About Us

Working Towards a Better Tomorrow

Here at Nourishing Generations Educational Project, we see the value in everyone. We want to be a catalyst for positive change, and since our beginnings in 2011, we’ve been driven by the same ideas we initially founded our Non-Profit Organization upon support, empowerment, and progress. Learn more about our mission, our vision, and how we go about making the changes we want to see.

The Nourishing Generations Team

Karen Haralson | M.A., CNC

Karen is the Executive Director and Operations Coordinator for NG. She is a Certified Nutrition Consultant and Educator. She holds a Masters of Humanities and Leadership from New College of California and is a graduate of Bauman College of Holistic Nutrition and Culinary Arts in Santa Cruz, CA. Karen manages and coordinates all aspects of NG program preparation and implementation.

Rebecca Mastoris | CNC

Rebecca is a Certified Natural Chef and Certified Nutrition Educator and Consultant. Rebecca has been cooking professionally for over 40 years, as a chef, restaurant owner, and teacher. She was an instructor of Culinary Arts at Bauman College in Santa Cruz. She oversees all the NG cooking activities from recipe creation and testing to overall management of the cooking activities.

Holly Cagliero | CNC

Holly is a Certified Nutritional Consultant and a graduate of Bauman College.  She attended UC Santa Cruz and has a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry.  She is passionate about working with children and is experienced in this field from her work as a tutor and as a volunteer for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Santa Cruz County.

Mary Simkin | CNC

Mary is a Certified Therapeutic Natural Chef and a Bauman College Honors Graduate. Mary has been cooking for over 20 years, and currently is a Vegan/Vegetarian Natural Chef cooking for families in the Santa Cruz & Bay Area. Mary also has a BBA and over 20 years of experience in the Tech industry. 

Alexis Underwood | B.S.

Alexis graduated with a B.S. in Elementary Education from the University of Maryland and has been teaching children since 1972. She has lived in Santa Cruz since 1979 and has taught in the Live Oak School District since 1984. She is happy to share her enthusiasm for making healthy food choices and being healthy and fit.

Mario and Jessica Ballasteros

Mario and Jessica Ballesteros are the owners and operators of Ballesteros Catering. As a self-taught life-long chef, Mario has been in the kitchen since he was a young boy. Together with his wife, Jessica, they pursue their passion for good food and cooking and share their enthusiasm and skills with the children in our programs.

Lauren Galvez | B.A.

Lauren graduated with a degree in Psychology and has a passion for living a healthy lifestyle through nutritional education, physical fitness, and mental wellbeing. She has volunteered for many local nonprofits and currently leads our marketing team where she has designed and maintains our website and contributes to our blog, newsletter, and social media.

Leeann Gervais

Leeann has 35 years of restaurant experience, including work in a 5-star restaurant, a successful catering career, and as owner/operator of a restaurant in Lake Tahoe. Leeann joined NG in 2017. She is a valuable member of our Team who brings her culinary skills and generous heart to every class.

Skyler Hoffman | B.A.

Skyler joined NG in 2019 and is our lead chef. His love of cooking began as the “backstage kid” and later chef assistant at the Warfield Theater and The Fillmore, where his mother ran the catering for Bill Graham Presents. Skyler gained skills in seasonal cuisine as a sous chef at Rosso Winebar, a slow food restaurant in Santa Rosa, CA. He graduated Magna Cum Laude from UC Berkeley with a BA in Sociology. After losing his mother to cancer, Skyler worked with Ceres Community Project in Sebastopol, CA, and Teen Kitchen Project in Santa Cruz.

Elizabeth Link | CNC

Elizabeth is a Certified Natural Chef and Nutrition Educator/Consultant, receiving her training from Bauman College of Holistic Nutrition and Natural Culinary Arts in Santa Cruz, Ca. She is a personal chef, starting her business, Magnificent Meals in mid-2013, and works with a variety of clients, including those with cancer, diabetes, and auto-immune diseases. She is a California Credentialed Teacher and works as a nutritionist and chef with NG.

Kathy Cummins | CNC

Kathy is a Natural Chef, Certified Nutritional Educator, and Consultant. She was a lead instructor in the Therapeutic Chef program at Bauman College for over 13 yrs. She cooked for New Leaf Markets (now Wild Roots) for 10 yrs, organizing and creating healthy grab-n-go recipes. She has 30 yrs. experience as a private chef in the health care field and professional cooking experience for over 50 yrs. Kathy is an avid supporter/instructor of Natural Farming and container gardening.

