Dr. Akua Woolbright grew up on a small farm in rural Texas, nurtured by fresh fruits and vegetables from her grandmother’s garden. Her grandfather was a country Baptist pastor with a tireless commitment to service and supporting people’s positive life changes. She is inspired by his example as she works to help people transform their health—a path Akua sees as her spiritual calling.
With a PhD in Nutritional Science and an MA in Sociology, Akua brings a wide lens on individual and societal health issues to the Whole Cities Foundation. Her hands-on experience as a public health nutritionist includes serving as Breastfeeding Program Coordinator for the Washington, DC Department of Health; as an HIV/AIDS nutritionist and researcher at Howard University Hospital; and as a cooking instructor for The Cancer Project.
In 2009, Akua joined Whole Foods Market to help create and implement the company’s signature healthy eating program, Health Starts Here—blending a scientific, evidence-based approach with back-to-basics simplicity. She saw amazing transformations occur as team members went through the company-sponsored intensive health immersions led by doctors using only food as medicine. In Detroit, she directed the Whole Foods Market Let’s Talk Food Center, curating a series of free classes ranging from combating cravings and decoding food labels to eating for disease prevention and cooking vegan soul food.
At Whole Cities Foundation, Akua guides nutrition education at the national level, bringing her signature healthy eating program, Let's Talk Food, to residents in our focus cities.
Akua says, “To heal, you need a whole array of plant foods, a rainbow. ‘Whole foods, plant strong’ is my daily healthy eating mantra. Recite it in your mind when you go to the grocery store or to a restaurant. There’s no magic bullet or elixir—the beauty and power of food is in its simplicity.”
As Dianna completed her studies in schools across three continents, she came to see that food was central to the culture, economy, and health of every community. She developed a passion for healthy food access and a belief that systemic, sustainable change occurs when communities build on their own unique strengths.
Dianna completed her BA at New York University and her MBA at the University of Cape Town, where she focused on sustainable food systems, small enterprise growth, and inclusive business practices. She then worked with smallholder farmers, government, and food retailers in South Africa on inclusive procurement practices and designed growth strategies for a social enterprise with an innovative, efficient way of producing organic, non-GMO vegetables using 80% less water without soil or tools.
Dianna joined the Whole Cities team in January 2015. Her favorite part of her role is working collaboratively to continually improve Whole Cities’ support for the communities the foundation serves.
Annabel believes that one of the best ways to build community is to break bread together. In leading the creation of a sister city relationship between towns in Minnesota and Mexico, she witnessed people come together over food to learn language, share culture and make friends in their local and global communities.
Annabel earned her BA from Gustavus Adolphus College. Her passion for food justice grew from her study abroad experience in Hyderabad, India. There she spent time at an organization that equipped Dalit women with the resources and skills to become food sovereign. Through building social enterprises, women became pillars in their communities by selling seeds and crops to others in their village while eating well and making a living for their families.
Annabel is thrilled to be a part of the food justice movement in the U.S. and joined the Whole Cities team in February 2016. She is eager to join others in rethinking the current food system and expanding fresh, nutritious food access in all communities.
Nona is dedicated to expanding access to healthy food and nutrition education in communities across the United States. She is the Interim Executive Director for Whole Cities Foundation and continues as Executive Director of its sister organization, Whole Kids Foundation. She calls her life's work penance for the past working lives of her ancestors. “My grandfather on one side of the family owned an Italian restaurant, and my grandfather on the other side started a candy store. They put a lot of sugar and calories out in the world!”
Nona started her career in a conventional grocery store, in marketing and PR, before she found her way to organic specialty market chain Whole Foods Market. There, she headed the company’s foray into educating its customers about what children across the country were eating for lunch, and how it affected how they were performing in school. Response to the program was so successful that it became larger than her job description. So, in 2012 she went to the company’s powers that be and they voted to translate her work into Whole Kids Foundation, to provide schools with grants to start gardens and salad bars. Nona has been its fearless and passionate leader ever since.
She holds a BA in Advertising from the University of Texas at Austin.