Volunteer Leadership

Board of Directors

Michael Braverman

Board Chair

Michael Braverman has lived in East Hampton for most of his life and has deep roots in the community having started and built a real estate brokerage business with three offices, now part of Sotheby’s. As a journalist he has written a wine column for the East Hampton Star, hosted the TV broadcasts of Bridgehampton Polo, and until 2019 was senior editor-at-large of Hamptons Magazine. He has held board and officer positions on a number of local nonprofit organizations.

Debra Halpert

Board Vice Chair

Debra Halpert is the president and CEO of Monroe East Consulting, a marketing and branding activation company that creates, plans, and facilitates programs and initiatives with companies people, products, and services. M.E. creates initiatives and combines them with programming and philanthropic activities involving tastemakers, authors, artists, celebrities, and influencers. Based on five pillars, philanthropy, entertainment, real estate and home design, food and drink, and health and wellness, ME connects the dots to create activations and marketing programs to boost exposure and create ROI.

Cindi Crain

Board Secretary

Cindi Crain is a freelance journalist with extensive media and travel experience. She served on the board of directors of her family’s business-media empire, Crain Communications, for many years; founded the glossy Golf & Travel magazine; and earned a master’s degree from Northwestern's Medill School of Journalism. She lived in Kenya for 6 years where in 2001 she founded VirginBush Safaris, a conservation-minded safari company in East Africa which she continues to manage from the East End. Cindi also proudly serves on the Transgender and Gender Non-Binary Patient and Family Advisory Council at NYU Langone Health in New York City and serves as a board member of Goat on a Boat puppet theatre in Sag Harbor.

Dee Muma

Board Treasurer

A native Long Islander, Dee Muma grew up in Fort Salonga, Manhattan, and Putney, VT. As director of the Noyes Foundation for 25 years, she and her mother founded a hyper local, micro-foundation called the JED Fund. She moved to the East End to create a humane horse training and rehabilitation center. Over the years, Dee's horses have competed at all levels, including the the Olympics and the PanAm Games. She lives in Riverhead and is the owner of North Quarter, Centerville and West Point Farms, Dark Horse Restaurant, and Dark Horse Catering.

Vincent McGee

Board Member

Vincent McGee is a retired foundation and nonprofit executive, board member, and donor advisor. His particular interests are human rights, access to health, food, economics, and gender equity.

George Olsen

Board Member

George Olsen is the managing principal of New York City Regional Center LLC, a real estate and infrastructure financing company that he co-founded in 2007, and was a commercial and residential real estate developer and attorney for more than 25 years. Before graduating from Fordham Law School, he was a minority business representative at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. George served with the United States Marine Corps from 1967 to 1970, including a tour of duty as an infantry platoon and company commander in Vietnam; he was honorably discharged at the rank of captain. George has drawn on his development experience to help guide the development of EEFI’s Riverhead location.

Claudia Pilato

Board Member

Claudia Pilato is the founder and president of Pilato PR + Marketing Consultants, a new firm that brings strategic thinking and smart marketing skills to a diverse group of businesses and nonprofit organizations. In addition to her role as Co-Chair of The Retreat Board of Directors, she is a founding member and Board Chair of All For The East End, an organization that raises funds to support the NPO community of the five east end towns, currently focused on food insecurity and issues related to the pandemic. She and her husband live in East Hampton and New York City. Claudia has worked with EEFI in the last couple years to explore brand development and fundraising capacity.

Sheri Sandler

Board Member

Sheri Sandler has a deep passion for food that originates from her family’s history in the business of sourcing and selling fish. She has served on numerous nonprofit boards to promote the arts, as well as ensuring safety and empowerment for women and girls of all backgrounds. As a member of East End Food Institute's Board of Directors, Sheri lends her wide array of talents and interests to provide healthy local food to those in need, support local farms and food producers, and grow a network of supporters to help create a better local food system.

