Food Insecurity Research Symposium: Speaker and Participant Biographies

October 17-19, 2012
University of Missouri

Patricia Allen is chair of the Department of Food Systems and Society at Marylhurst University. Until 2012, she was director of the Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems at the University of California, Santa Cruz, where she created a research and education program in social issues in sustainable food systems. Her work has focused on the social construction of society and environment; gender, race, and class in the food system; localism; food security; and discourse, social movements, and alternative imaginaries of food cultures. Her edited volume, Food for the Future: Conditions and Contradictions of Sustainability, published in 1993, is one of the first books to call attention to social justice in sustainable food systems.

Matt Foulkes is associate professor of geography at the University of Missouri. Foulkes’ interests include migration patterns and behaviors of the rural poor, ethnographic approaches to population geography, the geography of food insecurity, affordable housing and manufactured housing communities, and environmental knowledge transfer in the exurbs. His recent research projects have included an analysis of large scale Hispanic migration in the U.S., poverty migration in Illinois, and studies of highly mobile, poor, rural communities

Darcy Freedman is an assistant professor and centenary faculty in Social Disparities in Built Community Environments at the University of South Carolina, College of Social Work. She is affiliate faculty with the Women’s and Gender Studies Department; Institute for Families in Society, Research Consortium for Children and Families; and the Center for Research in Nutrition and Health Disparities. Freedman’s research is focused on understanding and redressing health disparities and promoting health equity through efforts aimed at improving access to healthful foods. Much of her research uses a community-based and participatory approach to address food (in)access and resulting health and social injustices.

Heather Hartline-Grafton is the senior nutrition policy analyst at the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC), the leading national nonprofit organization working to improve public policies and public-private partnerships to eradicate hunger and undernutrition in the United States. Heather’s work primarily focuses on obesity and health among low-income and food insecure children and families, with emphasis on the federal nutrition programs. She also is actively involved in FRAC’s ongoing research on food hardship and fruit and vegetable access. Heather has a rich background in nutrition policy research, obesity prevention, and healthy eating strategies, including her prior work at the American Cancer Society, Mathematica Policy Research, and Tulane University.

Colleen Heflin is associate professor in the Truman School of Public Affairs at the University of Missouri. Heflin’s research centers on understanding the causes and consequences of material hardship. In particular, her research focuses on understanding the survival strategies employed by low-income households to make ends meet, the implications of using these strategies for individual and household well-being, and how public policies influence well-being.

Mary Hendrickson is an associate professor in the Department of Rural Sociology at the University of Missouri. She has spent more than a decade helping farmers find alternative markets and supporting communities in developing local food systems. Her research and extension activities have focused on placing local food system development in the context of the changing structure of the global food system where farmers, eaters, and communities can create profitable alternatives. She has served as president of the Agriculture, Food and Human Values Society (2006-2007) and as president of the Community Food Security Coalition (2001-2003).

Joan Hermsen is an associate professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of Missouri. Her research focuses primarily on gender inequality in the labor market. In particular, recent research topics include differences in work-related travel, the use of flextime, occupational gender segregation, the gender wage gap, and the glass ceiling. Joan also co-directs a study on sexual assault and is chair of the Department of Women’s and Gender Studies, University of Missouri.

David Holben has been a registered dietitian for 26 years. Currently, Holben is professor of nutrition at Ohio University, Athens, Ohio. Building upon a clinical nutrition and basic science background, his research focuses on food insecurity and health outcomes of individuals in North America. Of particular interest to him is exploring the relationship of diabetes, obesity, and other conditions to food access across the lifespan, as well as optimizing solutions for food access and security to promote health and wellness.

Michelle Kaiser is an assistant professor in the College of Social Work at Ohio State University. Her research is rooted in social and environmental justice. She is particularly interested in health and food access disparities and researching ways that communities can ensure a safe, affordable, and healthy food supply for all residents. She is a former research assistant with the University of Missouri Interdisciplinary Center for Food Security and the Center for Applied Research and Environmental Systems. She is a member of the OSU Food Innovation Center and a co-investigator for their Food Security Initiative.

Beth Low is the current and first director of the Greater Kansas City Food Policy Coalition and vice president of Policy & Advocacy for Kansas City Healthy Kids (GKCFPC). Since her joining the Coalition in January 2010, she has been responsible for leading the group in regional food system activities and advancing its policy agenda. She works closely with community leaders, political officials and many other organizations to improve the food system of the Kansas City metro area. Prior to taking over the GKCFPC, Low served three terms as a Missouri state representative (Jan. 2005 – Jan. 2011). Low earned a bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies at the University of Missouri.

