Janey Thornton, Julian Alston, John Beghin, Jay Bhattacharya, Virginia Chaidez, Gail Woodward-Lopez, Ellen Goddard, Gail Harrison, Helen Jensen, Lucia Kaiser, Abigail Okrent, Joanna Parks, Barry Popkin, Judy Stern, Jessica Todd, Laurian Unnevehr, Michele Ver Ploeg, Parke Wilde, David Zorn
USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services
Dr. Janey Thornton was appointed by President Barack Obama as USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services (FNCS) on April 1, 2009.
As Deputy Under Secretary, Dr. Thornton is responsible for improving the health and well-being of Americans by developing and promoting science-based dietary guidance and administering USDA's 15 nutrition assistance programs. FNCS programs work to end hunger in the United States and provide nutrition assistance, dietary guidance, nutrition policy coordination, and nutrition education.
Dr. Thornton previously served as School Nutrition Director for Hardin County Schools in Elizabethtown, Kentucky, worked with the Kentucky Department of Education and taught vocational home economics. Dr. Thornton has been active in the 55,000-member School Nutrition Association (SNA) and served as president during the 2006-2007 school year. She has also served as President of the School Nutrition Foundation and as an active member of the Global Child Nutrition Foundation.
A native of Kentucky, Dr. Thornton received her Bachelor of Science degree in Home Economics from Western Kentucky University, a Master of Science degree in Vocational Education and School Administration from the University of Kentucky and she received her Doctorate from Iowa State University in 2007.
Phone: (530) 752-6575
Professor Stern joined UC Davis in 1975. She is internationally known for her research and for translating science for the public. She is a distinguished professor in the Departments of Nutrition and Internal Medicine/Division of Clinical Nutrition and Metabolism. Some of her over 270 research papers published in scientific journals deal with obesity, nutrition, exercise, dietary supplements. She has written over 150 articles for magazines like Vogue and Family Circle.
Professor Stern is a member of several professional organizations, and has received numerous awards for excellence in research and public service. Some examples of her honors: member of the Institute of Medicine of National Academies of Sciences; Fellow (American Society of Nutrition, American Association for the Advancement of Sciences; Richard L. Atkinson and Judith S. Stern Distinguished Public Service Award (The Obesity Society), Excellence in Research (California Dietetic Association). Along with Dr. Richard L. Atkinson she was founder of The American Obesity Association, a lay advocacy organization dedicated to advancing understanding of the disease of obesity, where she also served as Vice President (1995-2006). AOA merged with The Obesity Society in 2006.
Stern is an accomplished public speaker at scientific meetings and on radio and TV. She learned public speaking as a cherry pie baking champion in 4-H. Stern has written two popular books (How to stay slim and health on the fast food diet, Prentice Hall, 1981; Obesity, a reference book for the public and libraries, ABC-CLIO Press, 2009).
Two of her popular messages are “Eat dessert first” and Chocolate should be an honorary vitamin” – she has to eat a little every day.
Phone: (650) 736-0404
Dr. Bhattacharya is an associate professor in the Center for Primary Care and Outcomes Research at the Stanford University School of Medicine. His research agenda aims to understand the constraints that vulnerable populations face in making decisions that affect their health status, and in particular the effects of government policies designed to benefit these populations. He is currently involved numerous research projects investigating the effects of Medicare and Medicaid on vulnerable populations, the future of these programs in a changing health care technology environment, incentives and trends in disability and disability insurance claims, childhood nutrition, food insecurity in the United States, and the economics of alcohol and smoking. Dr. Bhattacharya has published in several peer review journals on topics including health care design, medical service utilization, economic costs of workplace injuries, the National School Lunch Program, and HIV policy, to name a few.
