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Meet Our Staff
Filomena Acevedo, Senior Policy, Advocacy & Organizing Associate
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Filomena coordinates the East Harlem and the Bronx Food Action Boards (FABs), which mobilizes low-income community members cncerned about hunger and other anti-poverty initiatives in their communities.
She has worked for over ten years at the Morrisania Health Center with the City of New York. She also worked at the Department of Refugee and Services, and the Immigration and Naturalization Services. She has lived and worked in New Orleans, where she was selected as a Representative of the Children’s Health Insurance for Low Income Children (C.H.I.P) to address the State Legislature in Baton Rouge, which resulted in the children being awarded with health insurance. Filomena studied Sociology at Herbert Lehman College in the Bronx.
Magen Allen, Communications Coordinator
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Magen serves as Communications Coordinator for the New York City Coalition Against Hunger, where she oversees the organization's public message. This includes executing media relationships, communications strategy, social and traditional media, as well as serving as web master.
Prior to this role, Magen was the Communications Intern with NYCCAH, and was hired on full time following her graduation. Magen holds a B.A. in Global Studies from LIU Global, where she spent four years of her undergraduate degree studying social justice issues in Costa Rica, Taiwan, Thailand, India, Turkey, China, South Africa, and the United States. Her undergraduate thesis was on the roles of public and private sector initiatives in the fight against hunger in the United States. She currently lives in Brooklyn, NY.
Paul Bennett, Director of Finance & Administration
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Paul Bennett is currently the Director of Finance and Administration for the Coalition. He coordinates NYCCAH's administrative, financial, and office support work, processing a range of financial reports for federal, state and city offices. Paul also oversees the Coalition's operating budget and billing for various grants.
Paul has over 10 years of experience in the non-profit sector as a financial officer and consultant, serving over 200 organizations. Paul spent seven years at Nonprofit Finance Fund where he served as a Senior Consultant and Director of Analytics, amongst other roles. Prior to the nonprofit sector, Paul worked as an analyst focusing on mergers and acquisitions in the financial services sector. Paul has taught as an adjunct professor at NYU, and is an alumni of the Coro Fellows Program. He received an MPA from Baruch College and a BA in economics from Binghamton University.
Joel Berg, Executive Director
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Joel Berg is a nationally recognized leader, and media spokesperson in the fields of domestic hunger, food insecurity, obesity, poverty, food-related economic development, national service, and volunteerism. He is executive director of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger. He is also author of All You Can Eat: How Hungry Is America?, the definitive and most well-reviewed book on American hunger of the last decade. He is also the author of the book America We Need to Talk: a Self Help Book for the Nation, to be published by Seven Stories Press in the Fall of 2016.
Since 2001, Berg has led the New York City Coalition Against Hunger, which represents the more than 1,100 nonprofit soup kitchens and food pantries in New York City and the nearly 1.5 million low-income New Yorkers who live in households that cannot afford enough food. The Coalition works not only to meet these residents’ immediate food needs but also to enact innovative solutions to help society move “beyond the soup kitchen” to self-sufficiency. The Coalition recently launched pilot national service projects in 17 states from coast to coast, making the work of the organization national in scope.
Prior to his work with the Coalition, Berg served for eight years in the Clinton Administration in senior executive service positions at USDA. For two years, he acted as USDA Coordinator of Community Food Security, a new position in which he created and implemented the first-ever federal initiative to better enable faith-based and other nonprofit groups to fight hunger, bolster food security, and help low-income Americans move out of poverty.
In addition, Berg worked as USDA Coordinator of Food Recovery and Gleaning for two years, working with community groups to increase the amount of food recovered, gleaned, and distributed to hungry Americans. Also while at USDA, he served as Director of National Service, Director of Public Liaison, and as acting Director of Public Affairs and Press Secretary. From 1989 to 1993, he served as a policy analyst for the Progressive Policy Institute and as a domestic policy staff member for then President-elect Bill Clinton’s transition team.
