senior fellows

Michael Fernandez

Michael Fernandez is Senior Fellow at the GW Sustainability Collaborative where his work focuses on food, agriculture and environmental policy. He was most recently Senior Director of Global Public Policy for Mars, Incorporated, where he was responsible for developing and managing global public policies across the company’s portfolio. Michael joined Mars in 2008 from the Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology, where he served first as Director of Science and then as Executive Director. Previous work includes Associate Administrator for the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service, Special Assistant to the Assistant Administrator at EPA’s Office of Prevention, Pesticides and Toxic Substances, and science and technology advisor to the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry. Michael received a Ph.D. in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from the University of Chicago and his undergraduate degree in biology from Princeton University.

Shannon Kenny

Shannon Kenny is a Visiting Scholar at GW, where her work focuses on reducing wasted food in the United States. Shannon is particularly interested in the role of consumer preferences and behaviors in driving food waste upstream (at supermarkets, restaurants, and farms) and at home.  Shannon served at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for fifteen years, most recently as the Principal Deputy Associate Administrator for Policy from 2011-2017.  While at EPA, Shannon also served as Transition Director for the Agency during the Obama-Trump Presidential transition.  Shannon previously worked for the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming and the House Energy and Commerce Committee, where she assisted then-Congressmen Edward Markey and Henry Waxman in negotiating and drafting comprehensive climate change legislation.  Shannon received a Master of Environmental Management in resource economics and policy from Duke University and her undergraduate degree in zoology from the University of Texas at Austin.

Suzanne Palmieri

Suzanne Palmieri joins the GW Food Institute following her tenure with USDA as Minister Counselor for Agriculture at US Mission for the United Nations in Rome where she worked with the Food and Agriculture Organization, World Food Program and International Fund for Agricultural Development on reducing global hunger. Previous to her time in Rome, Suzanne served in leadership positions at USDA from 2009 to 2016 as Chief of Staff to the Deputy Secretary and as Associate Administrator of the Foreign Agricultural Service where she coordinated USDA’s global food security efforts and trade facilitation work in developing countries.  She brings expertise in agricultural trade policy, multilateral development organizations, international food assistance and agricultural development.  Suzanne has also served at Peace Corps, US Agency for International Development, Department of State and U.S. Senate. She hails from Arkansas, graduated from Vassar College and earned her Master’s Degree in Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin.

Ruth Saunders

Ruth Saunders served for over ten years as Vice President Policy and Legislative Affairs, at the International Dairy Foods Association where she was responsible for policy development and communication in the areas of nutrition, dairy pricing and farm support, food safety and sustainability. Ruth formed collaborations with consumer organizations and worked to find policy solutions and support with public and private sector involvement.  For example, she created and led a Perishable Food Waste Coalition to promote education and best practices across multiple food and agriculture sectors.  Ruth joined IDFA in 2006 from the Office of Management and Budget’s Agriculture Branch where she pioneered the agency’s first job sharing position.   At OMB, Ruth was at the forefront of budget and policy analysis and planning for multiple U.S. Department of Agriculture programs including commodity and trade, food aid, forestry, conservation, marketing and food safety. Previous work includes Professional Staff Member for the House of Representatives Committee on Agriculture where she worked for then-Congressman Leon Panetta and for the late Congressman George Brown Chairman of the Subcommittee on Department Operations, Research and Foreign Agriculture.   Throughout her career, Ruth has worked on the development and implementation of five farm bills.  Ruth received a M.S. in agricultural economics from Cornell University and her undergraduate degree in community nutrition from the University of California at Davis.

Elanor Starmer

Elanor Starmer served for 6 years at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, most recently as Administrator of the Agricultural Marketing Service, a federal agency with over 4,000 employees and an operating budget of $2.75 billion. While at AMS, Elanor managed complex rulemaking, communications strategy and interaction with the Secretary, the White House and Congress on issues ranging from the national organic standards to GMO labeling and commodity (checkoff) board oversight. She also testified before U.S. House and Senate committees on policy and budgetary issues. Elanor focused on strengthening the agency’s workforce and ensuring that it is equipped to meet emerging needs in agriculture. For example, she created a permanent Local Food Systems Policy Advisor position to support USDA-wide efforts to serve this growing sector; brought egg producers and retailers together to chart a mutually-beneficial path to meet buyers’ demand for cage-free eggs; and signed historic agreements with Southern University and Gallaudet University to create a pipeline of diverse talent into AMS. In previous roles at USDA, Elanor supported Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan and coordinated the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative, and then served as Senior Advisor to Secretary Tom Vilsack. Prior to joining USDA, Elanor worked in the nonprofit sector and as a consultant on rural and agriculture issues in the United States and Latin America. She holds an M.S. from Tufts University’s Friedman School, an M.A. from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, and a B.A. from Brown. Originally from a small rural farming community in New Hampshire, she lives with her husband and son in northwest Washington, DC, where she serves on the board of her neighborhood civic association.

student fellows

Annabel Epstein

Annabel is a senior at GW majoring in Journalism and minoring in Sustainability. She grew up in Germany, in a family where love has always evolved around the kitchen table. Annabel loves to cook, and after interning at a DC food hub she realized that getting local, sustainably grown food at an affordable price is much harder than it should be. She was inspired to become a sustainability minor to better understand the problems of the American food system. Annabel has written for the food section of the Washington Post Express, and currently writes about the intersection of food and Judaism for the Jewish Food Experience. She can’t wait to start writing for the GW Food Institute this fall.