Phone: (919) 966-1732
Dr. Barry M. Popkin, the Carla Smith Chamblee Distinguished Professor of Global Nutrition, has a Ph.D. in economics and is Professor of Nutrition at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill where he directs the UNC-CH's Interdisciplinary Center for Obesity. Dr. Popkin has an active U.S. research program in understanding dietary behavior with a focus on eating patterns, trends, and sociodemographic determinants. He will direct the evaluation of the changes in food from the newly announced food industry Health Weight Commitment but will be funded by RWJF and others nonindustry sources.. He developed the concept of the nutrition transition as a way to understand and study shifts in the way we eat, drink and move and its intermediate and underlying causes. He has increasingly been involved in research to explore program and policy options for managing change. Dr. Popkin is involved in a number of other NIH-funded studies in China, Russia, Brazil, and several other countries. His work within the United States includes a series of NIH grants to study how the economic and built environment affect diet, activity and obesity. Dr. Popkin serves on several scientific advisory organizations and is Chair, the Nutrition Transition Committee for the International Union for the Nutritional Sciences. He has published more than 305 journal articles, book chapters, and books. He is author of the new book The World is Fat: The Fads, Trends, Policies, and Products that are Fattening the Human Race (Penguin).
Phone: (202) 694-5401
Laurian J. Unnevehr is Director of the Food Economics Division of the USDAs Economic Research Service. Dr. Unnevehr has published over 60 journal articles and book chapters on topics in consumer demand and food policy as well as numerous other publications and outreach reports. She is recognized for original contributions in measuring the consumer benefits from agricultural research, the changing structure of U.S. food demand, and the cost-benefit trade-offs in food health regulation. With coauthors, she has received the American Agricultural Economics Association (AAEA) awards for Quality of Communication and for Publication of Enduring Quality, recognizing contributions in food policy and food demand. She was inducted as a fellow of AAEA in July 2009 and serves on the Editorial Boards of the journals Food Policy and Applied Economics Policy and Perspectives.
Phone: (530) 752-3283
Julian M. Alston is a professor in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics of the University of California at Davis and director of the Center for Wine Economics at the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science. Prior to beginning in his current position in 1988, Dr. Alston was the Chief Economist in the Department of Agriculture and Rural Affairs in Victoria, Australia, where his experience in public policy analysis and advice, and administration of a large scientific organization, shaped his research interests in government policies affecting food and agriculture. He is a fellow of the American Agricultural Economics Association and a distinguished fellow of the Australian Agricultural and Resource Economics Society.
Phone: (515) 294-5811
A native of Belgium, John Beghin joined Iowa State University (ISU) in 1998. From 1999 to 2007, Beghin was the director of FAPRI and the division head of the Trade and Agricultural Policy Division (TAP) at the Center for Agricultural and Rural Development at ISU. He holds one of the two Marlin Cole Professorships in International Agricultural Economics at ISU. Before joining ISU, he spent 10 years at North Carolina State University. He has held visiting appointments at INRA, the OECD, and the University of Sydney. Dr. Beghin's research interests include agricultural trade policy analysis, and the interface between trade growth and the environment with emphasis on agriculture. He holds a Ph.D. in agricultural and resource economics from the University of California at Berkeley.
Robert C. and Veronica Atkins Center for Weight and Health University of California College of Natural Resources and School of Public Health
Gail Woodward-Lopez, MPH, RD is Associate Director of the UC Berkeley Center for Weight & Health. She has nearly 20 years experience developing, implementing and evaluating public health programs. The focus of her current work is the evaluation of school and community based programs to prevent overweight among children. She serves on the evaluation teams for 2 multi-sector, place-based obesity prevention initiatives funded by the California Endowment and Kaiser Permanente and leads the technical assistance team for the Northern California Health Eating Active Living program. She is also lead evaluator on various statewide and multi-state projects to evaluate school nutrition legislation and wellness policies. She is bilingual, has worked extensively with the Latino community in California and Latin America, and has served as a consultant for several international agencies including UNICEF in Nicaragua, the Arizona-Mexico Border Health Foundation in Tucson and PATH in Mexico. She has served on numerous obesity-related advisory groups, frequently speaks on the topic, and recently published a book on the dietary and developmental determinants of obesity.
Phone: (530) 754-9063
Dr Lucia Kaiser is currently Associate Nutrition Specialist at the University of California – Davis in the Department of Nutrition.
Dr Kaiser’s responsibilities include developing nutrition education materials and evaluating programs offered through the University of California Cooperative Extension and presenting nutrition topics at workshops and conferences throughout the state. Her research interests include: examining the impact of acculturation and food insecurity on the child-parent feeding relationship among Latinos, developing tools to evaluate nutrition education, and diabetes prevention.
