Anahid Brakke

Executive Director


Anahid Brakke joined the San Diego Hunger Coalition as its Executive Director in January 2015. During her short tenure she has tripled the organization’s budget, doubled its staff and recruited ten new board members and two new advisory board members. Additionally, the Hunger Coalition has launched its School Meals Program, Hunger Free San Diego initiative and has assumed facilitation of the Hunger Advocacy Network and Summer Meals Task Force.

Named by San Diego community leaders as an “emerging leader to watch in 2015,” Anahid brings more than a decade of experience in San Diego’s philanthropic sector and is a leading voice in the community on hunger and poverty.  Her areas of focus have included hunger and the food system, senior issues, preventive healthcare and access to care, social equity, workforce development and family asset building. 

Prior to joining the Hunger Coalition, Anahid served as Director of Self-Sufficiency Programs for the Leichtag Foundation; Senior Program Officer for the Jewish Community Foundation; Director of Health and Human Services at The San Diego Foundation; and Program Officer at the Gary and Mary West Foundation. 

Anahid has held several past community leadership positions including serving as a founding member and executive committee member of the San Diego Food System Alliance, the founding chair of San Diego Grantmakers Food Funders Collaborative, the chair of San Diego Grantmakers Homelessness Working Group, an executive committee member for the Alliance for Regional Solutions, and as a member of United Way of San Diego’s Income Vision Council. She currently serves on the San Diego County Childhood Obesity Initiative’s Leadership Council. 

Her diverse background also includes financial analytics and data management, marketing and communications, and hospital and medical education program administration. Anahid received a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Wellesley College.

Learn more about Anahid’s leadership of the San Diego Hunger Coalition and efforts to end hunger in San Diego in the San Diego Union Tribune’s 2016 profile on her – Helping San Diegans get healthy food.


Heidi Gjertsen, Ph.D.

Research Director


Heidi Gjertsen, Ph.D., leads research that helps San Diego Hunger Coalition generate the foundational knowledge and data needed to build a San Diego County where no one has to go to bed hungry. Heidi investigates topics such as utilization of CalFresh and youth meal programs, in order to identify systemic barriers to food access and the most promising solutions to hunger. The results of this research are the backbone of Hunger Free San Diego, a regional collaborative planning effort to end hunger in our region.

Heidi brings a passion for improving lives through science and over a decade of international research experience to the San Diego Hunger Coalition. In her work with fishing and farming communities, she evaluated performance and impacts of conservation strategies and developed incentives and strategies for conservation and economic development. Heidi has trained and led international research teams throughout Southeast Asia and the South Pacific. As a contractor for the U.S. Department of Commerce, she assessed the cost effectiveness of domestic and international programs. Her work has been published in numerous peer-reviewed journals and reports. Heidi has also served on graduate student thesis committees and taught undergraduate and graduate courses at UC San Diego.

Heidi received her Ph.D. in Agricultural Economics from Cornell University and her Bachelor’s degree in Environment and Resource Studies from the University of Waterloo.

Deirdre Kleske

Director of Strategic Initiatives & Planning


Deirdre Kleske has more than a decade of experience supporting regional and statewide programs designed to advance evidence-based strategies and promising practices in the areas of school wellness and obesity prevention.  As Director of Strategic Initiatives & Planning, Deirdre leads the implementation and oversight of the San Diego Hunger Coalition’s strategic plan across all programs and departments. She has worked on high-profile grants that have resulted in public policy strides at both the state and local levels. Deirdre has extensive experience providing training and technical assistance to school districts and other stakeholders on the subject of school wellness policy implementation and assessment, and has participated on wellness committees in seven school districts in three Southern California counties.

Deirdre is a member of the Leadership Council of San Diego County Childhood Obesity Initiative and has served as a co-chair of the Initiative’s Schools and After-School Domain since its creation in 2006.  

In her most recent position with the County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency, Deirdre coordinated an initiative funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to reduce sodium in meals served at County facilities, schools, hospitals, and universities.

In a previous position with California Project LEAN, Deirdre served as a training and technical assistance advisor for The California Endowment’s Building Healthy Communities and Healthy Eating, Active Communities initiatives, as well as the Public Health Institute’s Community Transformation Grant-funded efforts to decrease access to sugary beverages and increase access to healthy beverages in rural counties throughout the state.

As graduates of San Diego State University, Deirdre, her husband, Andrew, and their two daughters are all “Aztecs for Life.” Deirdre enjoys surfing, gardening, bird-watching, and participating on a flyball team with one of her dogs.

Paloma Perez Bertrand, MPA

Hunger Free Kids Director


Paloma Perez Bertrand brings six years of experience in school nutrition programs to the San Diego Hunger Coalition in the role of Hunger Free Kids Director.  In this position, Paloma will focus on expanding federal nutrition programs by providing technical assistance and support to school food services and community partners to ensure all children have year-round access to healthy food.

Paloma previously served as Child Nutrition Director for San Ysidro School District, where she was committed to bridging the gap between students and their access to local foods, bringing locally sourced fresh fruits and vegetables to school salad bars, and becoming one of the first districts to serve local, sustainable fish for school lunch. She believes that educating students to make smarter food choices contributes to building a more equitable food and health system.

