Food and Nutrition
Section Newsletter
Spring 2009

Message from the Chair

Beth Dixon, FNS ChairThis spring the Food and Nutrition Section has been very busy, reviewing abstracts and planning the program for the Annual Meeting, reviewing proposed policy statements related to nutrition and food, and nominating colleagues for leadership positions and the annual FNS awards. Thank you to everyone who participated in these activities.


We also had a very informative annual mid-year meeting in March at APHA headquarters in Washington, D.C. Margo Wootan from the Center for Science in the Public Interest spoke about current activities by the National Alliance for Nutrition & Activity (NANA); Gloria Stables spoke about activities by the ADA Public Health and Community Nutrition Practice Group; and Geraldine Henchy spoke about activities by the Food Research and Action Center. All three speakers emphasized the positive support for food and nutrition-related legislation by the new administration in Washington. We also had conversations with Dr. Benjamin, Dr. Polan, and Fran Atkinson from APHA. With shrinking budgets, membership recruitment and retention is a concern across all sections.


In other news, our section wrote letters of support for the establishment of the Breastfeeding Forum and the Physical Activity SPIG, and has begun working with the Food and Environment Working Group. We also successfully nominated one of our former chairs, Patti Risica, to the Action Board of APHA. Patti will be replacing Sue Foerster – congratulations, Patti, and thank you, Sue for your six (!) years of service in this important role. 


In addition to these activities, our section leadership is very interested in generating ways to encourage membership, especially among students (two of whom have written articles for this newsletter edition). We would also like contributions to our FNS Web site, especially in the e-communities and resources sections. Please e-mail with all thoughts and ideas. Contributions to the newsletter are always welcome, too (Sept. 14 is the deadline for the Fall issue).


I hope you enjoy this newsletter, with its special focus on global food issues, and have a wonderful summer.


Beth Dixon, Chair, FNS



Global Food Crisis in the Time of Uncertainty

Understanding how to define the global food crisis or even trying to understand when it began is challenging for a number of reasons.  Several years of drought, poor harvest, increased use of biofuels and depleting biofuel supplies, and reduced world food stores are all implicated in the increased cost of food that have lead to food shortages in a number of countries.  Globally, the hunger numbers have reached an all-time high of 963 million (14 percent); this number is the equivalent of one of every seven people.1  Stefan Steinberg reported that “since the start of 2006, the average world price for rice has risen by 217 percent, wheat by 136 percent, corn by 125 percent and soybeans by 107 percent.”2  On April 18, 2008, the New York Times reported that food fights broke out in Haiti, Egypt, and Burkina Faso and other sub-Saharan African countries due to food shortages.  In the United States, the annual “hunger” numbers, released every year in October/November by the USDA, have hovered around 11 – 12 percent, but there are indications that the 2008 numbers might be much higher.3  A new book by Sasha Abramsky, Breadline USA: The Hidden Scandal of American Hunger and How to Fix It, uses hunger as a lens to explore the issue of poverty in America.  With hunger and food shortage levels so high, why is obesity on the rise? Understanding the continuing paradox between hunger, food shortage, and obesity is simple and not simple; check out the  Stop the Hunger Web site to see the numbers.


In addition to hunger due to poverty, the issue of food safety has hit the front page.  On May 10, 2009, the New York Times reported that although our food supply is safer than ever, there have been a record number of food born outbreaks, from salmonella to E. coli. At last year’s APHA Annual Meeting, our Section talked about convening a new joint Food Security/Food Safety Committee to address issues of our food supply.  Our effort will help guide APHA to advocate for maintaining the nation’s safety net and how to improve issues of food safety.


The last five years have been filled with books on the bestseller list focused on the ills of the U.S. food supply such as Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser, Food Fight by Kelly Brownell, The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan, Poison on Our Plates: The Real Food Safety Problem in the United State by Michele Morrone, and just this past month The End of Overeating by David Kessler.  All of these books point out the concern of the U.S. food supply producing high fat, high sugar, highly processed and unsafe food.  Together these books point to the concern that our children will suffer the consequences of our standing by and watching as the food industry drives the decreasing availability of healthy food options.


The good news is that in the midst of the global food crisis (that of food shortage, poor food availability, faltering food safety, availability of optimally nutritious food, and financial constraints), we have some burgeoning movements that are gaining traction.  These include the whole foods movement and the sustainable agriculture and fair trade movement, as well as the locavore movement and increased availability of farmer’s markets.  Also, encouraging words of a healthy food supply and optimally nutritious food are becoming more common. Will this have any affect on the food crisis?   Best-selling books such as Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver; Slow Food Nation: Why Our Food Should Be Good, Clean, And Fair by Carlo Petrini; What to Eat by Marion Nestle; and In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan are inspiring. 