Dr Kaiser received her B.S. in Biology, from the College of William and Mary. She completed her MS and PhD in the Department of Nutrition at the University of California-Davis. She is also a Registered Dietitian, completing a dietetic internship at the Clinical Research Center at Stanford University Hospital.
Phone: (617) 636-3495
Parke Wilde is an Associate Professor in the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University. Prior to his positions at Tufts, Wilde worked for the Economic Research Service. He is currently involved with research on the Economics of the Thrifty Food Plan. His previous research includes work on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as the Food Stamp Program), Federal commodity check-off programs, and food and beverage advertisements aimed at children. In general, he is interested in food policy in the United States, consumer economics, and food assistance programs. Wilde has published numerous articles in leading nutrition science and agricultural economics peer reviewed journals. He also blogs regularly about food policy in the United States.
Phone: (515) 294-6253
Helen H. Jensen is professor of economics and head of CARD's Food and Nutrition Policy Division. Her current research focuses on food programs and policies, including food safety. Jensen's major areas of research are food demand analysis, food assistance and nutrition policies, issues related to food security, and the economics of food safety and food hazard control options. She joined the faculty at Iowa State in 1985. Jensen holds a Ph.D. degree in agricultural economics from the University of Wisconsin.
Phone: (310) 825-3738
Gail G. Harrison, PhD, is Professor in the Department of Community Health Sciences at the UCLA School of Public Health. She is Director of the UCLA Center for Global and Immigrant Health., and Senior Research Scientist at the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research. She also serves as Associate Director of the Program for Healthy and At-Risk Populations in the Division of Cancer Prevention and Control, UCLA/Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center. Her research focuses on determinants, measurement, and functional consequences of nutrition, malnutrition, and food security, both in the U.S. and internationally. Harrison received her Master’s Degree in Nutritional Sciences from Cornell University and her PhD in Biological Anthropology from the University of Arizona. Prior to coming to UCLA in 1992, Harrison was on the faculty of the College of Medicine of the University of Arizona, where she was the founding Director of the Program in International Health and Professor of Family and Community Medicine. She has worked extensively in the area of dietary and nutritional assessment of diverse populations. Dr. Harrison has been a member of the Food and Nutrition Board (FNB) of the National Academy of Sciences/Institute of Medicine and several FNB committees. She has consulted with the World Health Organization and UNICEF and has worked in Egypt, the Sudan, Iran, the Gulf countries, Indonesia, and Lesotho besides the U.S. Dr. Harrison is the author of many publications on health and nutritional status of vulnerable groups. She was elected to membership in the Institute of Medicine in 2003.
Phone: (301) 436-1825
David J. Zorn is the Director of the Division of Social Sciences in FDA’s Center for Food Safety & Applied Nutrition. In this capacity, he is responsible for all social science research and analyses conducted within the Center by a multidisciplinary staff comprised of agricultural economists, regulatory economists, public policy experts, psychologists, sociologists, and statisticians. He earned his B.A. in Economics from Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas, and his Ph.D, in Economics from George Mason University in the fields of public choice, industrial organization, and law & economics. He joined the FDA in 1992. Since then he has been involved in a number of the agency’s most significant regulatory initiatives including seafood processing, tobacco access and marketing, juice labeling and processing, and trans fat labeling. He has published articles in Agricultural Economic Review; the European Journal of Law and Economics; FoodReview; Organohalogen Compounds; and Revue Scientifique et Technique - Office International des Épizooties.
