received contributions/donations of well over $500 million.Dr. Barrios-Paoli also served as vice president for education with the New York City Partnership from 1990 to 1992, and as executive director of the Literacy Volunteers of NYC from 1992 to 1994.Dr. Barrios-Paoli has a Baccalaureate degree from Universidad Iberoamericana, Mexico City, and M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from the New School for Social Research. She has taught at the Bank Street College of Education in New York City; Rutgers University and Montclair State College in New Jersey; and at Hunter College of the City University of New York.
Tracy Dennis-Tiwary Ph.D.
Dr. Tracy Dennis-Tiwary (Ph.D., The Pennsylvania State University) is a Professor in the Psychology Department at Hunter College, The City University of New York, Co-Director of the Hunter College Center for Stress, Anxiety, and Resilience Research (STARR), a faculty member in the Health Psychology and Clinical Science and the Behavioral and Cognitive Neuroscience doctoral programs, and a member of the Hunter College Center for Translational and Basic Research. She has received cross-disciplinary training in clinical psychology, affective-cognitive neuroscience, and developmental psychopathology. Current projects include an NIH-funded clinical trial of biobehavioral mechanisms in a computerized cognitive behavioral modification treatment for anxiety and stress, and the development of digital mental health tools that overcome treatment barriers and increase engagement and acceptability of treatment options. She is also conducting research on school-based methods for teaching youth mindfulness-based stress and anxiety reduction, which is the topic of the documentary film “Changing Minds at Concord High.” Read more about her work at dennis-tiwary.com.
Khursheed Navder, PhD, RD, FAND
Dr. Navder is a consummate nutritional professional who has made numerous contributions in a career that spans over a quarter century as a professor at Hunter College. She joined Hunter in 1988.
Dr. Navder is the Director of the accredited didactic program (DP) in Nutrition and Dietetics at Hunter College and has been serving in this capacity for over 15 years. She has served as the Director of the Nutrition program where she oversaw the BS, dual BS-MS, MS, MPH and Dietetic Internship Programs. The MS Nutrition Program that she created and directs is a unique, dynamic graduate program that is the first within CUNY, and is one of only eight programs in the country, to offer didactic dietetics education at the graduate level and provides evidence of her ability to think creatively and futuristically.
She is credited for creating unique pathways that make it less onerous for inner-city students to pursue a full time, day program. Through the cohort model of structured, sequential learning she has been successful at creating a stimulating and intellectually challenging program that promotes a sense of community with near perfect graduation rates in her undergraduate and graduate tracks. She is also the advisor to the Kappa Omicron Nu Honor Society for Nutrition students and has created a vibrant Nutrition Club.
Dr. Navder’s research area has involved studying the effects of various food components on biochemical and metabolic regulations of lipid and alcohol metabolism. She has also looked at ethnic differences in fat distribution patterns in children and neonates, and has examined the effect of maternal diet and obesity on fetal growth and offspring adiposity. She encourages active student involvement on research projects and has built a strong research foundation for students she mentors.
Dr. Navder has been a recipient of the national Outstanding Dietetic Educator Award from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. She has served as the Chair of the Nutrition and Dietetic Educators and Preceptors, a Dietetic Practice Group of the Academy and is currently serving as a Commissioner with the Commission on Dietetic Registration (2014-17).
Ming-Chin Yeh, PhD
Ming-Chin Yeh, PhD is an Associate Professor of Nutrition at Hunter College, City University of New York. His research involves developing innovative intervention strategies to promote a healthy lifestyle such as increasing fruit and vegetable consumption and physical activity for health promotion and disease prevention. Other research interests focus on obesity and diabetes prevention and management in multi-ethnic populations. Some of his recent projects include a NIH R34 translational study examining lifestyle intervention for diabetes prevention among Chinese immigrants; collaborating in cutting-edge behavioral research studies targeting approaches to prevent stroke recurrence in veterans; examining the relationship between parenting style/home environment and childhood obesity; qualitative research in nutrition such as understanding barriers to fruit and vegetable consumption; assessing the role of gut microbiota in health promotion in vegan diets. Currently Dr. Yeh is a Co-Investigator on two VA-funded randomized controlled trials testing the effectiveness of a comprehensive personalized behavioral intervention that aim to improve foot self-care, foot self-monitoring, and modifiable risks (e.g. A1c, BP and LDL) in diabetic patients. Dr. Yeh teaches graduate-level nutrition research course as well as undergraduate-level courses in community nutrition and institutional management. Dr. Yeh received his PhD in Public Health Nutrition at the University of North Carolina- Chapel Hill, a MEd at Teachers College, Columbia University, a MS at New York University, a BS at Taipei Medical College, Taiwan, and a post-doc training at the Yale University Prevention Research Center.
Christina Zarcadoolas PhD
Christina Zarcadoolas PhD is a sociolinguist and expert in public understanding of health and science. She focuses on analyzing and closing the gaps between expert & lay knowledge and understanding of health and safety information. Chris is a Professor of Linguistics in the Anthropology Dept., Hunter College and prior to that she was on the faculty at the CUNY School of Public Health and Mount Sinai School of Medicine. She had a long tenure on the faculty at Brown University’s Center for Environmental Studies. She is the Founder and Director of the New York Roundtable on Public Health Literacy. She is currently writing a textbook, Health Navigation: Putting it Into Practice (Jones & Bartlett Learning, publication 1/2017) as well as a book entitled, The Simplicity Complex, exploring the limits of simplifying information in a complex world.
Chris recently created the healthliteracylab.com – an ever-expanding free online library of animated lessons for health and safety communicators