Berg has been published widely on the topics of hunger, national and community service, and grassroots community partnerships. These include recent papers on what President Obama can do to improve hunger metrics in the United States and other papers on childhood hunger and poverty, obesity, and practical solutions to end hunger when he was a Senior Fellow for the Center for American Progress. He has also published papers on creating food jobs and other topics for the Progressive Policy Institute.
A native of Rockland County, NY, and a graduate of Columbia University, Berg now resides in Brooklyn. He is the past winner of the US Secretary of Agriculture’s Honor Award for Superior Service (one of the Department’s highest honors) and the Congressional Hunger Center’s Mickey Leland National Hunger Fighter Award. Joel also serves on the board of the Human Services Council.
Christine Binder, Director of Child Nutrition Policy & Programs
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Christine coordinates NYCCAH’s Child Nutrition Program, utilizing advocacy, outreach, communications, and volunteerism to increase access to federal child nutrition assistance programs, including school meals, the Summer Food Service Program, and Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), both locally and nationally. Christine graduated from Oberlin College, where she studied American history and chemistry, and received her Master of Public Health Nutrition from NYU. Prior to joining NYCCAH, Christine worked to improve and increase access to child nutrition programs at WhyHunger and Slow Food USA.
Gina Bonilla, Program Manager, National Hunger Hotline
Gina Bonilla is the Program Manager for the USDA's National Hunger Hotline. Gina connects people around the country to their local food pantries, SNAP benefits office and other referrals for food assistance. Gina has nine years experience in outreach, management and nonprofits.
Charlene Caceres, Program Coordinator, National Hunger Hotline
Charlene joined the NYCCAH team in December 2014 where she serves as a Program Coordinator for the USDA National Hunger Hotline. Charlene is responsible for collecting and disseminating information about federal nutrition programs, emergency food providers, and public and private programs that improve the lives of low-income individuals and families contacting the Hotline. Prior to joining the NYCCAH team, Charlene was an Office Manager at Premier Health Care (YAI), a nonprofit organization that specializes in medical services for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Charlene graduated from Kaplan University with a degree in Human Services Administration and is currently a member of Toast Masters International Club. Charlene’s goal is to utilize her leadership skills and abilities to providing services to individuals and families in need.
Benson Chan, Benefits Access Associate
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Benson worked for the Chinese American Planning Council's (CPC) Chung Pak Day Care Center for 11 years as an Educator that provided Early Education for low income families from Manhattan's Chinatown. When Hurricane Sandy hit he wanted to do more for the residents of Chinatown. He joined University Settlement's Project Hope as a Crisis Counselor immediately after the storm. He provided immediate Crisis Counseling to individuals affected by Sandy utilizing Skills for Psychological Recovery (SPR) to help them recover and become more resilient when faced with crises. He also connected residents to their neighbors in order to build a stronger sense of community while assisting them in accessing disaster related services such as long term counseling, Disaster SNAP benefits, and applying for FEMA assistance.
Sheila Ramos-Corrales, Benefits Access Associate
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Sheila works on NYCCAH’s Nutritional Outreach Education Project (NOEP) and visits farmer's markets, Bronx supermarkets and community based organizations to prescreen clients for food stamp eligibility. She also assists clients with electronic food stamp applications and re-certifications as part of NYCCAH's Paperless Office System (POS) and Recertification Improvement Project (RIP).
Sheila attended Bronx Community College and Lehman College for Business Administration. She has worked for over 20 years in the nonprofit providing social services to the East Harlem community. Prior to working at NYCCAH, she worked at the Yorkville Common Pantry doing Single Stop services and administrative / secretarial duties for the Executive Director and Board of Directors.
Amanda Cowgill, Director, National AmeriCorps VISTA Program
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Amanda Cowgill is Director of the Anti-Hunger and Opportunity Empowerment Corps, a national AmeriCorps VISTA project in conjunction with the US Dept. of Agriculture and the Corporation for National and Community Service. She directly oversees one AmeriCorps VISTA leader and daily strategic operation of 17 host sites with a total of 28 VISTA members working towards capacity building efforts around benefits outreach, fund development and volunteer generation.
