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 and 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 with her partner and two daughters.

Claudia Guererro
Operations 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!

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.

Gracie Schatz
18th Street Kitchen Chef & Culinary Manager

Gracie Schatz has been in the food industry for over fifteen years. In her career, Gracie has worked in a variety of places: as a baker and private chef in Eugene, OR, farming and cooking in Italy, raising pigs in the Sierra Foothills, butchering at the Fatted Calf in San Francisco, managing Avedano’s in Bernal Heights, cooking at Bay Area restaurants Molina and Cala and her own pop-up restaurant, Bread and Bones Supper. In Eugene, she started her own food justice nonprofit, Marigold Cooking Collective. After working with 18 Reasons as a guest instructor for the past 7 years, Gracie has decided to move from Eugene to San Francisco and join us as our head Chef. Her dream is to never stop learning about delicious food, to never stop exploring the many nuanced ways that food brings us joy, connection to culture, identity, seasons and community. 18 Reasons feels like the perfect place to explore this dream and she is so excited to be here!

Elise Hayashi
18th Street Kitchen Associate Director

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 study nutrition science at UC Berkeley. Outside of the classroom, Elise helped implement childhood obesity and exercise research, and worked as a pastry assistant to fill her free time with galettes and mousses. She also broadened her experience with food by studying and cooking her way through the Mediterranean diet in Italy, and working on an organic farm in Japan. Now, she is excited to merge her gastronomic backgrounds, and lean into her Japanese and Korean heratige to share her love of food with the 18 Reasons 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.

Alex Bitker
18th St Kitchen Assistant Program Manager

Alex can’t remember a time in her life when she wasn’t excited about food. Her father, a professional chef, brought his talents home and helped her foster a love and curiosity for all things culinary from a young age. Following in his footsteps, she began working in a small bakery in her home state of Connecticut, eventually making her way to San Francisco where she’s dabbled in everything from creating cakes and custards, handmaking fresh pastas, to curating chocolate + spirit tastings. Alex believes in the transformative powers of food, and that it is never too late to get started in the kitchen. She’s thrilled to be a part of the 18 Reasons team and share her passion for food with her Bay Area neighbors. In her free time Alex enjoys reading, exploring the city's hiking trails, discovering new music and going to live shows, and of course, cooking.

Community Programs

Francesca Boulton
Community Programs Director

Informed by over a decade of experience working in the restaurant industry and her work with the Center for Sustainable Agriculture as a Food Systems graduate student at the University of Vermont, Francesca believes deeply in the transformative power of food and the right of every individual to access delicious, nutritious, and culturally appropriate food. Beginning as an Americorps member at 18 Reasons in 2018, Francesca has been honored by the opportunity to cook and eat with many communities and individuals across the Bay Area and to learn and grow with 18 Reasons. Outside of work, Francesca's enthusiasm for food extends to her personal life. Whether perusing cookbooks and farmer’s markets, catering events, taking 18th St. classes, or exploring the vibrant food scene of the East Bay, she is always seeking new culinary inspirations. In her free time, Francesca can be found caring for her abundant plants, camping, and immersing herself in the natural beauty of the Bay Area.

Briana Tejuco
Nourishing Pregnancy Program Director

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.

Emma Hodson
Community Programs Manager, Contra Costa County

Emma was born and raised in the East Bay in a family who planned their next meal before their plates were clean. After completing a degree in International Studies and Political Science at UC San Diego, Emma worked for a wide range of nonprofits, from providing legal support for asylum seekers to leading digital communications for a sexual and reproductive health organization. She has also spent significant time abroad in Latin America, both through travel and working on youth leadership initiatives in the Dominican Republic. Emma's professional and personal experiences have solidified her belief in access, equity, and community, and she is now excited to marry her passions for food and health equity in her position at 18 Reasons. In her spare time, Emma can be found building community through food, sampling new snacks, writing short fiction, and basking in the mild Bay Area sun.

Shay Stoklos
Community Programs Manager, San Francisco County

Shay's friends and family know that no visit is complete without collaborating on one veggie-heavy meal. Born and raised in Los Angeles, Shay always loved a messy cooking project, but it wasn't until attending UC Santa Cruz that their passion for growing food, and more importantly, connecting with others over beautiful produce, was sparked. Shay has spent much of the last 5+ years working for organic vegetable and flower farms, simultaneously training college students on broadcast radio production at a community radio station. She's passionate about food justice, connecting through food, and community building. When Shay's not making a Dutch baby pancake, chili crisp, or ramen, they're probably at the farmers market, running, singing, or dreaming up DIY home improvement projects.

