Founding Board of Advisors and Faculty

Alexina Cather, MPH 

Alexina Cather, MPH, is the Director of Policy and Special Projects at Wellness in the Schools, a national nonprofit that teaches public school students healthy habits to learn, live, and thrive. She is also the Deputy Chair and a Founding Member of the Board of Advisors at the Center for Food as Medicine where she works to increase equity and access to food as medicine treatments, programs, and interventions. Prior to this role, she was the Director of Policy Advocacy and Sustainability at the James Beard Foundation where she led the foundation’s advocacy and sustainability work.

For six years she was the Deputy Director at the Hunter College NYC Food Policy Center where she worked to develop innovative, evidence-based solutions to prevent diet-related diseases and protect food security. Throughout her career, she has worked closely with policy makers, community organizations, advocates, and the public to increase access to more nutritious foods and to create healthier, more sustainable food environments.

Alexina currently serves on the advisory boards of the NYC Healthy School Food Alliance, the Hunter College NYC Food Policy Center, the Weill Cornell Community Advisory Board and is Co-Chair of the Livestrong Survivorship Action Team at the New York State Cancer Consortium. She graduated from UC Berkeley with a degree in Integrative Biology and holds a Master of Public Health from the University of San Francisco. Alexina was the Lead Co-Chair for New York City Mayor-Elect Eric Adams’ food policy transition team.

Her passion for connecting all people and especially children with real, healthy food is inspired and powered daily by her three sons. Prior to her career in food systems, she was a semi-professional soccer player in the Women’s Premier Soccer League and worked in as a science teacher in a school program at a children’s hospital.

Jon Chin, MA, MFA

Jon Chin is a lecturer of computer science at Medgar Evers College and a veteran adjunct faculty of English at the City University of New York. He is the founder of Share Meals, an award-winning non-profit pioneering food security technology. He serves as interim chief technology officer and machine learning researcher for the Hunter College New York City Food Policy Center and the Center for Food As Medicine is also a food security technology consultant for several universities such as Auburn University, New York University, University of Colorado Denver, Metropolitan State University of Denver, and the Community College of Denver. He has taught in New York City for over a decade, primarily in underserved communities, including the women’s jail on Rikers Island.

Jon’s greatest concern is how to leverage breakthrough technology to address the human condition in new, illuminating ways. He has spoken at and keynoted several conferences on education, hunger, and technology, notably at SXSW EDU in 2023, 2022, 2019, and 2018, and the Universities Fighting World Hunger International Summit. He delivered a TEDx Talk at the University of Missouri about the lessons and passions learned from growing up hungry. His work has been featured in the New York Times in 2019 and 2016.

Jon holds a Masters at the intersection of English Education, Natural Language Processing, and Machine Learning from the Steinhardt School of Education at New York University. He also holds a Masters of Fine Arts in creative writing and poetry from Brooklyn College, studying the human condition and our shared response to crisis across time, place, and context. He earned his Bachelors in English literature and computer science from Boston University.

Roger Figueroa, PhD, MPH, MSc

Dr. Figueroa is an Assistant Professor of Social and Behavioral Science in Nutrition in the Division of Nutritional Sciences at Cornell University. Dr. Figueroa’s current research focuses on the prevention of diet-related chronic diseases within the context of policies, systems, and environments. To date, Dr. Figueroa has developed a comprehensive skill foundation in research methods, including training in a broad range of quantitative (i.e., advanced linear modeling, structural equation modeling, psychometrics), qualitative methods (i.e., grounded theory, ethnography, qualitative GIS), evidence synthesis, implementation science, and mixed methods.

Kevin Froner, PhD, Ed.M, MA

Dr. Kevin Froner is currently the Founding Director of The Gray Fellowship for Principal Excellence, a NYC principals’ program dedicated to transforming public schools within the NYC Department of Education. Kevin is also the award-winning principal of Manhattan Hunter Science, an early college high school in partnership with Hunter College-CUNY. Over the last seven years, during Kevin’s tenure, Manhattan Hunter Science has emerged as one of the top public schools in America and was ranked 17th in the nation by Newsweek for serving high-poverty populations. Kevin is the recipient of the NYC Ed Update Administrator of the Year Award and winner of the New York Nonprofit Media, 40 Under 40 Rising Stars Award, and the New York City Food Policy Center, 40 Under 40 Award for his efforts to bring a high-capacity hydroponics farm to the Martin Luther King Jr. Campus. Kevin holds graduate degrees from CUNY-Hunter College and Teachers College-Columbia University, and a Ph.D. in Urban Education from the CUNY-Graduate Center.