Mark Smith

Board Member

A native of the New York metropolitan area, Mark Smith is the managing partner of Honest Man Company based in East Hampton. The restaurant management company operates five unique concepts in the Hamptons including one of the most eponymous restaurants in the Hamptons, Nick & Toni’s, who pioneered the farm to table movement utilizing local bounty. Additional restaurants include: Rowdy Hall, a pub/bistro venture in East Hampton, La Fondita, a Mexican taqueria in Amagansett, Townline BBQ, an authentic BBQ joint in Sagaponack and Coche Comedor, a regional Mexican cuisine restaurant in Amagansett. Honest Man also operates Honest Catering producing memorable events in the Hamptons.

Mark-Antonio Smith

Board Member

Mark-Antonio Smith is a former educator who has taught in the elementary education setting for the past 20 years in Los Angeles, CA, and Brooklyn, NY. During this period, he was given the opportunity to integrate his experiences in agriculture to the school’s existing curriculum. Having taught in both traditional and progressive settings, his experiences have shaped his conviction that children learn more deeply through their own experiences. In 2014, he created The Nurtury For Kids, a nonprofit that strives to create an atmosphere that affords children the opportunity to choose how they interact with regenerative and sustainable agriculture while demonstrating that growing food is possible in many spaces.

Deborah Van Zijl

Board Member

Deborah Van Zijl currently works as a wealth management advisor. She had a lengthy career in banking in New York City and was a partner of a private consulting firm. Deborah earned an MBA from Wake Forest University School of Business and a BA in English from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Originally from North Carolina, her relatives still own an over 100-year-old farm where she experienced farm to table food production firsthand with her grandparents. She currently lives in Southampton, NY with her husband Rick and has two children.

Advisory Board

Isabel Carmichael

Advisory Board Member

Isabel became a "year-round summer person" about 25 years ago, having grown up in Europe and Manhattan and in Amagansett during summers. Her father invented a compost machine and both her parents grew vegetables, all things that have interested her ever since. A niece by marriage of John de Cuevas, she started baking his sourdough bread coincidentally just before the pandemic. She has worked at The East Hampton Star and done freelance copy editing projects over the years. Isabel is a trustee of the restored and renovated Amagansett Life-Saving Station Museum, a building her father had owned in 1966. After her father's passing in 2006, she and her siblings gave the building to the Town of Amagansett.

Scott Cullen

Advisory Board Member

Scott is the Executive Director of GRACE Communications Foundation, which develops innovative strategies to increase public awareness of issues created by our current industrial food system. GRACE works to educate consumers, advocates, and policy makers through initiatives like Meatless Monday, FoodPrint, and the Meatrix. Scott is an environmental attorney and has served as a member of the Board of Directors of the Environmental Grantmakers Association and the Sustainable Agriculture and Food System Funders Network. Presently, he is on the Steering Committee of the Global Alliance on the Future of Food as well as a Trustee of the Vermont Law School.

Nicholas Freudenberg

Advisory Board Member

Nicholas Freudenberg is Distinguished Professor of Public Health at the CUNY Graduate School of Public Health & Health Policy and Director of the CUNY Urban Food Policy Institute. His research examines the impact of food and social policies on urban food environments and health inequalities. Freudenberg is also founder and director of Healthy CUNY, a university-wide initiative to improve the health of CUNY’s students. Freudenberg was founder and first director of the CUNY School of Public Health’s Doctor of Public Health program. For the past 35 years, he has worked to plan, implement and evaluate health policies and programs to improve living conditions and reduce health inequalities in low income communities in New York City and elsewhere.

Brian Halweil

Advisory Board Member

Brian Halweil is a portfolio manager at Almanac Insights, where his investments focus on food and beverage products, and food chain technologies, that have a positive, transformative impact on how we eat. He is co-owner and founding editor of Edible Brooklyn, Edible East End, Edible Long Island and Edible Manhattan magazines. His writing has focused on organic farming, biotechnology, hunger, and rural communities. He is the author of Eat Here: Homegrown Pleasures in a Global Supermarket, and he lives in Sag Harbor, New York, where he and his family keep a home garden and raise oysters.