Will these movements that are gaining awareness and popularity impact the global food crisis?  Will these messages reach our most vulnerable populations?  What are public health nutritionists to do?  I think that we continue our efforts in the clinics, health departments, schools and communities.  We reach out when we can, advocate when called upon to do so and strengthen the safety nets that we have.  Consider joining a Food and Nutrition Section committee or being available when APHA needs a nutrition expert to help frame a nutrition-related policy issue, such as the one described in the following article.




APHA Policy to Address Global Food Crisis

In 2008, steep increases in the price of several food staples sent shocks around the world, caused rioting in several countries and left millions more people at high risk for hunger and malnutrition.  In the midst of this food crisis, the International Health Section drafted a policy statement for APHA that addressed many of the causal factors as well as potential solutions for preventing another such crisis.  The policy was approved at the 2008 Annual Meeting and will be resubmitted for the 2009 Annual Meeting for final approval; the policy is accessible on the APHA Web site.


The policy recommendations are focused on improving U.S. foreign assistance related to food aid as well strengthening the role of small hold farmers in developing countries so that increased food supplies can be bought and sold locally.  Specifically, it recommends long-term investments rather than short-term aid and that partnerships be developed with government and non-governmental organizations in poor countries in order to jointly develop projects.  The policy also recommends that the U.S. government and foundations increase their spending on agricultural development and reverse the downward funding trend of the past few years.  Finally, the policy calls on international financial institutions to alter current fiscal and monetary policies so that countries can maintain grain reserves as well as shore up social safety nets to prevent food shortages if another crisis arises.

A Comprehensive Approach to Address Malnutrition in Haiti

Traveling through Haiti on the back of a motorcycle to evaluate the success of a revolutionary poverty alleviation program was an eye-opening experience.  I spent hoMariah Lafleur measuring a childurs on the road traveling to the homes of more than 100 children whose mothers are in the Chemen Lavi Miyo (CLM), or Road to a Better Life, program through Fonkoze, a large microcredit institution that works throughout Haiti.  CLM provides education, training, one-on-one supervision and encouragement, confidence building, and services like health care and home repair for the poorest families in Haiti.  I was charged with evaluating the health and nutritional status of these children to see if their mothers’ participation in CLM was translating into health improvements in the home.   I was fortunate enough to work with Fonkoze case managers who tirelessly provide support to impoverished families in hopes of improving not only their economic situation, but also the quality of their lives, homes they live in, the food they eat, and the health of their children.


The families I visited were all grateful for the support provided through CLM, and I found that compared to a year ago, there was a decrease in children suffering from acute malnutrition and gastrointestinal illness in the children whose mothers had been participating in CLM.  We may not think of improving the economic situation of a child’s family when looking through the leHaitian mother and childns of preventing and treating malnutrition, but many of our traditional methods such as micronutrient supplements and clinics for managing acute malnutrition have yet to ameliorate hunger in developing countries because they are not truly addressing the root of the problem.  CLM is a shining example of an intervention that has been successful in improving malnutrition rates in the poorest of the poor through a comprehensive approach that provides the family with more options and resources; we need more innovative programs such as this one to truly address the crisis of hunger and malnutrition in our world today.


For more information on Fonkoze and Chemen Lavi Miyo, visit: and

World Food Programme Efficacy Trials of Ready to Use Foods

Through my UC-Berkeley MPH internship, I was fortunate enough to spend the summer of 2008 in Rome, Italy working at the headquarters of the World Food Programme (WFP).  The WFP is the largest humanitarian organization in the world helping to prevent hunger.  It operates during emergencies like civil wars or natural disasters and continues after these events to help restore people’s livelihoods and nutritional status.  During last summer, WFP was dealing with gaining access to the people of Myanmar to provide food and services after the devastating cyclone, helping the earthquake survivors in Sichuan province of China and continuing to provide aid to refugees of the conflict in Darfur, all the while maintaining operations in the 80 countries they serve.


Most WFP beneficiaries receive rations consisting of micronutrient fortified flour, Vitamin A fortified oil, beans, sugar and iodized salt.  Last summer, however, the Nutrition Programming department was considering incorporating a new product, Ready to Use Foods (RUFs), into rations.  The most recognized PlumpyNutRUF on the market is PlumpyNut, a peanut butter-tasting paste high in calories and fortified with micronutrients and essential fats.  The taste is widely accepted (I liked it!), requires no water or refrigeration, and the individual packets discourage sharing among family members.  Doctors Without Borders has had success in treating severely malnourished children with these products and has encouraged WFP to utilize these RUFs in hopes it will also be successful in treating those who are moderately malnourished.