Her background shows her passion for nutrition, including her work as a nutrition educator with the Network for a Healthy California and Research Assistant for the Dietetics bilingual program at California Polytechnic State University.  

Paloma received her master’s in Public Administration from San Diego State University and a bachelor’s degree in Food Science & Nutrition from Cal Poly Pomona.

Quantesa Roberts, MA

CalFresh Manager


Quantesa joined the San Diego Hunger Coalition in September 2018. In her work as CalFresh Program Manager she supports efforts to increase access to CalFresh benefits in San Diego County, facilitates CalFresh Task Force meetings, and provides training and technical assistance to partner agencies.

Quantesa has a background in workforce development and public health. Prior to joining the San Diego Hunger Coalition, Quantesa worked at the North Carolina Department of Commerce as an Analyst for the NCWorks Commission where she conducted research related to workforce development, oversaw the business engagement committee, and managed various projects. She also worked at RTI International as a Public Health Analyst where she conducted research evaluations for several federal projects related to Medicare and Medicaid.

Quantesa received a Master of Arts in Government from Johns Hopkins University and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from Hendrix College.

Amanda Schultz Brochu, MPH

Senior Director of CalFresh and Advocacy


Amanda Schultz Brochu, MPH, leads the San Diego Hunger Coalition’s efforts to improve access to and utilization of the CalFresh program by San Diego County residents.  With a background in public health and capacity building, Amanda develops innovative partnerships to connect with San Diego’s most hard to reach food insecure populations.  In her work as CalFresh Outreach Director, Amanda convenes the CalFresh Task Force as well as a variety of working groups that focus on strategies to both increase outreach and improve county systems.  Amanda also represents the Hunger Coalition and its partners at the state level as a part of the Alliance to Transform CalFresh, serving as a conduit between community organizations and state level decision makers shaping CalFresh program policy.

Before joining the Hunger Coalition, Amanda was a Population Health Fellow at the University of Wisconsin’s Population Health Institute and later worked in international food security and community development in Central America.

Amanda received a master’s degree in public health from the University of Illinois at Chicago and a bachelor’s degree in psychology and Spanish from Lakeforest College.

Joe Shumate

Communications Officer


Joe Shumate spearheads the San Diego Hunger Coalition’s communications and public relations efforts. He works hand-in-hand with staff and program directors to ensure that the needs of San Diego’s vulnerable populations and the hard work of the city’s Hunger Awareness Community are accessible, understood, and heard by all. He also assists in SDHC’s resource development activities, with a focus on donor stewardship.

Before joining the Hunger Coalition, Joe worked for California Ballet Company for 9 years, where he was the Development Manager. There he was responsible for development, public relations, and digital marketing. Prior to that, he was a professional actor and member of Actor’s Equity Association.

Joe is currently pursuing a Master’s in Nonprofit Leadership and Management from the University of San Diego and has a bachelor’s degree in Dance and Drama from the University of California, Irvine.

Kelly Wilkinson, MA 

Operations Manager


Kelly Wilkinson leads the San Diego Hunger Coalition’s operational and administrative functions and governance support. A key part of her role is evaluating and supporting the organization’s programs to ensure they are effectively contributing to creating a hunger free San Diego. Kelly has a background is in employment services and workforce development for at-risk populations. She brings her passion for developing and implementing programs with the individual in mind to San Diego Hunger Coalition and uses her experience in curriculum development, program implementation, volunteer management, and community outreach to support the organization’s research, advocacy, and programs to fight hunger in our region.

Kelly holds a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from Vassar College and Master of Arts in Nonprofit Leadership and Management from University of San Diego. 

Caitlin Wright 

Administrative Coordinator


Caitlin Wright supports the San Diego Hunger Coalition’s administrative functions, organizational development, and fundraising, ensuring smooth operations as the organization grows. Caitlin has a background in development work across various countries; her passion has always been to help communities in need, wherever she may be. Raised in France, she brings a unique perspective to the organization after having worked in Ghana as a Peace Corps Health Educator. She uses her experience with community outreach, program management, cross-cultural communication, and coordination skills to support the smooth running of the organization's research, advocacy and education efforts.

Prior to the San Diego Hunger Coalition, Caitlin worked with the International Rescue Committee as a Youth Program Volunteer, spent two years in a quiet community in Ghana with the Peace Corps, and lived on a biodynamic farm in Nepal. Her first interest in food access and nutrition was sparked in Kenya during her 3-month field-study research on food security in the rural household.

Caitlin holds a Bachelor of Arts in International Development and Anthropology from McGill University in Montreal, Canada and is a certified yoga teacher.

Lucy Brakke 

Morale Officer

Lucy Brakke has been with the San Diego Hunger Coalition since January 2018, when she was adopted from a County animal shelter. As the Morale Officer, Lucy makes frequent visits to her colleagues throughout the day to ensure everyone is staying motivated and feeling appreciated. Lucy’s passion for food inspires her daily work to support the Hunger Coalition team and helps her to find patience when the team is working at high-intensity levels. Being her first job, Lucy looks forward to the professional development the team will provider her; she can already sit, lift a paw, and walk in a circle before getting a treat.