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Nutrition Policy Institute Staff

NPI staff at Alameda County Food Bank

Nutrition Policy Institute staff volunteering at Alameda County Community Food Bank.

"In the face of impossible odds, people who love this country can change it."—President Obama

NPI Researchers and Staff

Lorrene Ritchie

Lorrene Ritchie
PhD, RD, Director and UC Cooperative Extension Specialist

Lorrene Ritchie is the Director of the Nutrition Policy Institute (NPI). She has devoted her career to sharing, synthesizing, developing and collaborating on nutrition policy research. The goal of her work is the prevention of food insecurity, obesity and diabetes, and the promotion of health and wellness. Her current research interests involve evaluation of the relationship of programs and policies, in particular the federal nutrition assistance programs, on children’s dietary intakes and weight status in school, childcare and other community settings.

Christina Becker

Christina Becker
BA

Christina devotes her time to several projects at NPI, such as the Fit Study and the California Healthy Kids Study, which both aim to improve student health in California.

Ginny Gildengorin

Sibani Michael Bose
BA, Chief Business Officer

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Jorge Contreras

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Erin Esaryk
MPH

Erin, a research data analyst, is devoted to using research to improve child and adult nutrition policy. She contributes her data analysis skills to multiple projects on SNAP, food environments, children’s nutrition education, and physical activity.

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Celeste Felix
MPH

Celeste is a project policy analyst and works on several projects to improve the nutrition of children through changes in food retail, school, and childcare settings.

Wendi Gosliner

Wendi Gosliner
DrPH, RD

Wendi Gosliner leads research projects at the Nutrition Policy Institute and teaches at UC Berkeley’s School of Public Health. She has dedicated her career to understanding and working to improve policies and programs that affect population health and nutrition, with a focus on eliminating health disparities and improving federal food and nutrition programs. She has studied interventions in schools, childcare centers, WIC, SNAP, and SNAP-Ed, and is particularly interested in the nexus of research, public policy and community-based efforts to improve health.

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Temika Green

Temika has assisted with data entry, data collection, data cleaning and data management on multiple research projects. She currently works as the office coordinator and HR liaison for NPI.

Christina Hecht

Christina Hecht
PhD

Christina’s primary focus area is healthy beverages, particularly drinking water, the healthy alternative to sugar-sweetened beverages. She studies drinking water access and consumption, particularly in children. She works with colleagues across the country to promote and advocate for drinking water access and to reduce disparity in access to and consumption of healthy beverages.

Ken Hecht

Ken Hecht
LLB, Policy Director

Ken Hecht has spent his career as a legal services attorney and as a nutrition advocate developing opportunities for low-income Californians. At NPI he focuses on the federal food programs with special attention to early childhood. He works to ensure that NPI’s research and evaluations have the strongest possible policy impact.

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Sridharshi Hewawitharana
MPH, BS

Sridharshi works as a Data Analyst at NPI on multiple projects, including the Healthy Communities Study, with the aim of contributing to the fields of public health and nutrition through her skills in data management and analysis.

Janice Kao

Janice Kao
MPH

Janice's primary research interests include evaluation of community-based programs and policies. Examples include examining the impact of school wellness policies and the effectiveness of health food retail interventions. She contributes to several NPI projects such as the Kaiser Permanente Healthy Eating Active Living (HEAL) Initiative, the NHLBI-funded Healthy Communities Study, and working in the Nutrition Education and Obesity Prevention Evaluation Research Unit.

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Danielle Lee
MPH, RD

Danielle Lee is a registered dietitian and public health nutrition researcher working to increase access to healthy and sustainable food. Her work at NPI focuses on healthy beverage policies, early childhood feeding and federally funded food programs including the Special Nutrition Assistance Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs, and the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP).

Meirong Liao

Meirong Liao

Meirong develops and prepares budgets for NPI, as well as financial reports for grants and proposals. She is responsible for managing, planning, monitoring and administering budget and payroll functions.

Amanda Linares

Amanda Linares
MS

Amanda has worked with the Nutrition Education and Obesity Prevention Branch (NEOPB) of the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), and now with NPI's Nutrition Education and Obesity Prevention Research and Evaluation Unit. Her primary research interest is impact and outcome evaluation of various nutrition education interventions with low-income audiences.

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Anna C. Martin
PhD, MA

Anna C. Martin contributes to the evaluation of SNAP-Ed in California as Senior Evaluator and Operations Manager for NPI's Nutrition Education and Obesity Prevention Research and Evaluation Unit. She has extensive experience in program evaluation and research with nonprofits and foundations, focusing on nutrition, health and poverty programs.

