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NC State Extension

Our Team

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Ben Chapman, PhD

Principal Investigator
Department Head, Professor & Extension Specialist

Dr. Ben Chapman is the department head of Agricultural and Human Sciences, professor, and director ofthe Safe Plates food safety extension and research program at North Carolina State University. Ben also provides leadership to the food sector, serving as Project Director for FoodCoVNET, a collective of food safety professionals conducting research and outreach around COVID-19 concerns in the food supply chain. Ben is the Co-Chair of STOP Foodborne Illness board of directors, an advocacy group for individuals affected by foodborne pathogens. Ben also co-hosts two podcasts, Food Safety Talk and Risky or Not as well as participates in social media. Find him at @benjaminchapman on Twitter.


Jayne McBurney, MS

Program Coordinator

Jayne has a BS in Family Relations and Human Development and an MS in Home Economics Education, completing both degrees at Ohio State University. She coordinates the federal nutrition education program Steps to Health, NC State’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education (SNAP-Ed). Jayne was a Social Media and Technology Associate for nutrition education programs last year, and a Family and Consumer Sciences Extension Agent with North Carolina Cooperative Extension for 10 years before joining Steps to Health.

When not at the office, Jayne enjoys traveling, time with her family, and using her skills and abilities in service projects.


Tony Benavente, MS

Data Analyst, Extension Associate

Tony joined the Department of Agricultural and Human Sciences in 2012 as the Data Analyst for the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP). In 2020, he joined the Steps to Health team. His main responsibilities include data management and preparing state and federal reports for both federal nutrition education programs.

Tony has a BS in Agriculture from the University of Guam and a Master’s in Extension Education from NC State University. Prior to working at NC State, Tony was the Interim Extension Director for the Northern Marianas College, the land grant institution in the US territory of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. As Director of Extension, part of his responsibility was to supervise the administration of EFNEP. He also was the first Director who brought SNAP-Ed funding to Extension.


Tammy Brunelle, MS, CHES 

Lead Food and Built Environments Extension Associate

Tammy Chase-Brunelle is the Steps to Health Lead Food and Built Environments Extension Associate for the Department of Agricultural and Human Sciences. Tammy works at the state level to lead initiatives for policy, system, and environmental (PSE) changes in communities. Tammy is excited to have recently moved back to NC from Hawaii where she was the SNAP-Ed Coordinator. As the SNAP-Ed Coordinator, Tammy worked with community partners to address healthy food access and physical activity for low-income communities throughout the state.

Growing up, Tammy developed a passion for nutrition and physical activity, and the impact culture and the environment have on it. This passion led Tammy to pursue a Bachelor of Science in Community Health from the University of North Carolina – Wilmington and a Master of Arts in Health Education from East Carolina University. Tammy is also a Certified Health Education Specialist and has worked in the public health field for over 10 years.

When not working, Tammy enjoys yoga, hiking, reading, and spending time with her husband, two cats, and a parakeet.


Amanda Butalla

Social Media and Marketing Extension Associate

Amanda has a passion for empowering people by connecting them with information that engages and entertains. In her role as Social Media and Marketing Associate, Amanda serves North Carolina by bringing Steps to Health resources directly to individuals, families, and communities. She is motivated to strengthen multi-platform communication as social media becomes an increasingly popular tool for education.

Amanda began her career with NC State Extension as an FCS agent in 2019, having completed her BS in Family and Consumer Sciences and BA in Spanish at the University of Wisconsin Stevens Point. She completed a Masters of Entrepreneurship in Innovation Leadership through Western Carolina University in 2024.

Amanda enjoys travel and exploring her creativity through photography and recipe development.

She says, “Remember to Like and Subscribe to our Steps to Health platforms!”






Kim Eshleman
Faith Community Liaison Lead

Steps to Health/Faithful Families Thriving Communities Program

Kim Eshleman as Faith Community Liaison for the Faithful Families Thriving Communities through the Steps to Health program. In her role at NC State, she has had the opportunity to work on a number of research and community outreach projects related to food, nutrition and health, and she has a deep interest and passion for work that will help to build and support healthy and thriving families and communities. She is currently obtaining her M.S. in Youth, Family and Community Sciences at NC State University.