Christina Sivulka

Christina is a rising senior at GW majoring in environmental studies and minoring in sustainability and communications. Her passion for sustainable agriculture was seeded after taking The Sustainable Plate with Professor Merrigan, and grew during her study abroad in Italy where she worked on local farms, learning about Italian and American nutritional standards and food policies. During summer 2017, Christina will be working with The Environmental Defense Fund’s Ecosystems Program which strives to meet the growing needs for food, water, and infrastructure in ways that improve the environment and benefit the economy. She is delighted to be working with the Food Institute during her final undergrad year at GW.

Sage Wylie

Sage is a junior at GW majoring in public health with a minor in nutrition. She is very passionate about reducing food insecurity across the United States and improving health disparities through increased accessed to nutritious and sustainable food. Growing up in a farm town in Pennsylvania, Sage has always been interested and involved with bringing local food to family dinner tables and, in future endeavors, hopes to connect this sustainable local food movement with improved health. Sage is excited to continue learning about sustainable food agriculture during this school year as President of Green GW and as a Student Fellow at the Food Institute.


Sarah Bacharach

Sarah Bacharach is a sophomore at GW studying Environmental Studies and Public Health. She believes creating a more sustainable, resilient planet starts at our plates. Her interest in agricultural systems stems from growing up around a family of chefs combined with her passion for the outdoors. At GW, Sarah is an active member of the GroW Community Garden, serves as Director of Communication for Green GW, and is currently working with the Sigma Kappa house manager to implement the first compost system in GW Greek life housing. This summer she will be continuing her pursuit of making the world more sustainable by interning at the 100 Resilient Cities, specifically dealing with growing food security issues. This past year, the Food Institute has inspired her to be a more conscious consumer and she could not be more thrilled to serve as the 2017/18 ambassador.

Ana Blanco

Ana Blanco is a senior at the George Washington University studying Global Public Health and Environmental Studies and minoring in Sustainability. She has worked as an Environmental Technician, sampling air and soil, and as an outreach coordinator for Anacostia Riverkeeper, that aims to protect and restore the Anacostia River. Ana is interested in food and agriculture issues and hopes to continue her studies in environmental law.

Aubrey Moulton

Aubrey Moulton is a senior at GW majoring in public health and minoring in business administration.  She grew up on a flower farm in Connecticut where she learned about food security in her own community by growing fresh fruits and vegetables for local soup kitchens. Aubrey is passionate about increasing access to fresh foods and changing eating behaviors to create positive health outcomes for individuals and communities.

Lauren Petersil

Lauren Petersil is a senior in the Elliot School of International Affairs, concentrating in International Environmental Studies. Born and raised in California, Lauren has always had an interest in agriculture and sustainability. She recently spent a summer in Jordan studying water scarcity and researching innovations in water delivery systems. Although she is passionate about all-things related to food policy, she is especially interested in the resource strains generated in food packaging and transport.

previous student fellows

Sarah Pagan

Student Fellow 2016/17

Sarah graduated in 2017 with a major in Economics and minor in Sustainability. Her main interests lie at the intersection of food systems and behavioral economics, and more recently in sustainable agriculture after reading Dan Barber’s The Third Plate. During her time with the Food Institute she researched how milking robots alleviate the constraints of traditional dairy farming, and worked on the National Young Farmers Coalition survey data analysis.

Isabelle “Izzy” Moody

Student Fellow 2016/17

Izzy Moody ’19 has a zeal for sustainable agriculture. Her passion for all things food-related stems from her summers spent working on organic farms and gardens, and establishing an on-site compost system for her high school in Vermont. At GW, Izzy continues to garden and celebrate sustainably sourced food as Co-President and an active member of the GroW Community. Izzy milked goats and harvested vegetables as a WWOOFer in France during the summer of her sophomore year, and is participating in the School for International Training’s semester abroad program in Malawi, India, Italy and the US to study food security in fall of 2017. Izzy also serves on the Sustainability Advisory Council for the GW Sustainability Collaborative.

Kayla Williams

Student Fellow for the Sustainability Collaborative 2016/17

Kayla Williams graduated in 2017 with a major in sociology and a minor in creative writing. She hopes to increase access to fresh, affordable, and fair food for all Americans while propelling a culture of symbiotic relationships with farmers, consumers, and the land. At GW, Kayla was an active member of the Food Justice Alliance and GroW Garden. She also managed the GroW Community Garden and worked as a photographer for the Multicultural Student Services Center.