Our Team

Sarah Nelson
Executive Director

Sarah has worked on food-related projects in the Bay Area since 2008. She launched Cooking Matters in the Bay Area in 2010. In her previous work with Bay Area farmers' markets, she created the Bay Area’s first Market Match program, which gives farmers’ market customers who use food stamps extra funds to spend at the market, and a Veggie Rx program that helped diabetes patients increase their produce consumption while measuring positive health outcomes. In her youth, she taught yoga and guided bicycle tours in France. In 2011, she founded the nonprofit Three Squares, which merged with 18 Reasons in 2013. She is passionate about cooking, rock climbing, riding her bike, and, yes, her job. She lives in San Francisco.

18th Street Kitchen

Theresa Salcedo
18th Street Kitchen Program Director

A native of Virginia, Theresa's curiosity in food was nurtured by her family, which includes talented cooks, farmers, gardeners, and fishermen. When she moved to the Bay Area in 2013, Theresa became a passionate volunteer with both our 18th Street Kitchen events and Cooking Matters program. She joined the team full time in 2015 and is eager to have everyone walk through the doors of the 18th Street Kitchen and feel connected to their neighbors, friends, and food. When not in the kitchen or at the farmers' market, you can find Theresa reading at Ocean Beach or getting lost in museums.

Mike Weller
Chef and Culinary Instructor

Born in the Haight Ashbury neighborhood of San Francisco, Mike grew up in suburbs of San Jose, where he discovered cooking as his first profession and lifetime passion. After wandering through typical teenage jobs at pizza joints and ice cream parlors, Mike’s first “restaurant” job was with Sambo’s Coffee Shops, slinging hash and cooking eggs for the bar rush and Sunday breakfast crowds. He moved on to help open several restaurants, attend the California Culinary Academy, and study under European chefs with Michelin backgrounds. Later, Mike served as an executive chef for catering companies, wineries and country clubs. When his son was born, Mike transitioned his career into teaching, returning to the CCA where he eventually became the Executive Chef and Director of Academics. Having taught for Le Cordon Bleu North America, Mike is thrilled to return to teaching in a neighborhood-based community. When he is not teaching, he tends to his backyard garden, helps his wife to can and preserve food, and loves to cook for his friends and family.

Emelia Vigil
18th Street Kitchen Assistant Program Manager

Emelia’s interest in food systems began at a young age on the cattle ranch where she grew up. This interest persisted throughout college where she minored in Global Health and Health Policy, spending one summer in Kenya working on a project for preschool feeding programs and another in India researching the impact of vitamin supplementation on pregnant women. She found her passion for food service and community by managing the student grille in her college dorm. Last year, Emelia lived in Alaska where she worked for the Alaska Network on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault and the Sitka Tribe of Alaska Tribal Court, spending her free time waitressing at a local seafood restaurant. 18 Reasons combines her interests in health equity, great food, and inspirational people! Outside of work, she loves cooking, eating, and sharing good food, riding horses, and spending time with her niece.

Community Programs

Claudia Guererro
Community Programs Director

Claudia is a strong believer in the ideology that the kitchen is the heart of the home. Her Hispanic background fosters her love of food and culture, and she is especially inspired by the example set by her late abuelita of making home-cooked meals a priority. She completed her B.Sc. in Health Education with a Certificate in Holistic Health Studies at San Francisco State University where she spent most of her time researching issues surrounding food justice. During her time at SF State, she was part of the Community Food and Justice Coalition, where she conducted research on food policy and served on the planning committee for the All-In initiative working to end poverty in Alameda County. When she is not enjoying the company of her wonderful colleagues or class participants, you can find her trying out new recipes at home, practicing yoga, hiking, or on a fun road trip!

Briana Tejuco
Community Programs Manager, San Francisco County

Briana brings great passion for food and community.  She loves being able to teach others of all backgrounds how to prepare healthy, delicious meals.  Her appreciation for food and experience in culinary arts comes from growing up in her grandmother’s kitchen and graduating from the California Culinary Academy’s Le Cordon Bleu program.  She completed the Nutrition Assistant Certificate program at City College of San Francisco, and received her B.Sc. in Health Education from San Francisco State University. Briana’s favorite people to cook for are right at home, her three growing sons and her loving husband.  When she’s not cooking, you’ll find Briana exploring new restaurants, enjoying family and friends, or sipping on tea while scrolling through Pinterest.

