AHF Elections

AHF Leadership Elections

It is a privilege to present this year’s candidates. Please read their candidate statements prior to placing your vote.

The elected candidates will serve their terms beginning January 1, 2025. The voting begins Wednesday, April 24th ends Monday, May 13th at 12:00 PM Eastern. 

Who is Eligible to Vote?

  • Operator Primary Contacts (each site membership receives 1 vote cast by the primary contact)
  • Retired members

An email will be sent to the primary contact for each site membership to cast their vote. If you are not a primary contact, please discuss your location’s vote with your primary contact.

If you are the primary contact for your location and you did not receive the email with the link to cast your vote, and you are the key contact for your institution or are a retired member, please email [email protected]. Please note that we will remove duplicate site votes. One site membership = 1 vote.

Business partners, educators, affiliates, and students are not eligible to vote.

Open Positions:

President-Elect (Slated)

    • Neal Lavender

Treasurer-Elect (Slated)

    • Ashleigh Pedersen

Secretary (Slated)

    • Angela O’Neill

(2 Open Positions) Director at Large

    • Erica Block
    • Seth Grant
    • David Hendricks
    • Toni Watkins

(2 Open Positions) Leadership Development Committee members

    • Kevin Steffes
    • Jill Wedeen
How to Get Involved in AHF Leadership:
To learn more about how to get involved in AHF leadership or become an AHF volunteer, visit our Board webpage or our Committee webpage. Joining the AHF Board of Directors typically requires previous committee volunteer work or involvement in an AHF chapter board. Volunteering is an incredible and unique experience that provides benefits to the Association and its members. It also helps our leaders strengthen their network and gain critical new leadership experiences. Join a committee today, nominate yourself for a position in the future, and help us push the self-operated industry forward!

Candidate Statements


Neal Lavender MHS, CDM, PHR

Executive Director
JPS Health Network
Fort Worth, TX

For more than 30 years, I have worked in food service management at a variety of academic medical centers across the country. I have been regarded one of the nation’s foremost leaders in healthcare food service, as evidenced by numerous industry awards and accomplishments. Some of these include the AHF Exemplary Leadership Award (2020), CBORD Visionary Award (2021), Golden Mitt Award (2023), as well as numerous recognitions, speaking engagements, and features in industry trade magazines.

Throughout the years, I have had the opportunity to be actively involved to support AHF on many levels.

Positions currently held:

  • AHF Board of Directors –Treasurer
  • AHF Texas Chapter Leadership
  • AHF Education Committee
  • AHF Finance Committee

Previous AHF experience:

  • AHF Director at Large (2020-2023)
  • AHF Treasurer-Elect (2023-2024)
  • AHF Membership Committee (2021 – 2023)
  • AHF Education Committee (2020 – 2021/Chair, 2019-2020)
  • AHF Texas Chapter / Marketing & Internet Content (2019-2023)
  • AHF Conference Speaker, Scottsdale, AZ (2022)
  • AHF Webinar Contributor (2021 – 2023)

I am currently the Executive Director of Food and Nutritional Services at JPS Health Network.  I have been at JPS Health Network since 2016.  JPS Health Network is a 582-bed acute care hospital in Fort Worth, Texas with a network which includes more than 46 community-based clinics, including 25+ school-based clinics.

I would be honored if you considered me for the AHF President-Elect.  This would be a lifetime achievement for me and I would do my very best. Thank you in advance for your consideration.      

Statement of Priorities

As President-Elect my focus will be around the AHF mission to continue advancement of the self-operated foodservice model. Keeping mind the members are what makes this organization, I will do this with their best interest at heart. Here is a list of my priorities:

  • To increase membership growth
  • Enhance the mentorship program for emerging leaders
  • Ensure financially viability in an ever-changing world
  • Support professional development and events for members
  • Foster strong networks between operators and our business partners


Ashleigh Pedersen RDN

VP of Culinary Services
Aegis Living
Bellevue, WA

Background Statement

As a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and a food service business leader, serving in positions that increase awareness and resources for others in the industry is invaluable. I have served in positions with AHF on the Education Committee – both as an operator and a vendor partner – in addition to hosting dietetic interns from various colleges and universities at Aegis Living – helping expand ideas around food service administration and raise awareness on the fiscal responsibilities of leaders. In my current role as VP of Culinary Services at Aegis Living, I’ve received the Aegis Employee of the Year Award, in addition to recognition at US Foods as the Top Business Solutions Specialist for three years. I would be honored to serve as Treasurer-Elect.

Statement of Priorities

If elected, my priorities will be to ensure AHF allocates resources effectively to support strategic initiatives and to uphold AHF’s fiscal viability. Thank you for the consideration and support.

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Angela O’Neill RD

Director Nutrition Services
Hunterdon Health
Flemington, NJ

Background Statement

Being a part of AHF National and our local AHF-NJ Chapter has been exciting and invaluable to my growth as a leader. It would be my pleasure to continue to serve and provide valuable knowledge to the association as the Secretary.