Phone: (530) 752-3817
Sheri Zidenberg-Cherr is Chair of the Graduate Group in Nutritional Biology at the University of California at Davis and a Cooperative Extension Specialist in the Department of Nutrition at the University of California at Davis. Dr. Zidenberg-Cherr´s research includes the effect of nutritional status on their response to diverse physiologic stresses, including the examination of nutritional status of children at risk for lead toxicity. Most recently, research by Dr. Zidenberg-Cherr has focused on the development and testing of nutrition education curriculum for young school age children. Based on her success in the development and distribution of the award winning curriculum, “Nutrition to Grow On”, the California Department of Education has continued to pursue Dr. Zidenberg-Cherr as a collaborator in several areas of nutrition education research relevant to pre K-12 education. This has allowed the University of California and UC Cooperative Extension to play a crucial role in the development of nutrition education standards for California and their implementation in the education system. Dr. Zidenberg-Cherr also co-directs the Center for Nutrition in School in the Department of Nutrition at University of California at Davis. The goal of the Center is to provide state-of the-art research, outreach, and educational programs to improve the nutrition knowledge, skills, and health outcomes of the nation’s children, assisting them in achieving their full potential academically, socially, and physically.
Michele Ver Ploeg
Phone: (202) 694-5372
Michele Ver Ploeg is an Economist in the Food Assistance Branch at the Economic Research Service (ERS), United States Department of Agriculture. Her research focuses on obesity and food assistance program participation and on the well-being and health outcomes of children participating in the WIC program. Prior to joining ERS, she was a Study Director for the Committee on National Statistics at The National Academies. In this role, she directed studies on estimating eligibility and participation in the WIC Program, data and methods for evaluating welfare reform, and a review of the Department of Health and Human Services Collection of Race and Ethnicity Data. Dr. Ver Ploeg received her B.A. in economics from Central College and her Ph.D. in policy analysis and management from Cornell University.
Virginia Chaidez is a recent Ph.D. graduate of the Nutritional Biology Graduate Group at the University of California at Davis. Her research interest is in obesity and diabetes in Latinos with particular interest in child-feeding practices and understanding its role in childhood obesity. Her dissertation title is "Toddler-feeding practices in Latinos: An early start in obesity prevention." Dr. Chaidez received her B.S. in foods and nutrition from San Diego State University. She is currently a postdoctoral scholar in the Department of Public Health Sciences at UC Davis, where she is working on the Childhood Autism Risks from Genetics and the Environment (CHARGE) study. She is investigating differences between Latinos and non-Latinos with regards to demographics, exposures and autism outcomes.
Phone: (780) 492-4596
Ellen Goddard is a Professor in the Department of Rural Economy at the University of Alberta and the Co-operative Chair of the Cooperative Program in Agricultural Marketing and Business at the University of Alberta. She also serves as the Program Leader of the Consumer and Market Demand Policy Research Networks at the Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, and is a member of the Alberta Veterinarian Research Institute Council. Her research interests include agricultural marketing, trade and policy; consumer demand for foods in Canada; the effect of advertising and other media information on consumer demand; and the study of agricultural co-operatives. Dr. Goddard received her B.Sc. and M.Sc. from the University of Guelph and her Ph.D. from LaTrobe University.
Phone: (202) 694-5363
Jessica Todd is an Economist at the Economic Research Service, United States Department of Agriculture. Before joining ERS, she studied the impacts of conditional cash transfer programs on poor households in Latin America. Her current work focuses on the economics of diet and health outcomes, including how food prices influence food choices.
Phone: (530) 545-3715
Joanna Parks is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of California at Davis in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics. Her research focuses on the effects of food policy and nutrition assistance programs on health outcomes and methods for estimating the social cost of obesity. More broadly, her research interests include factors that influence health capital investments and risky health behaviors, modeling the channels (economic and biological) through which policy and market interventions influence health outcomes, and differences between the social burden of disease and private willingness to pay for reductions in morbidity and mortality.
Phone: (530) 754-8522
Abigail Okrent is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics at the University of California at Davis. Her research interests include the effects of food policies on obesity and health outcomes, consumer demand for retail foods, and marketing margins for farm commodities. Her thesis work compares the effects of investment in agricultural research and development versus subsidies for commodities on obesity and economic welfare. Prior to entering the program, Ms. Okrent was an Economist for the Industry Economics Division of the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), Department of Commerce. Her primary activities at the BEA included research and measurement of various service industries for the Benchmark Input-Output and GDP-by-Industry Accounts. Ms. Okrent received her B.A. in economics from Hobart and William Smith Colleges and her M.S. in agricultural and resource economics from University of California at Davis.
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