Amy Dorn Kopelan

Advisory Board Member

Amy Dorn Kopelan is Executive Producer, President and Founder of Bedlam Productions Inc., a leading media training, presentation coaching, and conference strategy company that has been training CEOs and senior leaders for over 25 years. Having launched her company in 1999, Amy’s clients range from leaders of Fortune 500 companies, universities, and entrepreneurial ventures to leaders in medicine, technology, and government. Over the last several months, Amy has worked with EEFI as a volunteer in the kitchen and has begun to provide branding and marketing advice, as well as executive coaching.

Elizabeth Norman

Advisory Board Member

Elizabeth Norman is a practicing architect with project management experience for global clients. After 20 years at Gensler Architects with Clients such as Bank of America and Capital Group Companies, she currently works private practice while spending more time at her home in East Hampton. In addition to her involvement with East End Food Institute, Elizabeth is also on the Family Advisory Board of ADAPT Community Network.

Stefanie Sacks

Advisory Board Member

Stefanie Sacks, MS, CNS, CDN is a nationally recognized Culinary Nutritionist and leading authority on eating to prevent and manage illness. She has her Masters of Science in Nutrition from Teachers College, Columbia University, is a Certified Nutrition Specialist, Certified Dietitian Nutritionist and is a graduate of the Natural Gourmet Institute for Health and Culinary Arts. Her book "What The Fork Are You Eating" is a must-read guide for anyone looking to improve food choice. In addition to being a frequent print, radio and television media guest expert, in 2017 Stefanie was inducted into Les Dames D'Escoffier, an international philanthropic organization of women leaders in the field of food, fine beverage and hospitality.

Peter Strugatz

Advisory Board Member

As a serial social entrepreneur, Peter serves as Board Chair to Victory Hemp Foods, a regenerative agriculture-based hemp food ingredient company. Peter previously served as adviser to Califia Farms, a mid-market plant-based beverage company, Ejido Verde, a pine resin reforestation company in Southern Mexico, and was adviser to Green Monday Ventures of Hong Kong investing in plant-based foods. Peter advises impact investors and social entrepreneurs, with a focus on social capital, strategy and implementation planning, shared leadership and building strategic relationships for revenue growth. He was co-founder and co-CEO of IceStone, which achieved Cradle to Cradle Gold and B Corp certifications. Peter has been living on the North and South forks for the last 40 years and is a member of the East Hampton Waterfront Advisory Committee where he sees a direct connection between storm surge threats from sea level rise and what we eat.


John de Cuevas


Aside from his interest in baking bread and cooking food grown in Amagansett, Mr. de Cuevas was involved as an educator in the East End food movement and was a generous contributor to the Peconic Land Trust and Quail Hill Farm. The place he most enjoyed living in was Amagansett. And he derived much satisfaction and joy from supporting not only food production projects but also environmental and climate change initiatives in a quiet way with his own resources. In 2010, he and several neighbors started the Amagansett Food Institute, now East End Food Institute.

Katie Baldwin & Amanda Merrow

Amanda Merrow and Katie Baldwin founded Amber Waves Farm in 2009. They now grow 250 varieties of organic fruits and vegetables, maintain a flock of 100 laying hens, and have revived the cultivation of organic wheat on the East End. They have also made education a central part of their mission and work with local schools to introduce children to the basics of farming. Amber Waves Farm offers a CSA membership and sells its products at local farmers markets.

Carissa Waechter

Carissa Waechter of Carissa'a Breads uses local whole wheat flour that she hand mills herself in the breads and other products she bakes. She also uses only fresh, local herbs and vegetables in her focaccias and pizzas. Carissa now operates a bakery and a restaurant, both in East Hampton.