Abby Suster
Community Programs 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. Abby has worked with 18 Reasons for years and served a variety of different roles. She graduated from Santa Clara University with a major in Environmental Studies and minors in Spanish Studies and Sociology. As the Assistant Program Manager for Alameda County, she enjoys connecting with her community over a yummy plate of food, teaching hands on cooking techniques, and giving folks a space to feel comfortable being their full selves. In her free time, Abby loves to find new hiking and camping spots around the Bay Area, gardening, hanging out with her dog, and eating her favorite food, grandma's hawaiian chicken long rice! 

Helena Zindel
Assistant Program Manager, San Francisco County

Helena's work at 18 Reasons is driven by her belief that access to nutritious and affordable food is a human right. Helena grew up in Sacramento, California, where she discovered the power of food as a means of creating community and expressing her care for others. She owes her love of cooking to her parents, both talented cooks themselves, who gave her a cookie cookbook for her tenth birthday. She went on to bake every single recipe in the book, requesting a new cookbook once she'd finished. Her work as a chef and culinary arts educator with Soil Born Farms ignited her passion for teaching cooking in community settings. Helena continued to pursue her passion for food justice while working to increase food access & security for newly arrived refugees with the Internal Rescue Committee. She received her Bachelor's degree in Sociology from Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington, and uses her background in social science to inform her approach to fighting for food justice. When she's not busy making a big pot of beans or baking sourdough loaves for her neighbors, Helena can usually be found catching up on cookbook reading, making friends with the neighborhood cats, bike riding down JFK drive, and eating super burritos in the Mission. Helena is someone who passionately believes in the power of good food in changing people's lives for the better and is thrilled to be a part of the team at 18 Reasons. 

Mauricio Guerrero-Villanueva
Assistant Program Manager, Contra Costa County

Growing up, Mauricio was aware that diabetes was prevalent in his family, starting with his grandparents. When his father was diagnosed as a pre-diabetic, his family altered their diet and lifestyle to support him. As his father’s condition improved, Mauricio realized the importance a healthy diet has on one's health. A couple of years later, Mauricio obtained his degree in Clinical Nutrition from UC Davis. At UC Davis, he was a part of the Knights Landing One Health Clinic and became the first Health Education Chair. Mauricio and his colleagues implemented the clinic’s health education program, which consisted of appointments and an array of workshops for their patients. Mauricio noticed many similarities between the Knights Landing community and his neighborhood in Oakland, such as the lack of fresh food and access to resources regarding health education. Recently, he obtained his Master’s of Public Health, and through 18 Reasons, he hopes to make a difference and make these resources more accessible to the people in his community. Mauricio enjoys watching sports, running, trying new food places, and relaxing with his cat during his free time.

Gia Jones
Assistant Program Manager, Nourishing Pregnancy

Gia’s passion for community service and food equity is 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. Gia is eager to be a part of the Nourishing Pregnancy team and directly impact the nutrition, education, and support needs of pregnant people in the Bay Area. In her free time, Gia loves to spend time with her friends and family, explore the many hiking trails of the Bay Area, and get creative by painting for her small business.

Lupita Hernandez
Assistant Program Manager, Nourishing Pregnancy

Lupita was born and raised in the East Bay. Growing up in a Mexican household, she often saw the time, effort and love that went into preparing food, and came to value how cooking connects us to others as well as past generations, and ultimately creates community. She completed her B.A. in Liberal Studies with an emphasis in Health Education and Multidisciplinary Ethnic Studies at San Francisco State University. She has focused on nutrition, social justice, community organizing, and utilizes her bilingual abilities and cultural background to bridge a cultural and language barrier. Lupita also really loves drawing, spending time with loved ones, and being outside.

