Mel earned two Master's degrees: one in nutrition policy, the other in environmental engineering. He is a former Fulbright Fellow and has several years experience in the non-profit sector working on media relations, fundraising, and grassroots advocacy. At Upstream, Mel coordinated grassroots advocacy for the 2005 campaign to get junk food out of school and spearheaded the successful menu labeling initiative in Multnomah County. He is currently focused on farm to school and school garden policy, menu labeling , and health and climate change work.
Health Equity Coordinator
Claudia has a strong background in civic engagement and leading innovative community – building initiatives in racially and linguistically diverse neighborhoods. She has over eight years experience working with immigrant and communities of color and over six years experience with strategic planning, policy development and analysis. Her public sector experience includes community development work within the Seattle Mayor Nickel's office, constituent services within U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell's office, and other positions related to food policy, housing, education and literacy. Claudia holds a Master's degree in Public Administration from the University of Washington and a Bachelor's degree in English from Duke University. She is fluent in Spanish. When Claudia isn't working she enjoys reading, wine, traveling, exercising while pushing a stroller, dabbling in pottery, and spending time with her family.
Policy Manager, Food and School Health
Kasandra's role at Upstream focuses on food, healthy schools, and especially food at schools. She led the coalition that secured an additional $1 million per biennium from the legislature for Farm to School and School Garden grants to Oregon schools, coordinates Oregon's School Garden Summit, and helped secure "chronic absenteeism" as a key indicator for Oregon schools. She currently chairs the Healthy Kids Learn Better Coalition and is on the steering committee of the Oregon Farm to School and School Garden Network. She is a dedicated bicycle commuter, and spends her free time gardening, backpacking, and helping lead Depave, an organization she co-founded.
Policy Manager, Transportation and Land Use
Heidi earned her Master's of Urban and Regional Planning at Portland State University and her Master's of Public Health at Oregon Health & Science University, where she focused on health disparities. At Upstream, Heidi is the go-to staffer for all things transportation and land use related. Upstream works on active transportation policy at the intersection of social justice, public health, and the built environment to reduce health disparities and promote climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies.
Tia earned her PhD in Urban Studies with a dual concentration in Community Development and Community Health from Portland State University's School of Urban Studies and Planning. Her research efforts focus on healthy food environments, children's health, and ecosystem health. Recognized by the Oregon Public Health Association with an "emerging leader" award, Tia is passionate about working with communities to answer research questions that positively contribute to their lives.
Program Manager, Tobacco Prevention and Oral Health
Nafisa works collaboratively to reduce the endemic of tobacco use among minors, increase tobacco regulations in the retail environment, reform nicotine/e-cig regulations, provide educational information on the dangers of tobacco and increase access to oral health for children aged six months to five years old that are enrolled in licensed childcare programs in the tri-county area. Her work emphasizes policy and community based approaches. Prior to joining Upstream, Nafisa was the diversity and quality improvement coordinator for Multnomah County Health Department and has over 10 years of experience working to influence change and eliminate health disparities. As a multilingual individual who was born and raised in various African countries, Nafisa appreciates diversity and collaborative approaches to tackle systemic problems in healthcare.
Laura Heiser came on board as the Development Director for Upstream Public Health in Spring 2013. She brings over 20 years of fund raising experience with her. Laura specializes in building relationships with individual and corporate donors and has experience grant writing and organizing special events. She has served as the Development Director for several Portland-based organizations including Children First for Oregon, Habitat for Humanity, and St. Andrew Legal Clinic. She was also the Annual Fund Manager for a national women's organization called Women's Funding Network, now headquartered in San Francisco, and has raised funds for several other health and human service organizations in her home town of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Laura graduated with a BA in History from the University of Wisconsin - Madison and has taken several graduate level Nonprofit Management and Public Administrative classes at Portland State University. In her free time you can find Laura on her bike riding hundreds of miles to beautiful Pacific Northwest destinations.