Dr. Robert E. Graham, MD

Chef Robert E. Graham, MD, MPH is a Harvard-trained researcher and physician. Dr. Graham is board-certified in both Internal and Integrative Medicine, trained in Holistic and Functional Medicine. Dr. Graham received a Master of Public Health from the Harvard School of Public Health while completing three additional fellowships in General Internal Medicine and Complementary and Integrative Medical Therapies at Harvard Medical School as well as Medical Education at Mount Auburn Hospital in Cambridge, Massachusetts. His clinical research focused on health disparities and integrative therapies including dietary supplements amongst racial and ethnic minorities. He also completed coursework in Mind/Body Medicine, Positive Psychology, Lifestyle Medicine, Culinary Medicine, Botanical, Functional, and Traditional Chinese Medicine. In 2018, Dr. Graham became one of less than fifty doctors/chefs worldwide, as he obtained his culinary degree from the Natural Gourmet Institute.

Dr. Graham is a public health scientist, health service researcher, TED speaker, food activist, and Chef. Dr. Graham believes medicine needs a FRESH start, together with his wife, they founded FRESH Medicine and FRESH Med U. FRESH Medicine is an integrative health and wellness center located in NYC. FRESH is an acronym for the five ingredients in their recipe to health: Food, Relaxation, Exercise, Sleep, and Happiness. Dr. Graham prescribes the “FRESH 5” for health and healing and has witnessed many patients get off their medications and live happier, more fulfilling lives.

Dr. Graham is the proud son of a farmer and an El Salvadorian immigrant born and raised in Jackson Heights in Queens, NYC. A lifelong food fighter and a leader in the field of Integrative/Functional and Holistic Medicine has prescribed “food as medicine” for nearly 20 years, has taught over 1000 healthcare workers, mostly doctors, how to cook whole food and plant-based meals, and created the first edible rooftop garden in a hospital in NYC. When not seeing patients, Dr. Graham trades his white lab coat for chef’s whites with the goal of expanding his toolkit both for use as a healthcare provider and as
an advocate for a new model of integrative, “food-first” lifestyle-focused healthcare called Culinary Medicine. Dr. Graham serves as the first Chief Health Officer of a food company called Performance Kitchen where he not only advises but also designs and prescribes medically tailored meals for patients with chronic diseases.

In 2019, he and Julie launched an online self-care, “university” called FRESH MED U. FRESH MED U allows people and companies to learn remotely, on their own time, using their intrinsic motivation to achieve their FRESH goals and live healthier and happier lives. They currently consult with multiple Fortune 2000 companies as corporate employee wellness vendors. In the fall of 2021, Dr. Graham was asked to be part of NYC Mayor Eric Adams’ Food Transition team, focusing on institutional foods, a true honor for a native New Yorker. Dr. Graham is the Integrative Medical Director of Spa and Wellness AMAN NY. On September 28, 2022, Dr. Graham, participated in the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health. In September 2023, Dr. Graham was appointed as the inaugural Medical Director of Integrative and Functional Medicine at Catholic Health System. He continues to be humbled by the opportunity to serve and believes we are all here to serve others—our neighbors, our communities, and even complete strangers. @freshmednyc

Michael Hurwitz, JD, MSW

A transformative leader and bold advocate for social change, Michael Hurwitz recognizes the impact that mentors have had in his life—family members and others across generations whose imprints forever shaped his worldview. He embraced their influence with responsibility and passion, achieving repeated success in creating and growing mission-driven organizations that prioritize needs of youth, families, and communities and drive systemic transformation. In 2021, Michael founded Landing Lights Strategies—a consultancy specializing in senior-level strategic support for nonprofit and for-profit clients. Previously, he served as the Director of Food Access & Agriculture for GrowNYC—a nonprofit organization committed to improving quality of life across the city’s five boroughs. Serving GrowNYC from 2007 to 2021, he transformed and strategically grew the +30-year-old Greenmarket division into the nation’s largest farmers market-based food access and agriculture initiative. Driven by a two-part mission to support regional farmland and ensure equitable access to the highest quality foods, this work included the creation of a robust infrastructure and breakthrough programs which supported expansion to +80 retail sites and year-over-year growth in budget resources. Earlier in his career, after serving as a Clinical Coordinator and Director of Social Services for the Red Hook Youth Court, Michael co-led the launch and management of Added Value & Herban Solutions, Inc. Working with an incredible team of young adults, he grew this startup into a 2.75-acre farm in Brooklyn and multiprogram incubator for new generations of youth leadership. 

Michael holds a J.D. degree from Yeshiva University’s Benjamin Cardozo School of Law, an M.S.W. degree from the University of Pennsylvania, and a B.A. degree in history from the University of Michigan. He is a member of the Board of Directors for Drive Change and Meals for Good and contributed as a member of Mayor Eric Adams’s Transition Committee for Food Policy. He is an Adjunct Professor and former Food Policy Fellow for NYC’s Hunter College. Michael lives with his wife and children in Queens and can be found eating his way through the most diverse borough in the world.

