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.
Pratyusha Gampala, Executive Assistant / Project Manager, supports senior leadership and ensures efficient project management across the organization. With 10 years of experience in education, evaluation, and cultural organizations and a Master’s in Business Administration, Pratyusha lends a systems thinking approach to projects to produce maximum impact. In her free time, she loves exploring national parks and trying new foods.
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.
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, Outreach and Communications Manager, creates strategic communications and cultivates partnerships and fundraising opportunities for the organization. A former nonprofit creative director and public school district communications strategist, she brings 10 years of experience in school food advocacy and communications. She is passionate about the power of effective communications to create change and seeks to identify missing voices in the ongoing conversation to improve school food and education. Originally from the Midwest, she enjoys exploring the warmer areas of California with her husband, daughter, and dog.
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.
Jezra Thompson, Director of Programs, oversees all program efforts across the organization. A systems thinker with over 14 years of experience in program and education leadership, including instructional farm to school initiatives, food systems curriculum, and andragogy, she led the publication of the first garden-based learning curriculum for STEAM. She holds a Masters of Science in Urban Planning from Columbia University and is passionate about creative collaboration, teamwork, facilitation, and approaching challenges with a growth mindset.
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, 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 food service director and communications manager, she brings an extensive background in school food, nutrition, communications, and marketing. Her interest in food literacy is rooted in a desire to develop a more equitable and accessible food system across local municipalities, and a passion for building healthy and sustainable school communities.
Krysta Williams, Program Manager, California Food for California Kids®, maintains relationships with school districts and allied organizations throughout California to cultivate, support, and sustain the California Food for California Kids initiative. She has extensive experience as a public school teacher as well as designing and directing informal out-of-school time educational programs across the US and Costa Rica. She received a Master of Arts in Educational Leadership, Policy, and Advocacy from New York University. A passion for nourishing local food began in her childhood garden and has extended to working on educational farms, leading cooking workshops, and advocating for policies to support a healthy and accessible food system.