Kim is a Raleigh native and continues to call the city home with her husband and three children. Family life keeps her busy, but she is an avid reader and loves travel, cooking, and gathering around a shared table with family and friends as often as possible.


Catherine Hill, MS, RDN, LDN

Nutrition Programs Manager

Catherine is the Nutrition Programs Manager for the Department of Agricultural & Human Sciences and works with Dinah E. Gore Teaching and Research Kitchens, Steps to Health, and EFNEP.

A Raleigh-native, Catherine earned her Bachelor of Science in Applied Nutrition from NC State University. She then completed her Master of Science in Nutrition and Dietetic Internship at Meredith College. She has previous experience in behavior modification strategies, patient education, curriculum development, and nutrition counseling for weight management and chronic disease prevention. She believes that nutrition is a key ingredient to an overall healthy lifestyle. In her free time, Catherine enjoys cooking, running with her beagle, and traveling with her husband.


Shannon Hoffman

Administrative Support Specialist

Shannon provides data entry, office support, and year-end reporting assistance for the Steps to Health program. She has a degree in Business Administration and a degree in Marketing.

Shannon has worked for several statewide non-profits and other industries, including the College of Veterinary Medicine. Her background is diverse, and her perspectives and ideas are unique and valuable to the team. In her spare time, she is either judging a horse show, riding her mules and donkeys in the mountains, or working on her farm.


Kyle Hood, MS 

Garden Collaborative Extension Associate 

Kyle works statewide with Extension Agents to build capacity using research- and practice-tested strategies to train agents on how to plan, implement, and evaluate PSE projects through gardening and garden education.

Kyle has a BS in Nutrition from Appalachian State University and an MS in Nutrition with a concentration in Community Food Security from Meredith College. Prior to joining the Steps to Health team, Kyle had many experiences in community nutrition including managing garden education programs.

When Kyle isn’t working he enjoys gardening, hiking, and raising pigs and chickens with his family.

Kathryn Hoy, PhD, RDN, LDN

Curriculum Development Extension Associate

Kathryn (Kate) has a PhD in Health Promotion, Education and Behavior from the University of South Carolina. Her doctoral work focused on the implementation and evaluation of food assistance programs. She completed her undergraduate education at Indiana University with a BS in Nutrition, a BS in Management, and a BS in Entrepreneurship and achieved her RDN/LDN credential at Bowling Green State University in 2011.

Kathryn worked for Cornell University and is an expert in behavioral economics interventions in the food environment. She has over 10 years of experience designing, implementing, and evaluating public health nutrition programs across the country and she has created both national and state-level nutrition curricula.

Kathryn is an avid sports fan and is a former competitive cyclist who is slowly getting back into endurance athletics after having her son in late 2018. She loves to spend time outside with her family, exploring new parks, playing video games, reading all genres, eating good food, and 1950’s fashion.


Caren Maloy, MS, RD, LDN

Food Bank and Food Pantry Extension Associate 

Caren works with Extension Agents across the state, assisting them with the development, implementation, and sustainability of food pantries. She provides the necessary training and technical assistance to meet the needs of the Extension Agents, as well as food pantry organizations.

Caren has over 30 years of clinical and food service experience in hospital and healthcare settings with leadership in planning, implementing, monitoring, and evaluating healthcare promotion and community-based nutrition education programs. Over the past eight years, Caren has focused on building community partnerships through direct education and PSE initiatives. She has also worked across NC with Extension Agents to build capacity using researched, evidenced-based, and practice-tested strategies from Steps to Health toolkits to train agents on how to plan, implement, and evaluate direct education and PSE projects.

Caren has a BS degree in Foods and Nutrition from Marymount College and an MS in Foods and Nutrition from Florida State University. In her spare time, Caren enjoys traveling, needlepoint, and reading.