AHF National

  • 2024 Secretary
  • 2023 Director at Large
  • 2021-2022 Treasure Elect to Treasurer
  • 2020 Co-Chair of the Conference Planning Committee
  • Served on many AHF committees from 2011 – present

AHF-NJ Chapter

  • Served as an AHF-NJ Board Member 2011-present
    • AHF-NJ Chapter President- 2 terms
    • & 2021-AHF Chapter of the Year Award

Professional Recognition

  • 2022 Presidential Special Service Award
  • 2021 AHF Exemplary Leadership Award
  • 2016 AHF Partnership in Leadership Award Recipient
  • 2009 Hunterdon Medical Center’s Leadership Excellence Award

Statement of Priorities

AHF has personally provided me with a breadth of opportunities since inception and I am truly dedicated to its success and growth to remain the leading organization for self-op healthcare foodservice. Serving as the secretary would allow me to continue my journey contributing and supporting the mission and strategic plans while assuring all minutes recorded accurately. I consider AHF members extended family and being there for family is so important to me.

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Presented in alpha order. Please review all candidate statements and then cast your vote when you are ready using the links above or below. There are 2 open positions and 4 total candidates. 

Erica Block MS, RDN, LDN

Sr. Director of Food and Nutrition Services
Rush University Medical Center
Chicago, IL

Background Statement:

My love of healthcare foodservice started as a student working at a hospital delivering patient trays.  My work ethic can do spirit, and desire to learn has allowed me to grow in foodservice leadership positions over the past 20 years.  These characteristics will allow me to be a strong advocate for our members.   I am a change driver and continually look for ways to raise the bar.  

Association Positions currently held:

  • AHF Board of Directors
  • AHF Illinois Chapter Board of Directors
  • Self-Operated Committee

Other AHF participation:

  • AHF 2024 National Conference Speaker- “Malnutrition and Healthcare Foodservice: What Role Do We Play?
  • AHF Awards Committee
  • State of the Industry Committee
  • AHF Midwest Planning Committee
  • AHF Spotlight Award 2021

Other contributions to professional organizations include:

  • AND MFNS DPG Nominating Chair-Elect
  • IFMA Healthcare Leadership Council
  • General Mills Advisory Board
  • RUSH Team of the Year 2021
  • Food Management Magazine Best Concept Award-2021
  • Instructor, RUSH University

Statement of Priorities:

AHF has provided me with an opportunity to feel connected to like-minded foodservice professionals.  I was humbled and honored the last year and a half to represent the members as a director in this vibrant community of superstars.  My priorities would be to support our membership through focus on growth of the local chapters and sharing the AHF vision to those in the industry that may not know the opportunities self-operation provides.  I am committed to helping AHF flourish so that we can continue to provide exceptional value to our members and the customers we serve. 

Seth Grant CDM, CFPP

Director of Food and Nutrition
Damar Services
Indianapolis, IN

Background Statement:

Raised in a family of restaurateurs, providing amazing food and service to others is something that has been important to me for all my life. Choosing a career in foodservice was no accident, and has allowed me to fulfill my passion for over 20 years, having moved from higher education to healthcare foodservice. I have served and been involved with AHF in the following capacities:

  • AHF Conference Planning Chair
  • AHF Conference Planning Committee
  • AHF Leadership Development Committee
  • 2021-2023 AHF Chapter President
  • AHF Partnership in Leadership Award- 2021
  • AHF Spotlight Award- 2019

Additionally, I have served as an appointed Commissioner for Indiana Grown, received Foodservice Operation of the Year from FSD Magazine in 2019, named “Rising Star” by FSD in 2019, and served on the Board of Directors for Meals on Wheels of Central Indiana from 2017-2019.

AHF has provided me with so many opportunities to network, discuss challenges while finding solutions, and really understand that we are all facing some of the same challenges every day. I have met many great people at AHF conferences, found new products and vendors, and made many memories that will last a lifetime. I truly believe in self-operated foodservice and in the mission of AHF, and it would be my honor to serve as a Director at Large!

Priority Statement:

While AHF continues to be a phenomenal resource for self-operated foodservice, not every institution that is eligible to join is taking advantage of this fantastic organization. I would love to see our membership grow, and through advocacy and hard work as a Director at Large, I would help to create strategies that would grow our membership beyond the existing partners, and consider additional institutions that may not have always fit within the definition of a hospital or a long-term care facility, but could still benefit from participating in AHF. I will work hard to take on the issues we all face, bring us together in innovative ways to generate solutions, and will ensure we always have a lazy river at each conference!

David Hendricks CDM, CEC, CFPM

Director of Nutrition
HCA Florida – Palms of Pasadena Hospital
Saint Petersburg, FL

Background Statement:

Multi-unit leader for healthcare Food, Environmental, and Laundry Services, focused on patient and customer satisfaction. Experienced in both in-sourced and contract managed services along the continuum of care from acute care through assisted and independent living. Experience in design and operational implementation of foodservice production, kitchen and dining areas involving both renovation and new construction at multiple locations. 