Elise Hayashi
Community Programs Manager, Alameda County

Born and raised in Colorado, Elise grew up in a family where knowing how to use a paring knife was more important than riding a bicycle. This sparked her passion for food and cooking at an early age, and she enthusiastically relocated to the Bay Area to pursue a BA in Nutrition Science at UC Berkeley. Outside of the classroom, Elise helped implement childhood obesity and exercise research with the Nutrition Policy Institute, and also worked as a pastry assistant to fill her free time with galettes and mousses. After graduation, she spent time abroad working on an organic farm where she gained an appreciation for the labor and commitment that goes into producing food everyday. Now, she is excited about being a part of 18 Reasons to merge her gastronomic backgrounds and to share her love of food with the Bay Area community. During the rare moments when she is not eating, Elise can be found trying out new sports, playing and listening to live music, or wandering the aisles of grocery stores and farmers' markets.

Abby Suster
Assistant Program Manager, Alameda County

Abby has always had a passion for eating good food, especially as a child when she would join her grandma and mom in the kitchen making classic Hawaiian, Asian, and Mexican dishes, a blend of her family's cultures. She recently graduated from Santa Clara University, with a major in Environmental Studies and minors in Spanish Studies and Sociology. She became interested in food justice and education her sophomore year, leading her to take opportunities as an environmental education intern in Kolkata, India and a food justice researcher in San Jose, CA.  In her free time, Abby loves to find new hiking and camping spots around the Bay Area and also works weekends at a floral shop in Berkeley.

Anna Soloniuk
Assistant Program Manager, San Francisco

Anna values building community and connection through the shared experience of food and is proud to work for a mission-driven organization that shares her values. Anna earned her BA in Rhetoric and Gender Studies from Lewis & Clark College. She received a certificate in Sustainable Food Systems while studying abroad in Italy and also got to spend a semester in Paris studying Art History. Before starting at 18 Reasons, she had the opportunity to work as a winery apprentice, on an organic farm, for a film festival, and in restaurant marketing. In her free time, she finds herself enjoying fresh air, reading pretty much anything, petting dogs, and talking about what is for dinner.

Francesca Boulton
Assistant Program Manager, Contra Costa County

Francesca recently moved to the Bay area after completing an M.S. in food systems at the University of Vermont. There, she worked with the Center for Sustainable Agriculture researching child nutrition and dietary practices within refugee families. Now, Francesca is excited to share her love of cooking in support of empowering individuals and communities in accessing fresh, affordable, nutritious, and delicious food, and is looking forward to exploring her new home!

Gia Jones
Nourishing Pregnancy Assistant Program Manager

Gia’s passion for community service and food equity are essential to her work at 18 Reasons. Her interest in food justice started in high school and continued throughout her college career at UC Berkeley, where she studied Conservation and Resource Studies. Gia expanded her political understanding of food systems at the Othering and Belonging Institute as a Global Justice Fellow. She also works on the ground as a regular volunteer with People’s Program Oakland working to feed, educate, and liberate the unhoused Black communities of West Oakland. In her free time, Gia loves to spend time with her friends and family in Sacramento, explore the many hiking trails of the Bay Area, and get creative by painting or crocheting.

Cat O'Brien
Program Coordinator

Cat has worked and volunteered throughout the Bay Area, mainly focusing her efforts on the food system. She has taught workshops, planted, harvested, and planned community dinners. This work helped her discover her passion for food justice, access, and education. 18 Reasons is the perfect culmination of her interests and beliefs, and Cat is excited to be a part of the team!

Mauricio Guererro-Villanueva
Program Coordinator

Growing up, Mauricio was aware that diabetes was prevalent in his family starting with his grandparents' generation. When his father was diagnosed as pre-diabetic, his family altered their diet and lifestyle to support him. As his father’s condition improved, Mauricio realized the importance of a healthy diet to one's overall health. A couple of years later, Mauricio obtained his B.Sc. in Clinical Nutrition from UC Davis. As an undergrad, he was a part of the Knights Landing One Health Clinic and became its first Health Education Chair. Mauricio and his colleagues implemented the clinic’s health education program, which included providing an array of workshops for local patients such as cooking workshops. Mauricio notices many similarities between the places where Knights Landing patients live and his own neighborhood in Oakland, such as the lack of access to fresh food and health education resources. Through his work at 18 Reasons, he hopes to make a difference and ensure that these resources are more accessible to the people in his community. During his free time, Mauricio enjoys playing soccer, hiking, eating, and watching Grey’s Anatomy.