Wilmer Ruiz
Assistant Program Manager, Food As Medicine

Wilmer's love for food ignited over hearth-cooked beans and home-raised-and-slaughtered lamb, instilling in them a deep appreciation for food as their family's foremost expression of love. Descending from Nicaraguan and Tapatio heritage, Wilmer was raised in Paso Robles, nestled within California's famed wine country. Growing up, access to culturally relevant cuisine was a rare luxury. They have experience as a children's developmental therapist, selling cheese at farmers' markets and taprooms across Los Angeles, and stints in the Bay Area's essential fine dining establishments. Wilmer pursued Anthropological Linguistics at CSULB, delving into hegemonic theory and the manipulation of language by societal and governing structures. Amid the pandemic's upheaval, Wilmer, like many, grappled with feelings of marginalization and frustration toward authority. In light of these experiences, coupled with the urgency of climate change reshaping our food landscape, Wilmer sees a source of kismet with 18 Reasons. They view this as an opportunity to intersect their passions between community engagement and for food. You'll find Wilmer shucking Bay Area oysters, embracing being a novice climber, indulging in poetry, or thinking of and doing a lot of nothing.

Luisa De Leon
Program Coordinator

Luisa has lived in San Francisco for about 7 years and graduated from San Francisco State University with a B.S. in Nutrition.
Throughout her years living in San Francisco, she's been involved in food related industries working in a local bakery, catering businesses, and in farmers markets.  
Luisa has always had a passion for food and helping out her community. After volunteering for 18 Reasons, she knew she wanted to continue to carry out the organization's values which is to provide the best quality education when working in unity with diverse groups of people around our community.
She loves being involved with her community and bringing people together through food to help promote a healthier lifestyle.  
In her free time you can find her creating crochet items and roller skating all round San Francisco. 

Kali Haire
Program Coordinator

Growing up in a single parent household, Kali was most familiar with fast, convenient foods and rarely ate home-cooked meals for most of her life. While attending school at Occidental College in SoCal, she learned the importance of food in relation to the body through her kinesiology classes and began to learn how to cook. Through cooking and growing food for herself, with friends, and with a community coalition called Food Justice House, Kali found joy, community, and empowerment through the power of home-cooking. Additionally, Kali focused on ways to improve her campus community through access to health resources and lead the implementation of free menstrual products in campus bathrooms. After college, Kali continued learning about local and sustainable food systems through WWOOFing on an organic farm and working with local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farms. Her true passions lie within the intersection of increasing access to health resources, building community, and learning about holistic ways of healing. Through her work at 18 Reasons, she hopes to empower folks with the education and resources to help them along their healing journeys and ignite the same passion for cooking that she has found. In addition to cooking, Kali loves climbing, surfing, laying in the sun, and playing board games.

Hayley Woods
Program Coordinator

After living in several states and Spain, Hayley fell in love with the Bay Area and has considered it home ever since. They love the diverse array of cultures, identities and of course, foods in the Bay, as well as the beautiful mountains and parks that are surrounding. Hayley graduated from San Francisco State University with a B.S. in Business administration, and spent 5 years as a sexual health educator before realizing thier true passion was food and nutrition. They are currently pursuing a graduate degree in Nutrition and Dietetics with an emphasis on holistic and functional care. They believe that food is a type of medicine and can be a powerful tool in regaining control of one's own health. Hayley’s primary focus is in accessibility, food justice, and gender affirming and inclusive care. Outside of work they enjoy all kinds of outdoors activities, consider themself an amature gardener with about a 50/50 success rate, and are a self proclaimed health and science nerd.

 

Mackenzie Kaplan
Program Coordinator

Mackenzie grew up surrounded by her aunties and Grandma, who cooked and talked over each other in the kitchen. From a young age, she was chopping, dicing, and sautéing to cook for her family's weekly Sunday Dinner. Aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends gathered weekly to share stories about life while working together to craft the evening dishes seamlessly. It was around that Sunday dinner table that she fell in love with food and its ability to bring people together. Mackenzie brings a warm and welcoming energy to 18 Reasons and strives to bring the same sense of belonging that she felt in the kitchen surrounded by her family to all of her classes. When Mackenzie isn't baking a batch of chocolate chip cookies or a loaf of focaccia, you can find her scavenging thrift stores for vintage kitchen goods, spending time outdoors, and exploring local food and drink.