 I have spent the last 27 years in healthcare and 18 years in professional foodservice organizations throughout the southeast and held several Executive Chef and Director Positions including being an instructor at Johnson and Wales University.

Currently held positions with AHF:

  • Current President of Florida Chapter of AHF
  • Chapter Advisory Board Member
  • State of the Industry Committee Member

Past/Current Offices Held:

  • Board Member of Legacy organization
  • President of American Culinary Federation
  • Chair of AHF National Education Committee
  • Co-Chair AHF National Awards Committee
  • Board member of Lealman Academy for Culinary Arts
  • Committee member of Relay for Life, United Way, and Junior Diabetes Foundation

Priority Statement:

Serving in professional organizations gives me great personal satisfaction; knowing that I can make a difference in the professional development of others. I have watched the AHF from its birth from the two legacy organizations and made it one of my personal goals to be more involved to support and help in its development. My priorities would be member development by reaching out to our members to be more involved with our National Organization. I believe education and mentoring are key to making people feel comfortable with stepping up to be involved with our growth and future success.


Antoinette (Toni) Watkins MS, RDN

System Director, Food Nutrition and Environmental Services
Riverside Health System 
Newport News, VA

Background Statement:

A Senior level director with  expertise in professional development, a passion for food and a heart for healthcare with a career span of over 30 years.  Received a BS from University of Texas Southwest Medical Center and MS from Boston University.  Advanced Certificate of Diversity Equity & Inclusion from Cornell University. 2021 IFMA Silver & Gold Plate Award Recipient. Previously from Dallas Texas  where she worked as  Director of Food, Nutrition & Conference Services for Texas Health Presbyterian Dallas.  Currently resides in  Williamsburg VA working for Riverside Health System as Director of Food, Nutrition, & Environmental Services for the past 9 years. 

Professional/Community Commitment: Since moving to Virginia and joining Riverside Health System, Toni has been committed to strategic value added initiatives and fostering team member growth and development in a self-operated environment.  She has been an advocate for  DEI initiatives within her organization as well as a proponent for enhancing communication in Food Service Operations. Toni has demonstrated her commitment to DEI as a Diversity Liaison and member of the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics  Diversity Committee (IDEA) as well as the Riverside System 2022-2024 Diversity Co-Chair.

Prior Positions Held:

  • 2010 President North AHF Chapter President
  • 2011 AHF National Program Co-Chair
  • 2013-2015 Director at Large
  • 2016-2017 Benchmarking & Reward & Recognition Committee
  • 2018-2020 Reward & Recognition Committee
  • 2021 Reward & Recognition Committee Chair
  • 2022 Culinary Committee

Priority Statement:

  • To continue the journey for the promotion of a Self-Operated Food Service Eco System.
  • Help to develop the tools for the sustained growth and development for our leadership.
  • Create an enhanced Food & Nutrition DEI communication platform for team member engagement and operational excellence.


Presented in alpha order. Please review all candidate statements and then cast your vote when you are ready using the links above or below. There are 2 open positions and 2 total candidates.

Kevin Steffes

Director – Food & Nutrition
Carle Health
Urbana, IL

Background Statement:

As a passionate advocate for self-operated healthcare foodservice excellence, I bring a wealth of experience to the Association for Healthcare Foodservice Leadership Development Committee. With over a decade in healthcare culinary management, I’ve championed innovative solutions to enhance patient satisfaction and nutritional outcomes. My commitment to continuous improvement aligns with the committee’s mission to cultivate leaders in this vital sector. Through collaboration and strategic vision, I aim to drive initiatives that empower professionals, foster growth, and elevate standards within our industry. In tandem with AHF, I hope to help shape the future of healthcare foodservice leadership.

Priority Statement:

As a member of the Leadership Development Committee, I will strive to connect with leaders throughout the membership of AHF. Working with the committee to shape a diverse slate of candidates that is representative of the membership as a whole, by industry segment, and by geographic region.


Jill Wedeen MPA, RDN

Assistant Director
Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital
New Brunswick, NJ

Background Statement:

Jill has worked in the Food Service industry for over 38 years.  She is the Assistant Director in the Food and Nutrition Department at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick, New Jersey, where she has been employed for the past 36 years.  She is a Registered Dietitian, and also has a private practice, counseling patients on various nutrition related health issues, including diabetes, cardiac and weight loss.

AHF National:

  • Served on the Awards Committee since 2019
  • Awards Committee Chair – 2022

AHF-NJ Chapter:

  • AHF-NJ Board Member since 2019.
  • AHF-NJ Chapter President – 2021

Professional Recognition:

  • 2018 RWJUH Culture of Kindness Award Recipient

Priority Statement:

AHF is a thriving organization, and I have been privileged to be a part of AHF for the past 5 years.  If I were elected to the Leadership Development committee, my priorities will be focused on searching for the future leaders of AHF, who will share their industry knowledge, while continuing to promote the AHF mission and vision.