Nic Sklenar
Program Coordinator

Nic comes from a food-centric family and grew up baking and cooking with her mum and grandmothers, but their own food journey started when her family learned that many of their chronic health issues were eased by intentional eating of good foods. Nic omitted gluten and processed foods from their diet in the early 2000s and began to use food as a means of achieving wellness. While on the rowing team at Michigan State University, Nic utilized her major in Communications to encourage her teammates to “eat good" through social media. Besides continuously posting about their various food endeavors, Nic loves youth engagement—she has worked both as a camp counselor and a substitute teacher in the past. After finishing her double major in Spanish in Valencia, Spain, Nic knew she was most passionate about the culinary arts and empowering others to "eat good", too. This passion ultimately led her to join the team at 18 Reasons where they now work as a Program Coordinator. When they aren’t obsessing over food, you can find Nic dancing, doing yoga, slurping up information, crafting, and appreciating nature.

Tom Dawson
Program Coordinator

Tom was born and raised in Minneapolis, taking his first steps in the kitchen cooking family dinners in junior high school. His twisted career path began as a research director at a popular rock and roll radio station. This experience naturally led to a five year stint on the assignment desk in the newsrooms of the Twin Cities ABC and NBC stations. The next logical career step saw him open and operate Uptown Minneapolis, an alternative clothing and shoe store. After 11 years he sold the store, moved to the Bay Area, and made a career move to the nonprofit sector, working as a Senior Program Manager for CompuMentor (now TechSoup). Job responsibilities ranged from developing the organization’s website, redesigning programs for the Internet age, to leading their consulting program. In 2003 he co-founded Full Circle Projects, supporting the effective use of technology in organizations that serve patients in the health care safety net. Full Circle supported dozens of health centers, women’s health clinics, rural health centers, and critical access hospitals in the selection and deployment of electronic health records and patient portals. On weekends, Tom sold olive oil, balsamic vinegar, as well as his own cured olives at farmers markets. He remains a passionate and committed home cook.

Development and Communications

Allison Eckert
Director of Development and Communications

Allison became interested in expanding food access for immigrant communities while at Brown University, where she majored in Hispanic Studies. After graduating, she worked on a few small, organic farms, growing everything from melons to shiitake mushrooms, and ultimately relocated to the East Bay to pursue mission-driven work. In her role as the Director of Development and Communications at 18 Reasons, she explores her passions for writing, learning, food, and community-building every day. In her free time, Allison likes to experiment with new recipes, dally in bookstores, and enjoy Bay Area backpacking.

Samantha Campos
Development and Communications Assistant

An experienced journalist with a marine biology degree, Samantha is a lifelong learner invested in the health and wellness of people and the planet. With boundless curiosity and a passion for food, she’s written about the culinary community on Maui, agricultural issues in Marin, and the importance of independent grocers in the East Bay. She became more interested in mission-driven work after spending a few years as a communications consultant for a renowned medical cannabis dispensary, and is now honored to serve as an AmeriCorps member at 18 Reasons. A fourth-generation Californian, Samantha enjoys frequent road trips exploring the state’s bounty. When she’s not planning her next meal, she can be found listening to music, talking to her cat, and hiking the many trails of Oakland with her longtime partner, Andrew.

Board of Directors

PATRICIA FARRAR-RIVAS, BOARD CHAIR

Patricia Farrar-Rivas is a founding principal, as well as the CEO, of Veris Wealth Partners. She has been providing investment advisory and wealth management services since 1992. Patricia is a principal consultant to the Envestnet Sustainability Platform and was a member of the Envestnet Advisory Board. Patricia’s previous Board experience includes As You Sow, a nonprofit organization promoting corporate responsibility through shareholder advocacy, grant making, and innovative legal strategies. She also served as a member of the Standards Council for the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB), a nonprofit that works on developing and disseminating industry-specific sustainability accounting standards for material, nonfinancial (ESG) information.