These products were a stark contrast to the food markets of Italy I would joyfully wander through on the weekend as well as the meals I enjoyed full of juicy melon, ripe tomatoes, eggplant, fresh mozzarella, and cones and cones of gelato.  While Michael Pollan and others remind us that eating food, real food, and not fortified or engineered nutrients is best, it is sadly not always an option for some, especially those in the developing world living through and recovering from conflicts, natural disasters and corrupt governments.  I am eager to see the results of the efficacy trials using RUFs in treating mild to moderate malnutrition and if the WFP incorporates these products on a larger scale.

Celebrating the Public Health Nutrition Career of Janice M. Dodds

Janice M. Dodds, where do I begin?  I met Jan, actually I saw Jan speak in 1992 to the incoming UNC Masters in Public Health Nutrition class after arriving home from a three-year stint with the U.S. Peace Corps.  I was ready to change the world, and Jan spoke about hunger in America.  Frankly, I was shocked.  I met with her after she greeted our class, as I was a Maternal and Child Health Trainee and Jan was my advisor.  Jan’s enthusiasm about learning, and all of the possibilities that she saw in me was infectious.  She described all kinds of courses that I could take and internships that I could participate in -- she was a wealth of knowledge and experience.  Her passion for vulnerable populations was evident in all of our conversations.  We learned in class about the controversy when the Society for Nutrition Education, for which Jan was the president, debated working with McDonald's on a Saturday morning commercial featuring Willie Munchright.  The whole class entered into the debate, and we began to slowly learn the complexities and paradoxes that the field of nutrition holds.


Over her career as a state public health nutritionist and as a faculty member, Jan has worked hard at issues of hunger, poverty, child care nutrition services, improving maternal and child health, community-based participatory research, food policy, and above all, on mentoring incoming public health nutritionists.  Jan was a pioneer when she designed and implemented an executive program for a Masters in Public Health Nutrition, having to rise above and jump over a number of hurdles that were put in her way, but ultimately 10 students were graduated.  Her love for mentoring and her concern about advancing the field of public health nutrition has driven her to succeed in these sometimes-daunting tasks.  When Jan became a full professor, she was so proud and relieved, and she quickly shared her success with her mentees saying that she “couldn’t have done it without us.”  Obviously she did, in a way she was saying that she did it for us.  In a period when public health nutrition practice is taking a back seat to research in many of our academic institutions, Jan became an example for us to follow.  As a role model, Jan focused on areas of research, prioritized mentoring, and always supported the practice of public health nutrition.  As a field, we struggle with integrating research and practice, but this integration must stay central to our collective learning.  Janice M. Dodds retires this year.  I encourage you all to sit down and talk with her, and get ideas of how we can be mentors for each other.  She remains my most important mentor.

Raising Awareness on Bottled Water at APHA

Raising Awareness on Bottled Water at APHA

On Nov. 7, 2009, some 13,000 public health practitioners and advocates will converge on Philadelphia for the 137th Annual Meeting & Exposition of APHA.  With its theme of Water and Public Health, the meeting is a unique opportunity to educate the public health community about the many health, environmental, social, and economic issues associated with bottled water. As a forum for sharing best practices, the meeting is an opportunity to reflect the knowledge and public health values that it wishes to promote.  


In 2007, U.S. consumers spent $12 billion on nearly 9 billion gallons of bottled water, in large part because advertising has lead them to believe that water in a bottle is safer or better than tap water.  In fact, while the federal government requires rigorous and frequent testing of municipal tap water supplies, the same standards are not applied to bottled water. The Environmental Protection Agency, which regulates tap water, requires utilities to test municipal water hundreds of times a month. Yet the Food and Drug Administration, the entity that regulates bottled water, only requires bottling companies to test their product once a week.


Independent testing has found arsenic, microbes, toxic chemicals, and other pollutants in some brands of bottled water. Moreover, many researchers believe that phthalates, chemicals used to soften plastics, can leach into the water they contain.  Phthalates and other substances used to make plastic have been linked to birth defects and cancer in humans and to environmental problems.


Philadelphia is a leader in water conservation and safety. The City of Philadelphia’s water authority consistently tests the city’s water supply as mandated by the Clean Water Act.  In fact, according to research conducted by the consumer advocacy group Food & Water Watch, the city’s water has been violation-free since 1974 when the Safe Drinking Water Act was first implemented.