Pam Koch EdD, PhD

Dr. Koch is the Mary Swartz Rose Associate Professor of Nutrition Education and the Faculty Director of the Laurie M. Tisch Center for Food, Education & Policy, Teachers College, Columbia University. Dr. Koch conducts research about the connections between a just, sustainable food system and healthy eating. She translates the results from her research into useful resources such as curricula for schoolteachers and recommendations for policy makers. Dr. Koch is the primary author of the three Linking Food and the Environment (LiFE) curriculum series books: Growing Food; Farm to Table & Beyond, and Choice, Control & Change and coordinated the development, evaluation and dissemination of the LiFE. Pam frequently speaks about nutrition education and sustainable food systems at meetings and conferences across the country. Pam also collaborates with several groups conducting food and nutrition education and working to increase access to healthy, sustainable food around New York City. She completed her BS and MS degrees in nutrition at Rutgers University, The State University of New Jersey, and her EdD and RD from Teachers College, Columbia University.

May May Leung, PhD, RD

May May Leung, PhD, RD is an associate professor and Chair, the Division of Nutrition Interventions, Communication, and Behavior Change at Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, Tufts University. 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 led 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.

Cathy Nonas, MS, RD

Before starting MealsForGood (an idea born by her son Sasha, a creative executive in Hollywood), Nonas was a senior advisor at the NYC Health Department.  A clinical dietitian who spent her early years at the federally funded NYC Obesity Research Center, Nonas was also an assistant clinical professor at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine and a member of the  National Institutes of Health committee to update the Obesity guidelines and the new Lifestyle guidelines.  Nonas has many peer-reviewed publications on effective policy strategies for changing the nutrition and physical activity environments in NYC.   Some of her policy work includes changing the Health Code to improve nutrition in early child care centers,  New York City’s calorie-posting regulation, creating the NYC Green Cart initiative which increases the number of mobile food vendors selling fresh produce in low-income neighborhoods, growing the country’s largest municipal farmers market incentive, Health Bucks.  It should be noted that Nonas did not do all this alone:  it took the proverbial village.  This is true for Meals for Good as well – a village of local restaurants and individual donors will help reduce food insecurity in their local communities.

Charles Platkin, Ph.D., JD, MPH  (Executive Director and Founder)

CHARLES PLATKIN, Ph.D., JD, MPH, is a Distinguished Lecturer at the Hunter College, City University of New York (Emeritus) in New York City, and the former Director of the Hunter College New York City Food Policy Center. Dr. Platkin is the founder and director of the Center for Food as Medicine.  Platkin is a nutrition, fitness, and public health advocate, whose syndicated health, nutrition, and fitness column, the Diet Detective appeared in daily newspapers and media outlets throughout the United States. Dr. Platkin is also the founder of Dietdetective.com, which offers more than 700 articles and interviews on nutrition, food, and fitness. Platkin is a health expert and blogger featured on Everydayhealth.com and Active.com.

Dr. Platkin has been quoted as a health expert in thousands of publications, including USA Today, the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune, Oprah, Time, Newsweek, Ladies Home Journal, Men’s Health, Shape, Self, and Fitness. He has also appeared on NBC’s The Today Show, Good Morning America, ABC News Nightline, National Public Radio, CNN, CNBC, CBS’s The Early Show, the BBC, and others.  Platkin was the host of WE tv’s series, I Want To Save Your Life.

Platkin was also 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.

He is a member of Sigma Xi (Scientific Research Society), the Delta Omega Honorary Society in Public Health, and the American Council on Exercise. He is also an ACE-certified personal trainer and licensed to practice law in New York State.

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 by 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), The Diet Detective’s Calorie Bargain Bible (Simon and Schuster), The Diet Detective’s Diet Starter Kit (Diversion), The Diet Detective’s All American Diet (Rodale), and soon to be published Cheat Death: A Users Guide to Food as Medicine.

Platkin is a co-founder and strategic adviser at Diversion Books (www.DiversionBooks.com).

Dr. Platkin is also the founder of MedicalBx (www.medicalbx.com), a micro-hospital company that aims to minimize human suffering and enhance health equity.

He received his undergraduate degree from Cornell University, a law degree from Fordham University, a Master of Public Health from Florida International University, and a Ph.D. in Public Health from Florida International University.

Gayle Reichler, MS, RDN

Gayle is an accomplished Registered Dietitian, Lifestyle Coach, and culinary professional in the field of nutrition and wellness. Gayle contributes as a writer and editor at the Center for Food As Medicine. She’s authored her book “Active Wellness” released internationally, and a cookbook “Feel Good For Life.” She is an Adjunct Professor at New York University, teaching graduate elective courses she created for the Nutrition & Foods Dept., including Wellness Nutrition, which encompasses hands-on nutrition education and Business of Nutrition, teaching students how to write a realistic business plan for an independent nutrition-based business.