Erika Velasquez-Lopez
Program Coordinator

Erika was born and raised in Oakland, California. She graduated from San Francisco State University with a B.S. in Health Education. She has always had an interest in Medicine and learning about the many ways one can take care of their well-being. In her studies, she became aware of the many health conditions people face and the social determinants of health that impact them. She noticed that some common health conditions were Diabetes and Obesity, that correlate with people’s lifestyle and eating habits. As someone who has family members with these health conditions and has seen the significant importance of how changing eating habits can help reduce and possibly heal from these conditions, it has inspired her to be a part of this organization, educate herself and her community on how to take care of their well-being through cooking and nutrition. She is now a VISTA Program Coordinator within Alameda County, and is pleased to be a part of a team that shares the same values as she does with the opportunity to give back to her community. In her free-time she bonds with her loved ones by enjoying meals together; either home cooked or going on food adventures, spends time with her pets, spends time in nature and sometimes lifting weights.

Case Vanderburg
Program Coordinator

Case is a recent graduate from the University of San Francisco’s Master in Public Health program, whose interest in cooking began with the 2020 Covid pandemic, giving him plenty of free time to look through his family’s saved recipes and prepare surprise feasts for them. He is firm on the belief that everyone deserves to look and feel their best, and that one of the best ways to do this is through food. Providing interactive learning experiences to families is powerful and can completely reshape dining, shopping, and other lifestyle habits. When fresh fruits and vegetables are shopped for, seasoned and prepared with love and insight, they can easily be the highlight of any dish, and provide your brain and body with all the nutrients and flavors they crave. His favorite activities in the world include ecstatic dancing, afternoon jogs through GGP, socializing over some kava tea, reading sci-fi thrillers, fusion cuisine, and meal prepping (black bean hummus and kimchi breakfast burritos, anyone?)

Blaire Hobbs
Program Coordinator

Having grown up in a rural area, with a low-waste family, Blaire lived in a household which grew its own food, spent many weekends preserving leftover produce, composting food waste, and cooking everything else in between. While most of Blaire’s post-university life has been spent pursuing stories around local food systems as a journalist in Santa Cruz, Blaire had previously spent many years as an herbalist, studying and practicing holistic medicine. These experiences have instilled in her a lasting appreciation for the benefits of good food, and Blaire hopes to continue her food journey, to find herself somewhere within the intersection of sustainable food systems, nutrition education, and food accessibility. In her free time, Blaire enjoys playing beach volleyball, swimming in the nearest body of water, cozying up with a good book and some herbal tea, or camping along the coast.

Development and Communications

Blair Leyva
Development and Communications Director

With a background in museum education and nonprofit management, Blair has spent her career empowering individuals and communities through storytelling. Blair is excited to bring her passion for food, culture, and mission-driven work to 18 Reasons. During her free time, she enjoys visiting the Farmers Market, taking walks with her dog Walter, and exploring the vibrant community and natural beauty of Napa.

Kayla Whitehouse
Communications Manager

Kayla believes that food is a love language, and her multicultural marriage has made home food even more special. Professionally she has sought to understand issues of food policy and food security from a variety of angles. From researching and designing an after-school cooking and nutrition education program as part of her graduate capstone, to monitoring federal SNAP policy through a food bank internship, to coordinating Cooking Matters series, she has a passion for ensuring access to healthy and affordable food. After work, she can be found experimenting with new recipes in the kitchen, or running and hiking her way through the Bay Area. 

Emily Lieberman
Development Coordinator

Emily's fascination with food was nurtured by her family, where talented cooks and foodies shaped her curiosity for culinary exploration. She is deeply committed to food justice, inspired by her academic studies and opportunities to take classes about food equity. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Political Science from the University of Southern California and has a background in government and think tank communications and editorial work. Her role as the Development Coordinator involves supporting the organization's fundraising and outreach efforts, building connections with donors, partners, and the community. In joining 18 Reasons, Emily is excited to advance 18 Reasons' mission of empowering individuals through food and cooking, contributing to the organization's efforts to create a more inclusive and sustainable food system. Outside of work, she enjoys playing ultimate frisbee, dancing, reading, and exploring diverse cuisines.
 

Board of Directors

Shannon White Cogen
Board 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.