Amanda is a former AmeriCorps member with the American Red Cross and VISTA Leader with the Ohio Community Service Council. As the AmeriCorps VISTA Program Coordinator with the Ohio Association of Second Harvest Foodbanks, she managed a full time anti-hunger and anti-poverty program of 74 members and 5 VISTA leaders and during peak season, a 100 member AmeriCorps VISTA Summer Associate project working with the Summer Feeding Site Program.
Miguelina Diaz, Benefits Access Associate
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Miguelina is part of the Benefit Access Team in NYCCAH. She dedicates the majority of her time to helping clients successfully complete the process of applying and recertifying for SNAP / Food Stamps benefits, ensuring that the correct amount of benefits are received in a timely manner. She also conducts outreach and pre-screenings at community-based locations, informing people of their potential eligibility for SNAP benefits.
Miguelina received her B.S. in Accounting from Hunter College. Prior to working at NYCCAH, she worked for the NYC Dept. of Health and Mental Hygiene as a program assistant in an effort to increase healthier food access in corner stores. This included encouraging residents to demand healthier food in low income neighborhoods throughout the South Bronx and in East and Central Harlem.
Victoria Dumbuya, Associate Director, National AmeriCorps VISTA Program
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Victoria Dumbuya manages the Coalition’s AmeriCorps*State program. In this capacity, she is responsible for managing this program which places 26 full- and part-time members at soup kitchens, food pantries, and anti-poverty organizations throughout New York City. She joined the Coalition in Fall 2006.
A graduate of Rutgers University, Victoria previously served as an AmeriCorps national service Team and Service Leader at Hands on Atlanta, a non-profit that coordinates tens of thousands of volunteers with service opportunities in over 400 organizations and schools throughout Atlanta, Georgia.
Denise Fernandez, NOEP Program Coordinator
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Denise is a member of NYCCAH's Nutrition Outreach and Education Program (NOEP) staff. NOEP offers free and confidential services to connect hungry New Yorkers with nutrition assistance programs, especially food stamps. In an effort to reach eligible NYC residents, Denise travels through out the city to educate the diverse communities about ways to apply for and receive food stamps.
Denise graduated from Skidmore College with a major in Government and a minor in International Affairs. She worked in the private sector for 3 years before joining NYCCAH's Benefits Access team.
Ella Fowler, Associate Director, National AmeriCorps VISTA Program
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Ella Fowler is the Associate Director of NYCCAH's Anti-Hunger and Opportunity Corps Program. She assists in the daily strategic operations of the 114-member program working towards capacity building efforts around benefits outreach, fund development and volunteer generation.
Ella is a former VISTA Leader for the AHOC Program, serving in Denver, Colorado and overseeing the VISTAs placed in the Western States. She has also served two other VISTA terms in Petoskey, Michigan, where she oversaw her organization's Poverty Reduction Initiative and in Somers Point, New Jersey, where she oversaw her organization's marketing and communications. Ella graduated from Bowling Green State University with a Print Journalism Degree in 2010. She is originally from the beautiful town of Harbor Springs, Michigan.
Charlene Gonzalez, Benefits Access Associate
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Charlene joined NYCCAH’s Benefits Access Team in March 2014. She assists clients in submitting SNAP applications and recertifications, and performs mediation on their behalf when necessary. Charlene graduated from Hunter College with a Bachelor’s of Art in Psychology. She previously worked for the New York Common Pantry (NYCP) as a Bilingual Case Manager under the Help 365 program, where she screened clients for the pantry and assisted them with acquiring benefits and entitlements, such as SNAP, Medicaid and Social Security Supplemental Income, to name a few. She is devoted to reducing hunger and poverty throughout New York City while promoting dignity and independence.
