Creating a New Generation of WITS Leadership

An Interview with Rachel Alkon, Associates Council Co-President

By: Melissa Neubart

January 2019

Where did you grow up?

Manhasset, Long Island

Where do you live now?

Upper West Side

What do you do for work?

I’m the Director of Public Affairs & Policy at Whole Foods Market

What’s your favorite part about your job?

That I spend every day on the issues I care about the most: the food system and the environment. It’s rewarding to focus on your quirky passions, like sustainable packaging and ingredient transparency, and have in-depth conversations with such knowledgeable colleagues who share these interests.

How (and when) did you hear about Wellness in the Schools?

More than a decade ago, my great aunt Marilyn Katz, a talented writer and academic, then in her late 70s, was one of WITS’ original volunteers. Through a program called Gray Matters, Marilyn advised WITS on communications, in the very early days. Years later, while studying Food Policy at New York University, I had the opportunity to join WITS, and build on Marilyn’s work.

What interested you about getting involved with Wellness in the Schools?

Kids spend thousands of hours in school and learn many of their lifelong behaviors from teachers, principals, and peers. We cannot always control what happens at home, but WITS is paving the way for better lifelong outcomes, by bringing kids real food, physical activity, and critical nutrition education. WITS is making schools healthier and happier environments. I can’t think of a better way to drive real long-term change.

Can you share a memory of Wellness in the Schools?

There are too many to count, but the absolute highlight was participating in a WITS Apple Lab with elementary school kids in the Bronx. WITS Chef Ricardo’s ability to teach nutrition to kids who were maybe 8 or 9 is remarkable. The kids soaked up his every word – they learned valuable knife-skills, grew to adore applesauce, and developed an appreciation for fresh food.

We’re lucky to have you as the President of WITS’ young professional group, which we call the Associates Council (AC). Can you share a bit about the development of the AC? How (and why) was it developed?

While at WITS, we often discussed expanding the WITS network to the next generation of leaders and soon-to-be parents. We soon discovered the WITS mission has great appeal to all generations. Over the past year, we’ve cultivated a group of more than 25 professionals, mostly in their 20 and 30s, interested in children’s health. By taking on pro-bono volunteer projects, from fundraising strategy and event management to PR and marketing support, the group is generously lending their professional skills to help WITS grow.

What makes you excited to be a part of the AC?

In partnership with my Co-President, Sydney Werber, we’ve created a new type of WITS volunteer experience – rather than just volunteering for an event, the Council is tackling some of WITS’ biggest strategic challenges and priorities, in partnership with WITS leadership and staff who are experts on the program, and is addressing the complex dynamics of working in schools. It’s an amazing learning opportunity, both for WITS and the Council Members.

Any interesting events the AC organized?

Bill Telepan led an intimate seafood-focused cooking class at ICE, exclusively for Council members. We walked away with new culinary skills, new friends, and of course, full stomachs. We’re planning more events like this for 2019.

If you’re interested in getting involved in the WITS Associates Council, please reach out! You can send Melissa Neubart, Director of Development + Partnerships, an email at