NaTosha Thigpen

University Program Specialist – Grant Monitor

NaTosha is the Grant Monitor for the Steps to Health program, she manages all the financial aspects of the grant including reimbursements and invoices. She is instrumental in assuring that our bills are paid and that we are in compliance with the SNAP-Ed funder.
She has six years of experience working with Contracts & Grants and Sponsored Programs at Shaw University. She completed her BS in Business Administration while working, with a concentration in Accounting. Before her work at Shaw, she held positions in customer service, operations management, and processing student financial documents. She was also a volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) provider during her time at Shaw University.

Regional Nutrition Extension Associates (RNEAs)

The RNEAs provide programmatic supervision to EFNEP educators and technical assistance to county Cooperative Extension agents working on Policy, Systems, and Environmental change initiatives.

Emily Pendergrass, MS

Emily serves as the Regional Nutrition Extension Associates (RNEA) serving in Guilford, Randolph, Davidson, Montgomery, Moore, Lee, Harnett, Cumberland, Robeson, and Hoke counties.

Emily is passionate about serving the needs of families and youth in North Carolina. She received a Bachelor of Science degree in Biological Sciences with a concentration in Nutrition from NC State University and a Master of Science degree in Nutrition from Meredith College.

Stephanie McDonald – Murray, MPH

Stephanie supports educators and agents in the following counties: Bladen, Brunswick, Carteret, Columbus, Duplin, Greene, Jones, Lenoir, Onslow, New Hanover, Pender, Sampson, Wayne.

Stephanie has a BS in Community Health Education from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and a Master’s in Public Health from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Prior to working at NC State, Stephanie spent more than 10 years in the public health sector.

In her spare time, Stephanie enjoys cooking, spending time with family, and traveling.

Lauren Morris, RD, LDN

Lauren is a Regional Nutrition Extension Associate for Steps to Health and EFNEP at NC State and covers  Halifax, Northampton, Gates, Hertford, Nash, Edgecombe, Wilson, Franklin, and Johnson Counties. Lauren is a Licensed and Registered Dietitian and has a Master’s degree in Parks, Recreation, Tourism, and Sport Management from NC State University. She completed her undergraduate degree from East Carolina University in Nutrition and Dietetics.

Lauren’s previous work experience includes clinical and community nutrition as well as working directly with the communities in Halifax and Northampton County as a Steps to Health Nutrition Educator. She enjoys helping communities and organizations with policy, system, and environmental changes related to health and wellness. It is with her past experiences that she can truly connect with the need for nutrition education, healthy food access, and physical activity access.

When not working, Lauren enjoys spending her time with her family, trying new foods and local restaurants, and spending most of the summer on Lake Gaston.

Paula Norris

Paula is the Regional Nutrition Extension Associate for Wake, Durham, Orange, Chatham, Person, Warren, Alamance, Caswell, Granville, Rockingham, and Vance counties.

Born in Brazil,  Portuguese is Paula’s first language, in addition, she has also worked for several years in Central America where she learned Spanish. Paula uses her language skills and cultural knowledge to support Hispanic staff and community members.

Before becoming an RNEA in 2020, Paula worked as an EFNEP educator in Wake County for 5 years where she built strong relationships with community partners expanding the nutrition education program.

Paula earned her BS degree in Human Behavior and Family Science from East Carolina University and is finishing a Master’s Degree in Adult and Continuing Education at NC State University.

In her free time, Paula takes pleasure teaching group fitness classes, going for a hike with her Blue Heeler dog, and spending time with her backyard chickens.

Jacqueline L. Sugg, MS, RDN, LDN

Jackie works with 15 counties in the Northeast including Beaufort, Bertie, Camden, Chowan, Craven, Currituck, Dare, Hyde, Martin, Pamlico, Pasquotank, Perquimans, Pitt, Tyrell and Washington Counties.

Jackie received her Bachelor of Science at James Madison University. She completed her Dietetic Internship and received her Master’s of Science in Nutrition from East Carolina University. Prior to her current role, Jackie worked for over 16 years as a Public Health Nutritionist and facilitated initiatives focusing on health promotion and wellness, disease prevention and management, and breastfeeding support.

Written By

Jayne McBurney, N.C. Cooperative ExtensionJayne McBurneySteps to Health Program Coordinator Call Jayne Email Jayne Agricultural & Human Sciences
NC State Extension, NC State University
Page Last Updated: 3 weeks ago
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