Gerald Halpern, Chief Development Officer
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Gerald Halpern is Chief Development Officer for the New York City Coalition Against Hunger (NYCCAH), leading initiatives to secure individual, foundation, corporate, and planned gifts to support NYCCAH's fight against hunger and poverty. He has served as Executive Director of the Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet, Long Island Regional Director for the UJA-Federation of New York and Assistant Director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York. In business, Halpern has served as CEO of Virany International and as an officer of Bank Hapoalim. He holds an MBA from NYU's Stern School of Business and a Master of Social Work degree from the University of Maryland. Halpern has volunteered in nonprofit and municipal education, community planning, branding, and business development programs.
Kristian Harrington-Colón, Grants and Data Manager
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Kristian joined NYCCAH as a VISTA in 2010 and served his term of service supporting the Coalition's fundraising efforts. While continuing to support fundraising he took on the primary responsibility for updating and producing NYCCAH's Neighborhood Guides to Food and Assistance, expanding them to cover the entire city. As Grants and Data Manager, he works to organize and keep track of the Coalition's information, from fundraising records to the agencies included in our Guides. Kristian is bilingual English-Spanish and also assists with translation of materials and communications. He grew up in Bangkok and Mexico City and earned a double degree in international relations and Spanish-language literature from Brown University.
Erin Johnson, Benefits Access Associate
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As part of the Benefits Access Team, Erin manages the update, design, and distribution of the Neighborhood Guides to Food & Assistance, which help connect New Yorkers in need with food stamps, food pantries, and other free community resources.
Erin grew up outside of Chicago and received her BS in Design & Environmental Analysis at Cornell University. She is currently pursuing a master’s degree at NYU focusing on urban agriculture and sustainable community development and is a member of the Gowanus Canal Conservancy’s Volunteer Committee. Prior to NYCCAH, Erin worked at the NY chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council and spent a year in Israel working with asylum seekers.
Lisa Levy, Director of Policy, Advocacy, & Organizing
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Lisa Levy is the Director of Policy, Advocacy, & Organizing. In this position she advises all policy issues and manages all community organizing activities. As a legal services attorney, Lisa spent six years prior to coming to NYCCAH representing low income, disabled clients who were denied government benefits including SNAP, SSI, SSD, Medicaid, as well as in eviction and other proceedings. Lisa is a graduate of Case Western Reserve University Law School and received her Bachelor’s degree from SUNY Binghamton. She has professional and volunteer experience with other non-profit organizations as well as social justice and political campaigns, and is passionate about a variety of food and poverty related issues.
Fabio Martinez, Benefits Access Associate
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Fabio meets with clients at our community-based host agencies to submit electronic food stamps applications and recertifications on their behalf, utilizing the Paperless Office System (POS). He is also the lead trainer for new staff utilizing this process. Fabio has been with NYCCAH in that capacity for four years. Prior to joining NYCCAH, Fabio worked with a non-profit agency in the Bronx, where he managed a food pantry and soup kitchen and performed other administrative functions.
Amanda Melpolder, Director of Strategic Volunteerism
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Amanda Melpolder serves as Director of Strategic Volunteerism at NYCCAH. She has spent her career fighting for social justice and is passionate about food. She cut her political teeth in the office of the Majority Lead of the House of Representatives of the Connecticut General Assembly. She attended the Yale Women's Campaign School and has run several successful political campaigns. She came to New York for graduate school and just stayed after earning a Master's in Urban Policy Analysis and Management from the Robert J. Milano Graduate School a graduate program at the New School University. She has worked for several labor unions (SEIU, Local 32BJ and the National Writers Union, UAW Local 1981) advocacy organizations (the Innocence Project, Jewish Funds for Justice and others) and was a private investigator specialized in gun trafficking and international money laundering. Under her pseudonym Mia-Rut, she wrote as the Editor-in-Chief of the Jew and the Carrot, a blog focused on environmentally friendly food and cooking, and has been writing a book on food and Judaism. She is one of the founding Board Members of the egalitarian minyan Shir HaMaalot Brooklyn. Because of her love of food and cooking she attended the Chef’s Training Program at the Natural Gourmet Institute for Health & Culinary Arts. Since graduating from culinary school, she has been working as a personal chef and teaching cooking classes. She has also volunteered in homeless shelters, food kitchens and with the Brooklyn Food Coalition.
