About GRACE Communications Foundation

GRACE Communications Foundation develops innovative strategies to increase public awareness of the critical environmental and public health issues created by our current industrial food system, and to advocate for more sustainable alternatives.

By building partnerships and mobilizing philanthropic resources, we promote consumer actions and public policies that support sustainable food production and embrace the complex interconnections of food, water and energy.

Helaine Lerner

President, GRACE Communications Foundation (GCF)

Helaine Lerner, a longtime environmental advocate, founded GRACE to communicate and address the environmental and health problems with our present industrial food system. In recent years, GRACE has been organizing philanthropic partners to help develop pilot projects at non-profits and universities to provide solutions. Helaine also sits on the board of the New Tamarind Foundation, which supports a wide range of programs in nursing, social services, integrative medicine and public health. She also works closely with her husband Sid Lerner, founder and chairman of The Monday Campaigns, dedicated to global public health promotion.

Scott Cullen

Executive Director, GRACE Communications Foundation

Scott Cullen is the Executive Director at GRACE Communications Foundation. He is also an environmental attorney and previously worked on Coastal and Marine conservation issues with the Nature Conservancy and on energy issues with various non-profits. Scott has also served on several county, state and federal advisory committees and is a member of the Board of Directors of the Environmental Grantmakers Association and the Sustainable Agriculture and Food System Funders Network as well as the Vermont Law School Environmental Advisory Board.

Gabrielle Blavatsky

Senior Research and Policy Analyst

Gabrielle Blavatsky is a senior research and policy analyst for GRACE, where she writes about and researches food and agriculture issues, promotes program initiatives and contributes to strategy development and execution. Before joining GRACE, she was the policy associate at Wholesome Wave and head researcher on NYC Council Speaker Christine Quinn's FoodWorks initiative. She began her work in the food policy arena in 2008 as farmers' market manager at GrowNYC. She holds a MPA in Public and Non-Profit Management and Policy from New York University and BAs in Political Science and Sociology from University of California, Davis. Originally from San Francisco, Gabrielle now lives in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn.

Weiling Fu

Lead Web Designer

Weiling Fu is the lead designer for the GRACE Communications Foundation website, and has designed many of our major projects and sites over the years, including the GRACE Water footprint Calculator, The Meatrix and Eat Well Guide, as well as videos, animations, reports, brochures, and other collateral materials. Weiling also works on GRACE web and print project collaborations with outside organizations.

Peter Hanlon

Deputy Director of Programs

Peter Hanlon is deputy director of programs for the GRACE Communications Foundation. He assists the director of programs in leading GRACE's programmatic work and staff and helps to ensure that the projects are cohesive, strategic and effectively implemented. Peter works on issues including the food, water and energy nexus, water footprinting and sustainable seafood. He writes reports, creates multimedia content and is a regular contributor to GRACE's Ecocentric blog. Peter has been published in Huffington Post, Civil Eats, Grist, AlterNet and EcoWatch. Prior to GRACE, Peter worked on coastal policy, watershed management, land use planning and public outreach at the Massachusetts Bays National Estuary Program and Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management. Peter received an MA in Marine Affairs from the University of Rhode Island and a BA in Geography from the University of New Hampshire. He sometimes forces himself awake before dawn so he can take a long, groggy subway ride to the beach to surf.

Leslie Hatfield

Senior Partnership and Outreach Advisor

Leslie Hatfield is the senior partnership and outreach advisor at GRACE Communications Foundation, where she advises on communications matters and collaborates with like-minded organizations on the development and refinement of external communications. Leslie has contributed to The Huffington Post, EcoWatch, Alternet, Edible Hudson Valley, Acres USA and others, and served as lead author of the publication Cultivating the Web: High Tech Tools for the Sustainable Food Movement. Leslie earned her BA from The Evergreen State College, and her MA in Public Communication from American University. Every few years, she teaches a masters level food policy elective at The Evergreen State College. Leslie loves to travel but hates her carbon footprint.

Kate Johnson

Communications and Marketing Coordinator

Kate Johnson is the Communications and Marketing Coordinator at GRACE Communications Foundation. Her interest in sustainable food systems emerged while earning a BA in Environmental Studies from Skidmore College, with a concentration in environmental health and food systems policy. While at Skidmore, Kate focused her efforts in forging connections between local farmers and the College dining services in order to incorporate more local and sustainable food into the College's dining hall. Prior to GRACE, Kate worked at the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation, focusing on the Community Parks Initiative, which aimed to ensure equitable access to open space for all New Yorkers. Outside of work, Kate is inspired by well-constructed breakfast sandwiches, public transportation and the Atlantic Ocean.

Robin Madel

Senior Research and Policy Analyst

Robin Madel works on water and waste issues and the food-water-energy nexus. Robin produces reports and multimedia content and is a regular contributor to GRACE's Ecocentric blog. She has been published in Huffington Post, AlterNet and Grist. Prior to GRACE, Robin worked as a Recording Secretary and Research Assistant for the city of Boulder Public Works Water and Transportation Departments and as a Project Manager at Rocky Flats Environmental Technology Site, managing treatability studies and site cleanup projects. Robin received an MS in Environmental Science and Engineering from the Colorado School of Mines, a BS in Civil Engineering and a BA in Geological Sciences - both from the University of Colorado at Boulder and she recently completed a Certificate in Journalism from New York University. She is an avid photographer who increasingly shoots food, water and energy sustainability topics and she's also an actor, so she's usually not too far away from a camera of some sort.