As a culinary graduate from the International Culinary Center (formerly the French Culinary Institute), Gayle launched one of NYC’s first successful healthy diet-specific home meal replacement businesses and created the Skinnyme line of stevia-based, gluten-free chocolates for national distribution. She is the Founder of the Active Wellness Program, an 8-week group Wellness Program promoted by the American Heart Association taught in Fortune 500 Companies in New York City, in place of Weight Watchers, by trained Dietitians. The Active Wellness Program encompassed using motivational interviewing to focus on eating, exercise, stress management, and habit change. Her varied skills and ventures underscore her significant impact in wellness and nutrition. Gayle has been a guest lecturer at home and abroad, including Canyon Ranch, has appeared on the Food Network featuring healthy recipes, has created and taught healthy cooking courses at the New School For Social Research, worked as an RD with Dean Ornish and his Preventive Medicine Research Program for over 10 years, and has published original research in JADA, relating to chef’s knowledge of healthy cooking. Gayle is a consultant, editor, and project manager at the Center for Food as Medicine.  Gayle is also the Chief Nutrition Officer.

Stephen Ritz 

Stephen Ritz is an internationally acclaimed, award-winning educator, author of the best-selling book The Power Of A Plant, and Founder of Green Bronx Machine. Known as America’s favorite teacher and 2015 Top Ten Finalist for the Global Teacher Prize, Stephen is responsible for creating the first edible classroom in the world. He and his students have grown more than 150,000 pounds of vegetables in the South Bronx, were celebrated at the Obama White House three times, have been featured on the cover of TIME for KIDS, and are the subject of a new, full-feature documentary, Generation Growth. A replica of his classroom was installed in the US Botanic Gardens in Washington, DC, and his curriculum is being used in hundreds of schools across the United States and internationally, from Colombia to Dubai, from Canada to Cairo, to Doha, and beyond. To date, Stephen’s work has been featured by Forbes, Fast Company, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, FOX, TNT, Disney, Discovery TV, NPR, Teach Middle East, The Gulf National, and countless others. His TED talk boasts more than 1 million views, ranks in the Top 10 Food/Education TED Talks of all time, and is used for teacher training/workforce development globally. Stephen was featured in the film adaptation of Michael Pollan’s best-selling book, In Defense of Food and appeared on ABC’s The Chew, The Rockefeller Foundation’s Food for Thought, NPR’s 50 Great Teachers, All Things Considered, and American Graduate. The State University of New York uses his curriculum to train teachers in all content areas. His recent appearance on PBS’ Growing A Greener World (Episode 808) won an Emmy Award, the first ever in the ten-year history of the show. Stephen serves as a Senior Fellow in Social Innovation at Babson College and as a Board Member for the NYC Nutrition Education Network. Stephen is now appearing in the new PBS educational series Let’s Learn with Mister Ritz, was named the 2020 Change-Maker Award by NYC Food Policy Center for his response to COVID, named a 2021 Food Hero by TMZ Live, testified for the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Ending Hunger in America, and was awarded the 2021 Artemis CEA Disruptor Award for his work, advocacy, and impact in public schools across NYC and America. Stephen was just named to the Food Transition Team for NYC Mayor, Eric Adams.

Martin Tull

Martin is a strategist and systems thinker who advises organizations and communities on collaborative solutions to complex problems. He currently serves as the Senior Deputy Director of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine and is also a senior advisor for health, social impact, and environmental initiatives.

Previously, Martin served in many senior leadership positions in the field of environmental sustainability and the outdoor recreation industry, including serving as the Founding Executive Director of the Green Sports Alliance, leading the organization from a handful of founding teams into an international coalition of hundreds of professional and collegiate sports teams integrating sustainable practices throughout the sports industry today.

Martin has designed and facilitated workshops worldwide and been an invited speaker at numerous events, including The White House Sports & Sustainability Summit, ACLM, Sustainable Brands, GoGreen New York, Beyond Sport Summit, Oregon Sport & Sustainability Summit, Arena Network Conference, Sustainable Opportunities Summit, Green Sports Alliance Summit, AASHE, Collegiate Athletics Facilities Summit, PlantStock, Reducetarian Summit, Regional Innovation Forum, Sport Positive Summit, the Clinton Global Initiative, and the Global Impact Institute.

Public recognition & awards include Good Magazine’s 100, Pivotal Leader, Portland Business Journal 40 under 40 Award, Better Bricks Emerging Leader Award, & Sustainable Business Oregon’s 15 People to Watch.

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