Merritt Richmond
Board Vice-Chair

Merritt is a joyful home cook who loves bringing family and friends together around a meal. Merritt’s 30 years in education have included teaching, mentoring teachers, helping to found the Center for Childhood Creativity, curriculum development, and educational consulting. Merritt is the Interim Development Director at Enterprise for Youth, a non-profit which places young people  in paid internships throughout the Bay Area. Merritt’s previous development work has included fundraising for the San Francisco Friends School, Lick-Wilmerding High School, SCRAP, and Juma Ventures. She has a Master’s in Educational Leadership from Mills College, a BA in Art History from Duke University, and credentials in teaching and school administration in California. Merritt is also the proud mama of three San Francisco teens with adventurous palates and a love of great food.

Sarah Wigglesworth
Board Treasurer

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.

Poonam Singh
Board Secretary

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.

Bob Rosner
Assistant Board Secretary

Bob Rosner is head baker at Bob's Bread Co. He recently retired from a career in the investment business to follow his true passion--producing exceptional naturally fermented whole grain breads. He currently serves on the Faculty and Student Life Committee at UCSF, is a former trustee of the Urban School of San Francisco and was a founding board member of the UCSF Investment Company He is passionate about finding solutions to food inequality, building an equitable Bay Area, running, and Boo, his Lakeland Terrier. He earned his bachelor's degree from the University of California, Santa Cruz, and his MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business.

Maria Ansari

Maria is originally from Michigan and has lived in the San Francisco Bay Area for over 25 years. She is a cardiologist and enjoys both cooking and teaching her patients about heart healthy foods. She is the CEO of The Permanente Medical Group (TPMG) which is the largest physician led medical group in the country. At Kaiser Permanente San Francisco, she helped support the start of the Thrive Kitchen, which is a teaching kitchen created to educate others on home cooking of healthy and affordable meals. Kaiser Permanente, under her leadership, joined the Teaching Kitchen Collaborative which partners with the Harvard School of Public Health to support Healthy Kitchen Healthy Lives, which promotes education in healthy eating. She joined a women’s virtual cooking club during the pandemic to connect with others in the community and expand her cooking repertoire. In addition to the TPMG board, Maria is on the San Francisco General Hospital Foundation Board. She thrives by riding her Peloton or cycling in the East Bay trails.

Marian Zischke Baldauf
Board Member

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 35 years. Marian served on the boards of The Bay School of San Francisco and The San Francisco School.  Marian has a BA in religion from Dartmouth College.

Brian Elliot

Brian Elliott is an experienced executive leader turned advisor and speaker. He co-founded Future Forum, is the bestselling author of How the Future Works and is one of Forbes’ Future of Work 50. Brian’s work enables leaders to build a future of work that’s better for people and organizations. Prior to Future Forum, Brian spent 25 years building and leading teams and companies as a startup CEO, and as an executive at Google and Slack. Brian got his MBA from Harvard Business School and BA at Northwestern. He started his career at Boston Consulting Group, where he’s now a Senior Advisor. Brian and his spouse have lived in San Francisco for the past 25 years, where they raised two wonderful young men and one middle-aged dog. Brian's a home chef who loves trying new recipes and cooking for friends and family. You can find more from Brian about the "work" stuff on LinkedIn.

Ryan Hazelton

Ryan Hazelton is the Executive Director of Mariposa Kids, a San Francisco based out-of-school time provider in the Mission District. Ryan's 10+ years of non-profit experience is centered around children, families, and education having served in fundraising capacities at San Francisco non-profits that include Gateway Public Schools, Holy Family Day Home, and Safe & Sound. Actively involved in SF community initiatives, Ryan is a current member of the San Francisco Child Care & Planning Advisory Council (CPAC) and the SF Children & Youth Fund's Service Providers Working Group. He is also an Emeritus Board Member of both Tandem - Partners in Early Learning and the Thomas Edison Charter Academy, after chairing each organization's board. Ryan is a 2023 alumnus of Leadership San Francisco and a 2019 alumnus of New Leaders Council, San Francisco.

Ruth Chang Hess
Board Member

Ruth advises nonprofits on board governance, development, risk management, and strategic planning. She loves how 18 Reasons connects extraordinary people to tackle complex challenges together, defining questions more inclusively in order to find better solutions. Ruth is a trustee of the Urban School of San Francisco. She has a BA in Public Policy Studies with a concentration in U.S. Environmental Policy from Duke University. She lives in San Francisco with her family and way more books than shelf space. Among her proudest moments to date are watching her two children riff on recipes from her grandmother, her original inspiration for group problem-solving around a kitchen table.