Kai Olson-Sawyer

Senior Research and Policy Analyst

Kai Olson-Sawyer works on the food-water-energy nexus, water footprinting and surface and groundwater resource protection and management. Kai produces and writes reports, and creates multimedia content and is a regular contributor to GRACE's Ecocentric blog. His work has been published in Huffington Post, Civil Eats, Grist, EcoWatch and AlterNet. Prior to GRACE, Kai was a Programs Assistant and Assistant Editor at the World Forestry Center in Portland, Oregon and was a Researcher with NYC Apollo Alliance. Kai received an MA in Sociology with an environmental focus from The New School for Social Research, and a BA in English from Earlham College. He holds the Water Footprint Network's "Certificate of the Global Water Footprint Standard." His body is composed of 60 percent water.

Kyle Rabin

Director of Programs

Kyle Rabin is director of programs at GRACE Communications Foundation. He is responsible for the coordination and operations of the foundation's ongoing programs and plays a key role in planning, organizing, staffing and leading a variety of program initiatives. His interest and expertise are in the areas of clean energy, water resource protection and the food-water-energy nexus. He is a regular contributor to GRACE's Ecocentric blog and has been published in the New York Times, Newsday, the Huffington Post, Civil Eats, AlterNet and Grist. He has been quoted in print media and has appeared as a guest on radio and television programs. He frequently speaks at state and national conferences. Prior to GRACE, Kyle was executive director at Friends of the Bay and was a senior policy analyst at Riverkeeper. He began his work in the environmental arena as an air and energy program associate at Environmental Advocates of New York. Kyle received an MS in Environmental Science from the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry and a BA in Environmental Studies from Binghamton University. Kyle and his family live in an energy efficient home, meeting half of their electricity needs with a rooftop solar electric system.

James Rose

Senior Research and Policy Analyst

James Rose works on renewable electricity and energy efficiency. James produces reports and multimedia content and is a regular contributor to GRACE's Ecocentric blog. He was co-author and project manager for The Network for New Energy Choices' award winning report on net metering and interconnection, "Freeing the Grid." Prior to GRACE, James interned at the United Nations, contributed to a report on alternative waste solutions for the NYC Economic Development Corporation, conducted wildlife research on the Western Bluebird and did research in a molecular biology laboratory. James received an MPA in Environmental Science and Policy from Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs and a BA in Biology from Earlham College. He enjoys running, gardening, reading and cooking for his family.

James Saracini

Communications Manager

James Saracini is the communications manager at GRACE, where he manages social media strategy and contributes to various communications projects. Having spent years helping manage small and large organizations' communications efforts, he's excited to work at the intersection of food and the environment. James also volunteers for community-building organizations, another cause he cares a lot about. He holds a BJ in Journalism and a BA in English from the University of Missouri. James' family owns a small farm in Missouri and he loves talking about stewardship and sustainability.

Megan Saynisch

Communications Director

As Communications Director, Megan Saynisch serves as the editor of Ecocentric, GRACE's blog, and oversees the foundation's other external messaging. She also works with journalists and bloggers to get stories about sustainability into the news. Before joining GRACE, Megan was a non-profit communications and operations consultant and freelance writer. She has worked for the New York Academy of Medicine, the New York City Department of Health and Public Hygiene and has consulted for numerous foundations and non-profits. She has a Grand Diploma in Culinary Arts from the French Culinary Institute (now the International Culinary Center), and BA in Anthropology from Rutgers with a focus on sustainable agriculture and culinary anthropology. An avid community gardener, composter and cook, Megan lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two young children, who all eat a lot of kale.

Jason Shaw

Director of Technology

Jason Shaw is the director of technology, responsible for leading a team of web design, graphic design and infrastructure support specialists. Jason devotes his time to both technical and strategic projects and has a background in website and mobile application development. He has delivered numerous digital media products for companies around the world, specializing in sports, news and entertainment content.

Sergei Shtrifan

Systems Administrator

Sergei Shtrifan oversees GRACE's internal IT infrastructure. As Systems Administrator he is responsible for the company's technology, including voice and data communications, support, security and service management. Sergei loves to help coworkers find the right answer to any technical question. His technology career began in 1998 and prior to GRACE he worked in the IT department at Right Management, a global talent management company. He has a Bachelor's degree in Mechanical Engineering from Moscow Polytechnic College. Sergei loves nature and enjoys being outdoors whether it's fishing, sailing or playing tennis. Most every morning from May to October, you'll find him taking a pre-work swim at Brighton Beach.

Katie Sweetman

Graphic Designer

Katie Sweetman is a graphic and web designer for many GRACE projects, and an occasional writer for our Ecocentric blog. She is the designer behind such GRACE projects as the Cultivating the Web booklet, Freeing the Grid, Reeling in New York's Aging Power Plants and Know The Nexus reports.