Philadelphia is also on the cutting edge of water testing.  It monitors for pharmaceuticals, a practice that most other cities do not follow.  The Philadelphia Water Department’s 2008 Annual Drinking Water Quality Report reveals that the city’s water met federal standards for acceptable levels of metals, disinfection biproducts, organic carbon, bacteria, and inorganic chemicals.


Educating attendees about bottled water at a meeting the size of the APHA Annual Meeting is certainly advantageous.  In doing so, participants will  learn to protect their health while reducing plastic waste, the production and disposal of which harms the environment.  We encourage members of the Food and Nutrition Section and other sections to join us in the following efforts:

  • Use a refillable water bottle instead of disposable plastic bottles.
  • Encourage your APHA colleagues to use reusable water bottles at the 2009 Annual Meeting. Before the meeting , participants should be reminded to bring their own. If you do not own one, stainless steel bottles will be available for purchase at the conference.
  •  CurrentAPHA Meetings utilize pitchers of water at all speakers’ tables instead of disposable bottles. This is a practice widely employed at meetings and conferences around the world. We recognize that this policy requirecase-by-case consideration of the quality of drinking water; ensuring that the water in pitchers is filtered will help alleviate health concerns while reducing waste.
  • Future events should strongly consider setting up water filtration stations.They provide access to potable tap water on a larger scale than drinking fountains.  Water filtration stations can be set up in a variety of configurations and environments, both indoors and outdoors. It is good for attendees’ pocketbooks as well as their health
  • Learn about the quality of the drinking water in your community by obtaining a water report from the water company. Food & Water Watch has a guide on how to read a water report.

APHA promotes sustainable practices both at the annual meetings and within the organization  by adopting policies that encourage recycling and prohibit smoking. APHA's green initiatives are highlighted on its Web site.  Promoting the use of reusable water bottles is an important next step as we focus on water and public health next fall in Philadelphia.


The Water Committee of the APHA Food and Environment Working Group contributed to this piece. The Working Group, comprised primarily of members of the Food and Nutrition and Environment Sections, works through public health avenues to create a sustainable, just, and healthy food system. If you would like to work with us toward this goal, contact Joy Casnovsky.

Hope to See You at the Annual Meeting in Philadelphia!

An exciting and innovative program for the Food and Nutrition Section has been planned for this year’s Annual Meeting.  We are supporting the new Physical Activity SPIG (Special Primary Interest Group) with three devoted sessions covering creative interventions to increase physical activity, one of which highlights advances in new technologies.


There will also be three sessions jointly shared with the Environment Section: “MRSA and antibiotic use in animal agriculture: An emerging health threat down on the farm;” “Getting from Here to There: Planning and Building Healthier, More Sustainable Food (and Water) Systems;” and “Programs and Evaluation of Community Based Participatory Projects to Address Disparities in Food Access.”  We expect these dynamic sessions to draw a wide audience.


In addition, there are two invited sessions that should be of particular interest this year.  David Wallinga, MD, MPA, director of the Food and Health Program at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, has assembled a session to address hormones in the food and water supply, linking presentation content to the theme of the meeting, water and public health.  James Krieger, MD, MPH, of King County Public Health and University of Washington Chronic Disease and Injury Prevention, brings together a session presenting results from both sides of the nation on evaluation of menu labeling laws.


Registration for the meeting opened June 1 (see announcement below).  We hope you’ll attend the meeting not only to gain insights to the latest public health nutrition and physical activity initiatives, research, and policy action, but also to make new professional connections.  Even when the economy and budgets are down, it is important to keep ties to the field.  You never know, you may make a new contact that could expand your horizons!


For more information, contact Alyssa Ghirardelli,, (916) 449-5342.

Toward a Healthy, Sustainable Food System: Activities at the APHA Annual Meeting and Beyond

The APHA Food and Environment Working Group, comprised of members of the Environment and Food and Nutrition Sections, plus others who are interested in these topics, has been planning activities for the Annual Meeting and beyond.  As you make your conference travel reservations, keep these dates in mind.  Keep an eye out for further details and how to RSVP.


Saturday, Nov 7: The Working Group will provide a day tour of innovative food system projects in Philadelphia, featuring a youth-based urban gardening project, a healthy corner store initiative, a visit to a farmers’ market, a discussion of supermarket initiatives for addressing food deserts, and conversations with project leaders and participants.


Tuesday, Nov 10: We will hold our annual social and networking event featuring locally and sustainably sourced foods on Tuesday evening.