SHANNON WHITE COGEN, BOARD VICE-CHAIR

Shannon's earliest memories are of her extended Texas family coming together over white bread, frozen vegetables, and great barbeque. Today, she's happy for her local farmers market and for the many ways in which we build community around food. Shannon acts as an advisor and coach to mission-based organizations and their leaders and has led development teams at local nonprofits. Shannon is a trustee of the Urban School of San Francisco and a member of the Jamestown Community Center Council and has also served on the board of the San Francisco Friends School. She and her partner Doug live in San Francisco with their dog and two nearly-grown children. She holds a law degree from Columbia Law School and a B.A. in English from Brown University.

AARON HARDISTY, BOARD SECRETARY

Aaron Hardisty has been involved in food security and food education in the Bay Area since 2009. He began as a volunteer for Cooking Matters, then became a member of the Cooking Matters Advisory Committee. He joins 18 Reasons as board member after serving as a founding board member for Three Squares. Aaron is a Mission District resident who follows his kids as they scoot on 18th street between Mission and Dolores to shop at Bi-Rite Market, go to Community Dinner or grab dessert at Bi-Rite Creamery.

BOB ROSNER, BOARD TREASURER 

Bob Rosner is founder, managing member, and portfolio manager of Buena Vista Fund Management. He is on the board of the UCSF investment company and serves on UCSF's Faculty and Student Life Committee. He is passionate about building an equitable Bay Area, running, and his dog. He earned his bachelor's degree from the University of California, Santa Cruz, and his MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business.

CALVIN TSAY

Calvin Tsay has always been at home in the kitchen, gathering inspiration from Julia Child and cooking meals for the family.  With over twenty years of strategic planning, financial analysis, and operations management experience, he has served as a consultant at Booz Allen & Hamilton, director of strategic planning at Macy’s, and general manager at Joie de Vivre Hospitality.  He has a BS and MBA from Stanford University and attended the Cordon Bleu in Paris where he learned that the key to any dish is to monter au beurre! 

JESSICA MEKSAVAN

Ever since she was a child, Jessica Meksavan has loved food - eating it, sharing it, and combining ingredients, flavors, and textures to create something greater than the sum of its parts. Though she now spends her days in financial services focused on debt structuring and credit underwriting for technology companies in the Bay Area, Jessica is able to combine her love for cooking and sharing a meal with her finance skills set as Board Member of 18 Reasons. Jessica joined the board in 2016 and is currently the Treasurer of the Board of Directors. She lives in San Francisco with her husband and her daughter and strives to instill the same love and appreciation for food and shared meals with her two childen. 

SAM MOGANNAM

Following a career as a chef, Sam Mogannam re-opened Bi-Rite Market in San Francisco’s Mission District in 1998 in the space his family had operated since 1964. Since then he’s opened Bi-Rite Creamery, founded 18 Reasons, and tilled ground on Bi-Rite’s own Sonoma farms. Sam co-authored Bi-Rite Market’s Eat Good Food: A Grocer’s Guide to Shopping, Cooking & Creating Community Through Food (Ten Speed Press, 2011). He volunteers on the Board of Directors for the National Association of the Specialty Food Trade (NASFT), for the Good Food Awards, and the Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF). He’s the proud father of two girls. 

SARAH NELSON

Sarah Nelson has worked on food-related projects in the Bay Area since 2008. She launched the Bay Area’s first Market Match, which gives farmers’ market customers who use food stamps extra funds to spend at the market, and a Veggie Rx program that helped diabetes patients increase their produce consumption while measuring positive health outcomes. Previously, she taught yoga and guided bicycle tours in France. In 2011, she founded the nonprofit Three Squares, which merged with 18 Reasons in 2013. She is passionate about cooking, rock climbing, riding her bike, and, yes, her job. She lives in San Francisco. Contact her at sarah@18reasons.org.

