Meet the Team
Staff & Board of Directors
Founder & Executive Director
Like a lot of people, Jenna's got a busy life and bustling household. She's a mom to a preschooler, is addicted to gardening, and can't stop tinkering in the kitchen. She knows what it's like to get a meal on the table in a flash, often with no plan and few ingredients. But with a bit of creativity, some pantry staples, and self-taught culinary skills, she knows how to feed her family a home-cooked, nutritious meal. Jenna's goal is to help others learn to do the same - to feed their families balanced, affordable and delicious meals.
Jenna's not actually a chef, and she makes sure everyone knows that. She feels that a lot of her ethos in this work comes from having to learn these skills herself. Budgeting, meal-planning, and cooking are a part of her life and she wants to show others that they can do it, too. Her background in writing center studies is the most surprising boon to the work she does now. She spent her career in upper level academia helping folks find confidence and agency in their voice, and she says she's pretty much doing the same thing now...except with food.
Barbara Ballentine, PhD, is an Associate Professor of Biology. Before joining WCU, Dr. Ballentine earned a BS in Biology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (1996), a MS in Zoology at Auburn University (2000) and a PhD in Biology at Duke University (2007). She worked as a post-doc at the University of Miami and the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center. Dr. Ballentine joined WCU in 2013.
Board President & Nutrition Expert
Nilofer is a Registered Dietician and the Clinical Nutrition Manager at Cherokee Indian Hospital in Cherokee, NC. She's dedicated her career to helping people make better food choices and her work with Uncomplicated Kitchen fits right in with her passion for nutritious eating.
Board Member & Marketing Guru
Dorian is the the founder of CatLadyBox (a subscription box for cat ladies and their cats) and a career-long marketing dork/genius/expert. She admittedly doesn't cook, which may sound odd coming from someone who is part of Uncomplicated Kitchen, but it’s actually perfect. She's known Jenna for more than 20 years, and when Jenna told her about starting Uncomplicated Kitchen, she was immediately able relate and see the need. She's excited to be part of this project to help making cooking easy, accessible, and fun for those who maybe don’t quite know how to fit healthy eating into their schedule or budget.
A Western Carolina University alumni holding BSW and BA in Arts degrees, Amelia brings her knowledge and skills of the human services and non-profit worlds to our organization. She was an Executive Director and Case Manager for a local nonprofit and currently is the Program Manager for another nonprofit. Mia has dedicated her entire adult life to helping people.
Local Food Systems
Jessica Mrugala moved to Jackson County NC in 2017 to serve as a FoodCorps AmeriCorps service member for the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. Jess taught gardening, cooking, and nutrition education to the Cherokee Central School District for two wonderful years, then transitioned to teach similar programming to preschoolers across the Qualla Boundary. She finished her Masters in Public Health through UNC Gillings School in Asheville and focused on the intersection of local food and healthy communities. She is now the Regional Area Specialized Agent in Local Foods with Cooperative Extension on the EmPOWERing Mountain Food Systems Grant. She is so thrilled to serve her community as a board member for Uncomplicated Kitchen!