The Nourishing Generations Board Members

Nancy Birang, B.S, MT (ASCP), NC

Nancy is the Board president, co-founder, and former executive director of NG. A Licensed Clinical Laboratory Scientist and a Board Certified Nutrition Consultant, she runs her own nutrition consulting firm in Los Gatos, CA. She is a former instructor at Bauman College of Holistic Nutrition and Culinary Arts and currently works at Cancercarepoint where she provides nutrition consultations, group talks, and food demos for individuals and families on the cancer journey.

Eileen O'Connor | RN, FNP

Eileen is a Registered Nurse/Family Nurse Practitioner. She brings over 40 years in healthcare to our board. Her clinical practice areas included ICU, Operating Room, gynecology/oncology, and community clinic family care. The later part of her career was focused on the evolving work in clinical quality measurement. She was responsible for clinical reporting and member survey operations for four healthcare organizations. Eileen served on various business group committees collaborating with large employers and providers to develop meaningful quality metrics in four states. Eileen brings an understanding of the impact of unhealthy eating and experience in measurement to NG.

Mario Ballasteros

Mario is the co-owner and operator, along with wife Jessica, of Ballesteros Catering. As a self-taught life-long chef, Mario has been in the kitchen since he was a young boy. We are fortunate to have him share his enthusiasm and skills with the children in our programs in his role as an NG chef. Mario brings to NG expertise in catering and benefit event production. 

Cathy Crystal | B. Ed, CNC

Cathy is the co-founder of Nourishing Generations and co-created the original NG curriculum. She has worked as a Holistic Practitioner for over 30 years as a Board Certified Nutrition Consultant, Herbalist, Sound Attunement Balance Practitioner & SoulCollage Practitioner. For twenty years, Cathy was Academic Manager, Curriculum Developer and Instructor for Bauman College of Holistic Nutrition and Culinary.

Mica Hall | Ph.D.

Mica holds a BA from Williamette University, MA, and Ph.D. from the University of Washington, and an M.S. in Public Administration from Golden Gate University. She is a career educator that believes the way to positive change is by educating children and supporting them in making healthy choices a way of life. Mica is an American Council on Exercise Certified Group Fitness Instructor and Fitness Nutrition Specialist.  

          Karen Haralson | M.A., CNC

 Karen is the Executive Director and Operations Coordinator for NG. She is a Certified Nutrition Consultant and Educator. She holds a Masters of Humanities and Leadership from New College of California an is a graduate of Bauman College of Holistic Nutrition and Culinary Arts in Santa Cruz, CA. Karen manages and coordinates all aspects of NG program preparation and implementation.

Johna Martin-Simon

Johna attended the school of Journalism at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, and received her degree in Industrial and Organizational Psychology with a Minor in Women’s Studies from San Jose State. She has had a 20-year career in Human Resources. Johna is distinguished in creating community programs benefiting women and children in crisis. She volunteers with local non-profits offering marketing and community outreach services.

The Nourishing Generations Advisory Board

Yeyen Gunawan

Jamie is a certified Chef de Cuisine, a member of the American Culinary Federation, a certified Food Safety Manager/instructor, a School Nutrition Specialist, and a graduate of USDA's Food Safety University.  He has served as the Chef de Cuisine of the University of California Santa Cruz and the Food Service Director for the Santa Cruz City Schools. His current project is Foodsmith, creating nutrient-rich meals for families and working adults.

Jamie Smith

Yeyen was the co-owner of the award-winning La Vie Organic Cafe in Santa Cruz. She co-founded Inner Fit Science providing wellness education to health gyms in Northern California. She is now the owner of La Vie Pure Food Collective, a farmers market business focusing on delicious wellness drinks and cleanses built on the power of probiotics to support digestive health and overall wellness.

Jan McCormack | BS, CRIM, CPIM, CNE

Jan has over 28 years of experience in Silicon Valley in various manufacturing industries in the area of Information technologies. She was on the board of directors of the National Brain Tumor Foundation/ Society from 1992 until 2009 and a member of NG’s Board from 2011-18.

Laurie Zerga

Laurie, a Strategic Business Advisor and founder of Chef-K®, provides culinary education that is the link to a longer healthier life.  Through Chef-K she’s trained almost 20,000 children and families over 15 years nationally.  Her primary clients are organizations that support youth and families in schools, Boys & Girls clubs, and military youth programs.  Chef-K material has been reviewed and included in resource libraries from USDA, SNAP-Ed, California Healthy Kids and After School Resource Centers, as well as other U.S. states and agencies. 

Our Mission

We believe in making eating and living healthy-fun! We teach nutrition and culinary education to all ages through our programs within Santa Cruz County.

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