Staff

Karen Brown, Creative Director, oversees design and creative development of the organization’s resources and brands. An award-winning designer, her work has been included in the Smithsonian Institution and Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, and featured in The New York Times, Architectural Digest, TODAY on NBC, and dozens of other popular and technical media. She has lectured on design and environmental topics in many countries, and spoken on behalf of the Center for Ecoliteracy at the United Nations. She comes from a family of growers, makers, and inventors who provided her with a garden, glider flights, and a visit on a military submarine, all before the age of five.

Liz Carlton, Program Coordinator, California Food for California Kids®, provides support for the California Food for California Kids initiative. She started her professional career in advertising and post-production before following her passion to support healthy, equitable food systems. Prior to joining the Center, she worked on community-focused agriculture projects. She holds a B.S. in Conservation and Resource Studies from UC Berkeley, where she designed her own course of study focused on sustainable food systems and environmental justice. In her free time, she enjoys gardening, studying home herbalism, and printing zines with friends.

Abby Halperin, Policy and Grants Manager, advocates for policies and manages grants that transform how students eat, learn, and grow. She uses the power of data to amplify the voices of school nutrition professionals, provide strategic insights to policymakers, and celebrate the collective impact of the organization’s California Food for California Kids® initiative. Her background is in research, environmental policy, and environmental education. A passion for climate change and translating science, data, and research into real world decisions led her to complete a Master of Science in Environmental Change and Management at the University of Oxford. In her free time, she can be found gardening, knitting, and hiking with friends and family.

Cindy Hu, Education Program Manager, manages the organization’s programming for TK–12 educators. She brings 10 years of experience in environmental education and holds a B.S. in Environmental Science from San José State University and a Master of Education from the University of Arizona. Her love of travel and community grassroots efforts led her to serve as a Peace Corps volunteer in Tanzania, Africa. Cindy is a first-generation Latina from the Central Valley with a passion for connecting culturally diverse youth to nature. She speaks English, Spanish, and conversational Swahili. In her free time, you can find her hiking a trail, reading, and spending time outdoors with friends and family.

Jim Koulias, Deputy Director of Finance and Operations, manages finances and oversees the administration team, project management, and assessment, for the range of activities at the organization. He manages the Center for Ecoliteracy’s use of technology and website properties. He began his professional life as an educator, then moved into project management in the fields of animation, documentary filmmaking, web communications, and global operations before joining the Center for Ecoliteracy. He has lived abroad in Mexico, Japan, and France, becoming fluent in each language, and indulging thoroughly in the food and culture of each country.

Anne Moertel, Director of Outreach and Communications, creates strategic communications, cultivates partnerships, and seeks new opportunities for the organization. She brings 13 years of experience in school food advocacy and communications, including serving on the school nutrition staff at a California school district, and is passionate about the power of effective communications to transform school food and education. She holds a BFA in visual communications from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and enjoys exploring California with her family.

Alexa Norstad, Executive Director, directs the Center for Ecoliteracy’s strategies, mission, and vision. She previously served as the organization's Director of Programs where she oversaw all program efforts across the organization, designing, developing, and directing some of the most successful programs in the Center for Ecoliteracy’s history. Her insight and compassion have nurtured our relationships with staff and partners to advance education for the sustainability of people and the planet. A Vassar graduate with a background in publications, she served in the corporate offices of Condé Nast Publications in New York, experience that lends editorial excellence to the organization’s publications and communications work. A farming apprenticeship in Vermont left her with a deep appreciation of one’s food system and the importance of connecting to place.

Ruben Valles, Executive Assistant / Office Manager, assists the Executive Director, provides administrative support to staff, and ensures an efficient office environment. With a B.A. in psychology from UC Merced and 10 years of retail management experience, Ruben brings a passion for connecting with people as well as a strong determination to solve any problem. In his free time, he enjoys watercolor painting, embroidery, and exploring the Bay Area with his husband and dog.

Crystal Whitelaw, MPH, Senior Program Manager, California Food for California Kids®, cultivates relationships with school districts to build and sustain the California Food for California Kids Network. A former school nutrition director and school communications manager, she brings an extensive background in school food operations, nutrition, communications, and marketing. She has a Master's of Public Health with a focus on health policy and management and studied food insecurity and maternal health. Her interest in food literacy is rooted in a desire to develop more equitable and accessible food systems and a passion for building healthy and sustainable school communities.