Carrette Perkins, Director of Farm Fresh CSAs & Information Technology
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Carrette Perkins directly manages NYCCAH’s Farm Fresh Initiative Program and the organization’s Capacity Building and Technology Projects. Carrette also manages the Coalition's Information Technology infrastructures.
With a B.A. from Queens College, CUNY, and M.A. from The University of California at Los Angeles, Carrette brings a range of experience to the Coalition. She came to NYCCAH directly from a 2 year service in the Peace Corps in Mongolia, where she was a Teacher Trainer and also taught English as a Foreign Language, and prior to that, she spent a year as an Americorps VISTA. Before venturing into the nonprofit field, Carrette worked as an Editor at the National Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) in their Corporate Communications department and as a Publisher's and Editorial Assistant at John Wiley and Sons.
Maria Remache, Program Coordinator, National Hunger Hotline
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Maria was born and raised in Ecuador. Since coming to the US, she attended Borough of Manhattan Community College and has worked for 11 years for different nonprofit organizations, including Sunnyside Community Services and Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty. Most of her experience has involved helping eligible NYC residents access the SNAP (food stamps) program. Maria joined NYCCAH in December 2013 and provides SNAP pre-screening and application assistance from several host locations in Queens.
Joshua Rivera, Policy, Advocacy & Organizing Associate, Craig Murphey Fellow
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J.O comes back to NYCCAH from serving as a VISTA Leader with the Governors Commission on Community Service in Denver, Colorado where he focused on early childhood literacy, disaster relief and overall program management. Prior to his VISTA Leader role, he was a VISTA member with NYCCAH's New York City-based program and a City Year Corps member in the South Bronx. J.O hopes to use his past experiences to be community organizer with NYCCAH.
Rasna Sethi, Policy, Advocacy, & Organizing Associate
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Rasna is one of the Policy, Advocacy, & Organizing Associate at NYCCAH. In this position, she is responsible helping develop and maintain the Food Action Board program, monitoring major policy and outreach developments related to NYCCAH’s work, and corresponding with elected officials, community organizations, and other leaders, individuals, and groups on issues related to hunger.
After completing two years of AmeriCorps service with NYCCAH, both as a AmeriCorps State member with the Benefits Access Team and AmeriCorps VISTA member with Cathedral Community Cares, she interned with the organizing department of the New York Hotel Trades Council and is currently a graduate student at the School of Public Affairs at Baruch College. She completed a dual degree in Communication and Economics from Rutgers University in 2009.
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Andrea Shapiro is NYCCAH's Volunteer Manager. She works to move volunteers beyond food drives and direct meal service around the holidays, in order to engage in more focused and effective activities to reduce hunger, such as to increase participation in federal nutrition assistant programs, with a particular focus on SNAP (formerly food stamps). Andres is a lifelong New Yorker with a lot of experience in social justice. She came to NYCCAH from working on a NYC campaign around the sharing economy. Andrea has also worked closely with the domestic workers rights movement both nationally and locally as part of Jews for Racial and Economic Justice (JFREJ). She has a Masters in Social Work specializing in Community Organizing from Silberman School of Social Work. Andrea has also been a Grace Paley Organizing Fellow and Rene Cassin Human Rights Fellow. Previously, she worked in the development department at the Metropolitan Opera. Andrea also has a passion for art and cooking.
George Spira, Senior Accountant
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George Spira is currently the Senior Accountant for the Coalition. He coordinates NYCCAH's administrative, financial, and office support work, processing a range of financial reports for federal, state and city offices. George also oversees the Coalition's operating budget and billing for various grants.
Prior to his work with the Coalition, George spent over thirty years in the finance sector. He has worked on various projects for the Food Bank for New York City as well as St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church-Community Ministry.