The Food and Environment Working Group addresses public health issues at the intersection of food and the environment. Among our other activities, we have brought together program planners from both sections to coordinate several jointly sponsored scientific sessions, as in the past.  A Special Session submitted by working group members, “Public Health in an Era of Resource Depletion,” is scheduled for Monday, Nov. 9.  Beyond planning activities at the Annual Meeting and addressing bottled-water use at APHA events (see the following article), we have an active policy committee and are also looking to long-term activities such as addressing the food served at public health conferences and further networking — both internally within APHA and externally, including with other health-related professional associations.


If you are interested in becoming involved in the Working Group, please contact Rebecca Klein,, (410) 502-7578.

Physical Activity SPIG Announces 5K Fun Run/Walk

While in Philadelphia for the 2009 APHA Annual Meeting, join your colleagues for the 2nd Annual 5K Fun Run/Walk on the morning of Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2009. The 5-kilometer (3.1-mile) route will feature views of the Schuylkill River and the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the steps of which were made famous in the movie Rocky .

2008 Fun Run participants


More information about this activity, including a course map, will be published in the fall newsletters of the Physical Activity SPIG and other Sections and SPIGs and will be made available at the Annual Meeting. In the meantime, please contact Genevieve Dunton or Jim Konopack with any questions. We look forward to seeing you in Philadelphia!

Newsletter Submission Guidelines and Deadlines

Food and Nutrition Section members are encouraged to submit content to the newsletter, which is published three times per year.  Please e-mail news, research updates, or announcements to the FNS newsletter editor, Sarah Forrestal, before Sept. 14, 2009 for inclusion in the fall edition.  Brief submission guidelines are available here.

APHA Announcements

Annual Meeting Registration OpensAnnual Meeting logo

From Nov. 7-11, 2009, thousands of public health professionals will convene in Philadelphia for the APHA 137th Annual Meeting and Exposition. More than 1,000 cutting edge scientific sessions will be presented by public health researchers, academics, policy-makers, and practitioners on the most current public health issues facing the nation today. To ensure that no public health professional misses this opportunity, this year’s Annual Meeting will be more affordable than ever. Hotel rates have been slashed so that no rates are higher than $195. Eleven of the 15 contracted hotels are offering rates between $149 and $179. Registration and Housing opened June 1, 2009. Save up to $115 on registration by registering before August 28. Take advantage of these discounts and join your colleagues in a meeting you won’t want to miss. For more information about the Annual Meeting, visit Annual Meeting is also on Twitter: APHAAnnualMtg.



Public Health CareerMart: More Than 1000 Jobs Listed!

APHA has created the Public Health CareerMart to be the online career resource center in the field of public health.  Here, you’ll find only qualified, industry professionals. Job seekers, instead of searching through hundreds of sites looking for the perfect jobs in public health, you will find it all at Public Health CareerMart, Career Development Center.  Employers, instead of being inundated with stacks of unrelated, irrelevant resumes, you’re much more likely to find the candidates with the skills and experience you’re looking for — and spend less time doing it!  After all, where better to find the best public health professionals than the association that represents them? 


Public Health CareerMart is a member of the National Healthcare Career Network.



Help Make America the Healthiest Nation in One Generation

Let’s face it – as a nation we’re not nearly as healthy as we should be. Compared to other developed nations, we’re lagging far behind. But it doesn’t have to be this way. With your help, we can make America the healthiest nation in just one generation.


As a central component of this year’s National Public Health Week (NPHW) observance, APHA launched an exciting, new viral video campaign. The Healthiest Nation in One Generation video tells the story of the many ways that public health touches our lives. Nearly 25,000 people have already viewed the video online, and the numbers continue to grow each day. If you haven’t checked out the video, watch it today and be sure to share it with your colleagues, family and friends. And stay informed by visiting – NPHW 2009 is over, but our campaign to make America the healthiest nation in one generation is just beginning…


We all have to do our part. What will you do?



Alcohol Screening and Brief Intervention Manual

APHA is proud to announce the release of "Alcohol Screening and Brief Intervention: A Guide for Public Health Practitioners." This manual provides public health professionals with information, skills, and tools needed to conduct screening and brief intervention to help at-risk drinkers reduce their alcohol use.  Download the manual for free online.



New Book on Disability Studies

"Disabilty and Public Health," published by APHA, is available this month. The publication is an important and overdue contribution to the core curriculum of disability studies in public health education. It is a particularly timely book because, as our nation ages, disability is an increasingly significant interdisciplinary area of study and service domain in public health. Visit the APHA online bookstore. APHA members can take advantage of a 30 percent member discount whether ordering online or via the toll-free number, (888) 320-2742.



APHA Survey Request

APHA wants to know whether you would use an online version of the Control of Communicable Diseases Manual.  Please help by taking a survey.  Thanks for your input.