Kara Lubischer has worked for the last five years for University of Missouri Extension as a community development specialist in St. Louis. Kara develops community partnership initiatives that link University resources with the needs and priorities of communities by working on issues of food deserts/grocery gaps, capacity building, and leadership development. Kara currently co-coordinates the St. Louis Healthy Corner Store Project, a comprehensive program that combines nutrition education, small business management, neighborhood leadership and greater availability of affordable, healthy food by working with neighborhood corner stores.

Robert Ojeda is the director of the Community Food Resource Center at the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona. He is responsible for overseeing the programs dealing with education and advocacy around food security issues for the Food Bank. Robert also teaches community organizing and community development workshops, and more recently, a Leadership and Civic Participation for Social Change course at the University of Arizona. The participants in these workshops are largely educators, non-profit, university, and union leaders from all over Latin America. He also trains public health undergraduate students, as well as community leaders involved in food security, food sovereignty, and public health work in Arizona.

Adam N. Rabinowitz is a Ph.D. candidate in Agricultural and Resource Economics at the University of Connecticut. He teaches food policy and conducts research on policy issues including milk pricing, geographic food access, and marketing to children. He earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in economics from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas in 1999 and 2002, respectively. Since 2002, he also has worked as the primary research assistant in the Zwick Center for Food and Resource Policy (formerly called the Food Marketing Policy Center).

Nikki Raedeke is teaching assistant professor in Nutrition and Exercise Physiology at the University of Missouri. Raedeke’s research interests focus on nutritional needs and food security among low-income adults. She directs the Coordinated Program in Dietetics and is active with the Missouri Dietetic Association and its central Missouri Chapter.

LaDonna Redmond is senior program associate with the Food and Justice Program at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP). She is a long-time community activist who has successfully worked to get Chicago Public Schools to evaluate junk food, launched urban agriculture projects, started a community grocery store and worked on federal farm policy to expand access to healthy food in low-income communities. Redmond is a frequently invited speaker and occasional radio host. In 2009, Redmond was one of 25 citizen and business leaders named a Responsibility Pioneer by Time Magazine. LaDonna was also a 2003-2005 IATP Food and Society Fellow and, in 2007, she received a Green For All Fellowship.

Sandy Rikoon is Curators Distinguished Professor of Rural Sociology and director of the Inter­dis­cip­linary Center for Food Security (ICFS) at the University of Missouri. He also serves as associate dean for Research and Graduate Studies for the College of Human Environmental Sciences. Rikoon led the effort to establish the ICFS in 2004 as the first center of its kind nationally to combine research, training, and outreach. His research interests include environmental sociology, political ecology, food security, and ethnicity. He has been involved in sustainable agriculture outreach and education activities, as well.

Chery Smith is associate professor in Food Science and Nutrition at the University of Minnesota. Her research focuses on how environment, age, socioeconomic status, culture, and food insecurity influence the nutritional status, dietary behavior, and health of selected populations (African American, Hmong, Native Americans, homeless individuals, and veterans) in the U.S. and Nepal. She is particularly interested in the hunger-obesity paradox in the U.S. Further, using a food systems approach, she has been investigating food access by Minnesotans, particularly those living in food deserts (places with limited food resources).

Michele (Shelly) Ver Ploeg is an economist with the Food Assistance Branch of the Food Economics Division of the USDA. 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. She recently led a Congressionally-mandated study on access to affordable and nutritious foods and is considered one of the national experts on food deserts. Prior to joining USDA, 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.

Bruce A. Weber is professor of agricultural and resource economics, extension economist, and director of the Rural Studies Program at Oregon State University. He served as co-director of the RUPRI Rural Poverty Research Center from 2002-2005 and now serves in the Rural Human Services Research Panel. His current Extension programs deal with rural policy and the economic and social conditions in rural communities. Weber is a Fellow of the American Agricultural Economics Association, Distinguished Scholar in the Western Agricultural Economics Association, and Senior Research Affiliate for the National Poverty Center.

Parke Wilde is a food economist at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University. Previously, he worked for USDA’s Economic Research Service. At Tufts, Parke teaches graduate-level courses in statistics and U.S. food policy. His research addresses food security and hunger measurement, the economics of food assistance programs, and federal dietary guidance policy. He is a member of the Institute of Medicine’s Food Forum and a member of the research committee advising AGree, a national food policy initiative. Parke has a book forthcoming from Routledge/Earthscan in March 2013, titled Food Policy in the United States: An Introduction.

The symposium was funded by Mizzou Advantage and the Chancellor’s Fund for Excellence.

The symposium agenda and speakers’ presentations can be found here.