Sam Mogannam
Board Member

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
Board Member

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.

Bill Rusitzky
Board Member

Bill enjoys making meals with friends and learning about how different cultures prepare food.  Bill is an experienced executive with technical and business expertise. He has helped develop sales channels, strategy, drive innovation, create products, align teams, and leverage industry partnerships/acquisitions at both startups and fortune 500 companies including Adobe, Macromedia, THX, SRI International and AIKON a blockchain startup. Bill holds a Bachelor in Mechanical Engineering from Georgia Institute of Technology and an MBA & Masters of Engineering Degree from Cornell University.

Gretchen Sandler

Gretchen Sandler lives in San Francisco with her husband, James Sandler, her two adult children, and her dog, Bella. She is an active philanthropist in the Bay Area and California focusing on Domestic Worker rights and Gender Equity. She has been involved in the Domestic Worker movement for over 20 years. Gretchen served for seven years on the Board of Directors of the Women’s Foundation of California and is a long time member of the Women’s Catalytic Fund Giving Circle of the East Bay Community Foundation. She currently serves on the Board of Alliance for Girls, an alliance of girl-serving organizations advancing gender equity. She is a trained educator and taught elementary school in San Francisco Unified and is a past Trustee of the Urban School of San Francisco and The San Francisco School. Gretchen is a current volunteer with Cooking Matters, a cooking and nutrition program of 18 Reasons. She loves to cook, travel, read and knit.

Liesl Schumacher
Board Member

Liesl is a passionate baker and home chef, and has become known among her friends and colleagues for her sweet treats. Liesl loves to learn about other cultures through their food, and has traveled to other countries simply to get more of the food she loves. Liesl has more than 15 years of experience in strategy consulting and operations management in industries from aerospace to tech. She is currently the Chief of Staff for the Android team at Google. Liesl holds a Bachelor of Arts  in Spanish and Government from Georgetown University and a Master's of Liberal Arts from the University of Pennsylvania. 

Calvin Tsay
Board Member

Calvin Tsay has always been at home in the kitchen, gathering inspiration from Julia Child and cooking meals for his family.  He is a co-owner at the Bi-Rite Family of Businesses and has a background in strategic planning, financial analysis, and operations management.  While he has called the Bay Area home for the past 40 years, he will always have a special place in his heart for a slice of NJ pizza.  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! 

Wendy Weiden
BOARD MEMBER

Food has been a defining aspect of Wendy’s life since her essay on baking a Bon Appetit cover recipe got her into college. Since then, she’s worked with large companies, entrepreneurs, non-profits and public sector agencies on product development, business analysis, and strategy. Her passion lies with exploring the intersection of economic, social, and health benefits that come from more robust regional food networks and, more recently, in advancing novel, non-extractive avenues for underserved entrepreneurs (in food and elsewhere) to efficiently access capital.

In addition to her consulting work, Wendy has taught courses on the food industry, entrepreneurship, and business strategy and is a founding board member of the Good Food Foundation, creator of the Good Food Awards, She has a BA from Harvard College and a MA in Sustainable Public Policy from Presidio Graduate School. A longtime resident of the Mission District of San Francisco, Wendy was thrilled her husband hailed from Oakland, enabling a bicoastal lifestyle that provides easy access to the best food on both sides of the Bay.

Remembering Chef Mike Weller

Mike was the soul of the 18th Street Kitchen for seven years he worked at 18 Reasons. He embodied our core value of Heart through the love and care he put into every recipe, class, and interaction with a student or volunteer. As Mike wrote to us in his cover letter seven years ago, “The satisfaction of impacting the lives of students through culinary education and fantastic food is what drives me, and makes this profession more than a career; it is the way I lead my life.”

Chef Mike’s passing in 2023 was a great loss for our whole community and we miss him dearly. 

Board Alumni

Claudia Ossa
Marjorie Freedman
Naomi Starkman
Rachel Pringle
Nínive Calegari
Susan Norris
Hollie Greene
Anna Ghosh
Juri Sanchez
Susanna Poon
Isaac Buwembo
Maggie Spicer
Aaron Hardisty
Patricia Farrar-Rivas
Teyler Wallace
Priya Fielding-Singh
Rosabel Tao
Suzy Obst