Vanna Valdez, Benefits Access Associate
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Vanna is a Benefits Outreach Worker for the New York City Hunger Free Communities Consortium project. Vanna began working at NYCCAH as the AmeriCorps Client Advocate for the Benefits Access team. Now as a Benefits Outreach Worker, she pre-screens clients for food stamp eligibility and works with partner agencies in the Bronx and Northern Manhattan. Before coming to NYCCAH, Vanna worked at Cathedral Community Cares in the AmeriCrops program and served as the Volunteer Manager.
Vanna graduated from Syracuse University with a Bachelor in Fine Arts. She was born and raised (and still lives) in the Bronx.
Marie A. Vincent, Benefits Access Associate
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Marie A. Vincent is part of the New York City Hunger Free Consortium. As the Consortium makes every effort to reduce hunger in New York City, Marie travels extensively throughout the five boroughs and acts as a liaison between community-based organizations, including food pantries, soup kitchens, health clinics, schools, etc. and various public and private programs. Marie has an extensive background in advocacy, quality assurance, community outreach, customer service, event planning, and public relations.
Marie has a Political Science degree with emphasis on International Relations and French from the University of Central Florida. Prior to working for NYCCAH, Marie demonstrated her dedication to public service by working as a domestic violence advocate and continues to do domestic violence workshops in her spare time. She also volunteers with UNICEF, World Food Programme and Amnesty International.
Jim Wengler, Director of Benefits Access
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Jim has been with NYCCAH since 2003, and currently serves as Director of Benefits Access. He manages projects that help connect low-income New Yorkers with the public nutrition benefits available to them, with a particular emphasis on SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program). Jim is a graduate of Rutgers University and has 20 years of experience in the social services field, previously working with agencies serving those affected by HIV/AIDS. He also spent a year in Nicaragua as a volunteer for an organization that served impoverished and orphaned children.
Alex Wojtowicz, Summer Associate Program Coordinator
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Alexis joined NYCCAH's Anti-Hunger and Opportunity Corps team to serve as the Summer Associate VISTA Program Coordinator. She manages relationships with over 50 partner sites, and recruits and manages 85 Summer Associate members. She also supports the rest of the AHOC team.
Prior to working for NYCCAH, Alexis interned on the Hill for Congresswoman Grace Meng. She attended the University of Maryland, where she also served as a student representative on the board of directors for MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger. Alexis served as the president of the Jewish Environmental and Food Justice group at Maryland. In conjunction with her presidency, she became a Social Justice Fellow at Maryland Hillel, running a series of successful panels on hunger and homelessness in Prince Georges' County. Previously, Alexis has worked at American Jewish World Service, scheduling lobby days and logistics for their annual summit, and as a canvasser for Planned Parenthood Federation of America, fundraising for reproductive health and abortion access.
Jadi Chapman, VISTA Leader
Jadi is a VISTA Leader for the Anti-Hunger and Opportunity Corps program, serving in Washington D.C. In addition to supporting VISTAs located in the Midwestern region of the U.S., Jadi helps increase the capacity of the 110-member program. She conducts trainings, mentors members and will soon assist in launching AHOC’s long awaited Alumni Network. Jadi attended Baylor University which culminated in a B.A. in anthropology. Upon graduation, she became an AHOC VISTA member with the Texas Hunger Initiative, focusing on food insecurity among seniors. Jadi is dedicated to social justice, interested in public policy, and loves wearing cowboy boots while eating some Texas barbecue.
Jacob Benson, VISTA Leader
Jacob joined the Anti-Hunger and Opportunity Corps team in November 2014 after serving his first VISTA term working to increase the technology capacity of Denver nonprofits. As an Anti-Hunger and Opportunity Corps VISTA Leader, Jacob supports VISTA members in Colorado, Oklahoma, and Texas. He also helps coordinate the program’s communications strategy. Jacob graduated from Kansas State University with a B.S. in political science and then left his home state of Kansas to work with nonprofits in Denver. He is dedicated to working for social justice by expanding opportunities, increasing autonomy, and decreasing inequality. In his free time, Jacob enjoys taking advantage of the amazing hiking, fishing, and other outdoor opportunities in Colorado.