Claudia Olague

Claudia Olague

Claudia has worked in the public health nutrition field for her entire career, first with the National Growth and Health Study and later at the Center for Weight and Health. She contributes to NPI projects in both the administrative and data areas.

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Kaela Plank
MS, MPH

Kaela Plank is an evaluation specialist on the SNAP-Ed Nutrition Education Obesity Prevention team who works on a variety of projects. She wants to contribute to the evidence base of effective public health strategies that aim to improve healthy food access and safe, active living opportunities for all Californians. Her past research has mainly focused on the retail and school settings where she worked on projects involving healthy snack incentives and ReThink Your Drink programming.

Suzanne Rauzon

Suzanne Rauzon
MPH, RD, EP-C

Suzanne Rauzon integrates project/fund development and communication planning to achieve NPI’s mission and goals in her role as Director of Strategy. Her research interests are in food, physical activity, community health evaluation, and measurement using the population dose concept.

Carolyn D. Rider

Carolyn D. Rider
MA

Carolyn has devoted her career to improving the lives of underserved populations in California through evaluation and applied research. Her primary focus at NPI's Nutrition Education and Obesity Prevention Research and Evaluation Unit is to provide overall project coordination and technical assistance for local health departments conducting impact and outcome evaluations of nutrition education interventions. She also provides research and evaluation expertise to the California Department of Public Health and other SNAP-Ed agencies.

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Ron Strochlic
MS

Ron works to promote a more equitable and sustainable food system. Areas of interest include policy and systems change to increase access to healthy food in low-income and immigrant communities and promoting improved diet, nutrition and health among agricultural workers. Ron enjoys opportunities to conduct fieldwork and community-based research. He has lived and worked in Central America and is fluent in Spanish.

Evan Talmage

Evan Talmage

Evan has worked with the Nutrition Education and Obesity Prevention Branch (NEOPB) of the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) since 2009, and with NPI's Nutrition Education and Obesity Prevention Research and Evaluation Unit since 2015. His primary research interest is process evaluation for California SNAP-Ed nutrition education interventions.

Hannah Thompson

Hannah Thompson
PhD, MPH

Hannah's primary research interests are in increasing access to quality physical activity and physical education programs in schools and communities. She contributes to several NPI projects, including Kaiser Permanente's Thriving Schools and Healthy Eating Active Living (HEAL) projects, CalFresh Healthy Living evaluation in partnership with California Department of Public Health, and the USDA/San Francisco Unified School District's Lunchroom Redesign evaluation.

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Marisa Tsai
MS, MPH

Marisa Tsai is a public health nutrition data analyst who works on a variety of child nutrition projects, including WIC, school meals and child care standards. Through her work, she hopes to contribute to the development of evidence-based, policy-relevant strategies that improve equity and health outcomes of all communities.

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Nicole Vital
MA

Nicole Vital contributes to the evaluation of a number of school health projects, including the Kaiser Permanente Thriving Schools and Water First projects. Her work at the Nutrition Policy Institute builds upon her background of raising awareness about and access to healthy and sustainable food.

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Patricia Wakimoto

Patricia supports the research staff on various projects. Patricia’s expertise includes community-based and applied research in diverse populations, dietary methodology, and program evaluation. Patricia is also a registered dietitian. In her spare time, she enjoys gardening and frequenting farmers’ markets. She enjoys spending quality time with family and friends.

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Gail Woodward-Lopez
MPH, RD

Gail's research focuses on the evaluation of school- and community-based programs and policies that aim to reduce obesity, improve dietary intake and/or increase physical activity. She also leads or participates in other activities (literature reviews, expert panels, etc.) to inform program and policy directions concerning obesity, nutrition and physical activity.

NPI Students

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Laurel Denyer
UC Global Health Initiative Fellow
BS, Global Disease Biology

Laurel's interests lie in socioenvironmental health topics such as equitable access to healthy food and drinking water, and the programs and policies that promote these. Laurel applies this background to her work with the National Drinking Water Alliance.

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Caroline Long
Student Assistant

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Anna Rios
UC Global Food Initiative Student Fellow, 2021-2022
UC Berkeley undergraduate, Molecular and Cell Biology

Anna Rios will be assisting with two research projects to improve the health and food security of children. One is to examine how milk type affects the health of young children followed from age 1 to 3 years at the time when they are normally weaned from breastmilk or formula to cow’s milk. She will also be assisting with a project to develop and evaluate an innovative, student-centered transition from pre-prepared, packaged school meals from an external vendor to fresh, locally-prepared school meals served with less packaging and more reusable serviceware.

