Anna Hammond, Executive Director
Anna has been the architect of many successful educational programs for children and young adults, in both academic and community environments. She came to The Sylvia Center in 2009 with a mission to transform the way children eat by creating and implementing farm-to-table programs with a focus on the table – what happens to vegetables after we grow and harvest them. She is particularly interested in issues of access regarding food – who gets to eat what; good food as a choice, not a privilege; putting basic cooking skills back into children’s lives so that they can choose to eat well.
Most recently, Anna worked as a political speechwriter and community organizer in New York City and Rockland County. Prior positions include deputy director for education, programs, and public affairs at the Yale University Art Gallery (2003-2008), and director of writing services for the Museum of Modern Art (1997-2002). She has published numerous articles and essays, directed over a dozen public art projects, and co-written a non-fiction children’s book about a community project intended to integrate children with diverse backgrounds in a neighborhood in the South Bronx.
Ms. Hammond graduated from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor with a degree in classics and archaeology. She is A.B.D from University of Chicago, in South Asian Languages and Civilizations, and in 1995 earned an M.F.A. in painting from Hunter College, New York. She is currently studying for a certificate in biodynamic agriculture from the Pfeiffer Center.
Julie Cerny, Farm Education Director and Garden Manager
While working to create a more simple and sustainable lifestyle for herself, Julie finally discovered real food in 2007. She never felt better, and never looked back. Since then, she has been spending each year growing her own food, cooking whole foods with the seasons, living simply and healthfully, and working to create welcoming spaces where others can learn to do the same. With a B.S. from the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, and after several years of experience in the fields of outdoor education and farming, Julie joined The Sylvia Center in February 2011 as the Education Director and Garden Manager at Katchkie Farm.
“This is my dream job.” Julie loves teaching, learning, growing (and eating!) with The Sylvia Center.
Joyce Huang, Finance Director and Business Manager
Erika Lesser, Development Director
Erika comes to The Sylvia Center with over fifteen years of experience working in food and nonprofits, including a decade working for the international nonprofit Slow Food, where she started as a founding staffer of Slow Food USA in 2000. During a sabbatical year in Bra, Italy, the hometown and headquarters of Slow Food International, she helped open the University of Gastronomic Sciences. Erika returned to Slow Food USA in 2004 as Executive Director, developing national programs to defend biological and cultural food diversity; promote food education; and strengthen connections between farmers and consumers. More recently, she created and taught a food culture course for nutrition majors at Brooklyn College of the City University of New York. She has also served on the boards of the Community Food Security Coalition and Slow Food International.
Alongside her work with The Sylvia Center, Erika also consults with Urbane Development, a community development venture that cultivates innovative solutions to build dynamic neighborhoods and positively impact underserved communities, where she focuses on food ventures and local food economies.
A native of Boston, Erika earned a MA in Food Studies from New York University and a BA in Italian Studies and Art History from Brown University. Raised by classical musician parents for whom mealtime conversation meant talking about what to cook for the next meal, Erika spends most of her free time cooking with her wine importer husband and trying to keep up with their two young daughters’ appetites.
Whitney Reuling, Program Manager
Jenn So, Executive Assistant
Jenn started working at her parents’ restaurant at the age of 10 and has never known a time when food was not at the center of her life. Her earliest memories are of emulating her mother’s technique at a cold wok with dried beans and sharing scratch-made meals around the dinner table nightly. Since her gastronomic curiosity sparked so early on in life, she constantly strives to inspire others to create adventurous taste buds.
Jenn has explored many facets of the food world and has no plans of stopping. She has worked the line at a bistro, run the kitchen at a summer camp in Maine, interned at the Momofuku office in Manhattan, catered independent film shoots and eaten her way across America, Europe, Asia and Australia. Fascinated by the power of food to enrich lives and bring people together, she joined The Sylvia Center in May of 2012 as the Culinary Program Intern at Katchkie Farm. There, she spent the growing season teaching children, teens and adults how to cook simple and healthy meals with the vegetables they would harvest directly from the garden. When her internship ended she continued working with The Sylvia Center in New York City as a chef assistant and administrative assistant.
Jenn is a graduate of Wesleyan University, where she received her BA in Film Studies in 2010. She is currently pursuing her MA in Food Studies from NYU.
Nina Simmons, Senior Chef Instructor
Natasha Decena, Chef Instructor
Frances Hodges, Chef Instructor
Theresa Morelli, Chef Instructor
Derrika Cruickshank, Chef Assistant
Kelly Faust, Chef Assistant
Justina Petway, Chef Assistant
Joshua Kemp, Intern