ISAAC BUWEMBO

Isaac Buwembo is a business designer and social entrepreneur passionate about finding a better way. He is the Design Strategy Lead at Year Up, supporting leadership with growth strategy and design research. He is Co-Founder of Civil Labs, an Oakland-based social enterprise supporting youth development in the Bay Area. Isaac is passionate about helping business and society find a better way through market-based mechanisms, localized solutions and social innovation. He believes that helping people be awesome can change the world. He holds a Masters in Business Administration in Design Strategy from California College of the Arts and a BSc. in Cell Biology and Genetics from University of British Columbia.

MAGGIE SPICER

Maggie Spicer's earliest memories are of food and have guided her path ever since. From the curiosities of eggs to years of cooking holiday meals with her Southern grandmother, many of her fondest moments are centered around the stove and the farmers’ market. With a 15-year career in experience design and corporate event planning, along with a background in brand strategy and design thinking, she brings a unique skill set to the Board. Maggie was an early member of 18 Reasons (since 2009!) and runs an organic grocery & cafe, Douglas, as well as a creative event space centered at the intersection of food and art, Baana. She's a regular contributor to Edible SF and Ambrosia, and has served as Guest Editor for both Ambrosia and Drift magazines. Over the past 10 years, she has volunteered with Slow Food San Francisco, Slow Food Nation, Kitchen Table Advisors, and currently serves on the Events Committee for CUESA.

ROSABEL TAO

Rosabel has a had a life-long passion for eating – and more recently, Instapot home cooking. She believes that cooking, sharing food, and eating together builds relationships, promotes cultural understanding, and leads to better health. In addition to being an expert at eating, Rosabel specializes in corporate transformation. She helps bold ideas take root through creative, interdisciplinary marketing and communications programs to reimagine and elevate brands, products, and services. She lives in San Francisco’s Fillmore district with her husband and Goldendoodle fur-baby.

SUZY OBST

Suzy has spent over 20 years working in the healthcare industry and would love to see a world in which food is the first line of defense when it comes to taking care of our health and wellness.  She currently leads a Digital Innovation team at Myovant, a biopharmaceutical company, and has spent her career designing and launching new healthcare solutions.  Suzy has a BA in Psychology from Harvard and an MBA from UC Berkeley Haas.  She lives in San Francisco with her husband and experiments in their backyard “farm” with short cycle seed-to-table microgreens, French intensive gardening, and the variety of exotic seeds they’ve been introduced to through 18 Reasons classes.

POONAM SINGH

Poonam Singh comes from a family that has always planned vacations, holidays, and weekends around what to eat next and where. After exploring the world and setting up her home kitchens from Tanzania to New York, she now lives in her hometown of San Francisco, where both the amazing produce and community focus on food equity make her feel lucky every day. A longtime 18 Reasons volunteer, in her day job she works as a corporate lawyer advising on public company governance, M&A, U.S. securities law and corporate finance. She holds a B.A. in Religious Studies and a J.D. from New York University and an M.A. in Religion from King’s College London.

SARAH WIGGLESWORTH

Sarah was born and mostly raised in rural Kansas.  She is a longtime community volunteer and advisor in the Bay Area, focused on helping organizations and people convert good intentions into real actions. Sarah is a Trustee of the College Preparatory School, a member of Full Circle Fund, and a member of the Dean's Advisory Council of the Harvard Radcliffe Institute.  She has recently served as a Board member of La Cocina and as a Trustee of the San Francisco Friends School.  Sarah holds degrees in Soviet Studies from Harvard/Radcliffe Colleges and in International Business from SIPA at Columbia University.  She enjoys travel, food, books, maps, and being outdoors, and lives in San Francisco with her husband and two sons.

MARIAN ZISCHKE BALDAUF

Marian has a lifelong love of cooking and baking, and enjoys creating meals that bring people together.  She is a Vice President and shareholder of Dodge & Cox, a San Francisco investment management firm, where she has worked for over 30 years. Marian currently serves on the Board the Bay School of San Francisco and served on the board of The San Francisco School for 11 years, serving as chair of the Finance Committee and Advancement Committee, and as Chair of the Board. Marian has a BA in religion from Dartmouth College.

Board Alumni

Claudia Ossa
Marjorie Freedman
Naomi Starkman
Rachel Pringle
Nínive Calegari
Susan Norris
Hollie Greene
Anna Ghosh
Juri Sanchez
Susanna Poon