Ginny Gildengorin

Lanxin Song
NPI Student Fellow

Affiliated Researchers

Barbara Abrams

Barbara Abrams
DrPH, RD

The focus of Barbara Abrams’ research is on weight in women during pregnancy, postpartum and menopause. She is currently leading a study of inter-relationships between early life adversity, pregnancy weight gain, racial disparities, and obesity in women and their children. She is also involved in studies that investigate the contribution of maternal obesity, gestational weight gain and Black-White disparities in stillbirth, infant mortality and other adverse birth outcomes and in trials to prevent excessive weight gain and retention during pregnancy and postpartum.

Lauren Au

Lauren Au
PhD, RD, Assistant Professor of Nutrition, UC Davis

Lauren Au's research involves the assessment of dietary intakes and the food environment for the prevention of obesity in low-income, racially diverse populations. Her focus is on understanding how to promote healthier eating and prevent obesity in federal nutrition assistance programs, such as the Women Infants and Children (WIC) Program and the National School Lunch Program.

Jen Falbe

Jennifer Falbe
DSc, MPH

Jen is an assistant professor in UC Davis' Department of Human Ecology. Her research focuses on identifying modifiable determinants of childhood obesity and developing and testing programmatic, policy and environmental interventions to prevent obesity. Jen led an evaluation of the nation’s first soda tax in Berkeley, California. She has also examined primary care interventions for underserved youth, healthy retail programs, multi-sector community interventions to address childhood obesity, and the impact of screen time on adolescent sleep and health.

Barbara Laraia

Barbara Laraia
PhD, MPH, RD

Barbara's research focuses on the influence of contextual level effects on dietary intake, cardiometabolic risk factors and pregnancy outcomes, especially among vulnerable populations. Contextual level effects refer to the household food environment, namely household food insecurity, as well as the neighborhood or built environment measured as one's food, physical activity and social environment. Her research focuses on pregnant women, children and adults with diabetes. Her research includes surveys, direct observation of neighborhood attributes, data collection using anthropometric, questionnaire and a number of dietary intake approaches.

Kristine Madsen

Kristine Madsen
MD, MPH

Kristine’s research focuses on identifying policies and programs to promote physical activity and reduce obesity and weight-related health disparities. She has conducted interventions in both the clinical and community setting with hundreds of children and their families, with a focus on low-income families, and has developed techniques that yield consistently high recruitment and retention in her studies. She has developed strong academic-community partnerships with multiple organizations, including health departments, public health clinics and community-based service organizations. Her research team has measured physical activity using accelerometers, pedometers and structured observation (SOFIT and SOPLAY) in thousands of children and adolescents. She mentors undergraduate, masters and doctoral students, as well as postdocs and fellows, and is committed to supporting our next generation of researchers and practitioners working to address obesity.

Suzanne Martinez

Suzanna Martinez
PhD, MS

Suzanna’s research interests include investigating biological, behavioral, social and environmental contexts of health behavior among vulnerable child populations. Her approach to helping prevent chronic disease is by understanding how to improve lifestyle behaviors—namely sleep, nutrition and physical activity—among children and their families. Her long-term career goal is to conduct research that makes an impact on reducing health disparities in underserved communities.

 

NPI Researchers Emeritus

Pat Crawford

Pat Crawford
DrPH, RD, UC Cooperative Extension Specialist - Emeritus

Pat Crawford is the former Senior Director of Research at the Nutrition Policy Institute (NPI), and she is a Cooperative Extension Specialist, emeritus. Prior to coming to NPI, she co-founded and directed the Center for Weight and Health at the University of California at Berkeley for 15 years. She is also an Adjunct Professor in the School of Public Health at UC Berkeley. Dr. Crawford studies ways in which nutrition programs and policies can improve children’s dietary intake and reduce obesity. Dr. Crawford served on the California Legislative Task Force on Diabetes and Obesity and is an expert advisor for the Let’s Get Healthy California Task Force. She chaired the Institute of Medicine’s Workshop on Food Insecurity and Obesity and served on the IOM’s Committee on WIC Research, the Committee on Accelerating Progress on Obesity Prevention, and the IOM’s Standing Committee on Childhood Obesity Prevention.

Karen Webb

Karen Webb
PhD, MPH, BSc

Karen’s primary research interests are food insecurity, charitable food assistance, obesity prevention, food system changes that incorporate population health and environmental protection objectives. Additional research interests include nutrition epidemiology and nutrition surveillance, nutrition program planning and evaluation in communities, dietary assessment methods, technical assistance to field and mentoring students and young evaluation researchers.