Alexina Cather, MPH
Alexina Cather is the Director of Policy Advocacy and Sustainability and James Beard Foundation and former deputy director of the Hunter College New York City Food Policy Center. She previously worked as a project manager at the Center for Behavioral Cardiovascular Health at Columbia University Medical Center, as a family resource coordinator at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland, and as a contributing writer for Food Tank.
Additionally, Alexina has a background in working with low-income families to gain access to nutritious, affordable food and other resources, and research surrounding the power of our food choices.
She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Integrative Biology and a minor in Anthropology from UC Berkeley and a Master of Public Health from the University of San Francisco.
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.
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.
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.
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, PhD, JD, MPH
Charles Platkin, PhD, JD, MPH was a Distinguished Lecturer at Hunter College in New York City and the former Executive 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’s new book, “Cheat Death” will be published in 2024.
Stephen Ritz is an internationally acclaimed, award-winning educator, author of 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.