In the United States 45 percent of children under 18 – 32.4 million – live in low-income families.
Dr. Ammerman is a Professor in the Department of Nutrition, Gillings School of Global Public Health and UNC-Chapel Hill, and Director of the Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention (a CDC Prevention Research Center or PRC). Her research focuses on the design, testing, implementation, and dissemination of innovative clinical and community-based nutrition and physical activity intervention approaches for chronic disease risk reduction in primarily low income and minority populations. Dr. Ammerman has strong research and practice collaborations across the state and with PRC research networks across the country. She is also Co-PI of the Center for Training and Research Translation, charged with identification, translation, and dissemination of evidence-based interventions for obesity and cardiovascular disease control and prevention. Current research interests focus on behavioral economics, school nutrition, the interface between healthy food access and sustainable local food systems , and social entrepreneurship as an approach to addressing public health concerns.
Maureen Berner first joined the School of Government in 1998. She teaches evaluation and analysis courses for MPA students, and provides similar training and advising to state and local government officials throughout North Carolina. Her research currently focuses on capacity of local partners to implement programs, using food assistance programs as an example. She works with nonprofits, food banks, local governments, and state agencies on improving food assistance programs. Berner was a 2014-2016 UNC Thorp Engaged Faculty Fellow. She earned a PhD in public policy from the LBJ School of Public Affairs, University of Texas at Austin; an MPP from Georgetown University; and a BA in global studies from the University of Iowa.
Sarah Bowen is an Associate Professor of Sociology at North Carolina State University. Her research focuses on food and inequality in a variety of contexts. She is director of Voices into Action: The Families, Food, and Health Project. Voices into Action is a longitudinal (2011-2016) research and participatory outreach project that follows 124 working-class and poor families in North Carolina over a five-year period. The interdisciplinary team has conducted multiple semi-structured interviews, 24-hour food recalls, and ethnographic observations with mothers in these families, in order to better understand the complex social and cultural factors that influence families’ beliefs and practices related to food. These team has also organized asset-mapping workshops, facilitated community-based action groups, and funded mini-grants to facilitate policy and environmental changes to improve access to healthy and affordable food.
E. Brooke Kelly is a Professor of Sociology at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke, where she has worked with students and community partners on numerous community-based research projects addressing poverty and food insecurity. Since her training at Michigan State University, her research has maintained a focus on social inequalities, work, and family, with a more recent focus on food insecurity. Dr. Kelly has served as chair of the Poverty, Class, and Inequalities Division of the Society for the Study of Social Problems and as chair of the Southern Sociological Society's committee on Sociological Practice. Dr. Kelly has also served as a fellow and research affiliate of the Rural Policy Research Institute's Rural Poverty Center, which supported her research on rural low-income mothers' efforts to attain and maintain paid employment.
Jill Waity is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. Dr. Waity’s research focuses on poverty, food insecurity and spatial inequality. She has presented her work at the American Sociological Association, the Society for the Study of Social Problems, the Southern Sociological Society, and the Research Innovation and Development Grants in Economics (RIDGE) Conference. She has received funding for her research from Indiana University, where she earned her Ph.D., the University of North Carolina Wilmington, and the Southern Rural Development Center RIDGE Center for Targeted Studies. Her current research examines food access, including access to grocery stores and food assistance agencies, and accompanying rural-urban differences. Dr. Waity has experience teaching courses related to her research interests, including Sociology of Poverty, Social Problems, Public Sociology, The Community, and Introduction to Sociology.
Dr. Christine Blake is a public health nutrition scientist with transdisciplinary training in dietetics, community nutrition, program planning and evaluation, epidemiology, and sociology and has previously worked as a Registered Dietitian in clinical and community settings. Her work is guided by a general interest in improving family and child nutrition and provides insight into food-related behaviors to inform development of theory-based approaches for promoting healthy dietary intake, particularly in vulnerable populations. She focuses on understanding contextual and cognitive factors that influence food-related behaviors with an emphasis on people and organizations that shape these behaviors in children. Her work draws heavily on schema theory, and involves the use of novel mixed-methods approaches. Her methodological expertise is primarily in qualitative research and systematic data collection methods. Her research has highlighted how parents use different decision making processes when choosing foods for themselves versus their children and how the integration of work and family demands impacts food choice behaviors that have individual and family level implications. Dr. Blake was recently a co-investigator on a project funded by the NIH/NICHD entitled Snacking in young children: parental definitions, goals, and feeding practices. This project used cognitive “schema” theory to guide the development of a qualitative protocol that resulted in a detailed, empirically-driven definition of child snacking and its goals from parents’ perspective. Dr. Blake is currently leading a project funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to develop and coordinate a competitive grants program entitled, Drivers of Food Choice among the poor in Asia and Africa: Competitive Grants Program. This project will solicit and facilitate research on the drivers of food choice among the poor in Asia and Africa. She has extensive experience designing and implementing studies to explore factors that influence decisions related to food in both rural and urban food insecure populations.
Dr. Betsy Anderson Steeves is an Assistant Professor in the Public Health Nutrition program at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. She is a Registered Dietitian and holds a doctoral degree in Public Health from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. She completed her Master’s in Public Health Nutrition and Dietetic Internship at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. She is interested in community-based interventions to address food insecurity, reduce health disparities and prevent obesity among under-served populations. Her research seeks to examine how social and physical (built) environments influence food selection/purchasing and consumption behaviors of low-income youth and adults.
Dr. Jones completed both a Bachelor of Arts and Doctoral degrees at UNC-Chapel Hill. For the past 11 years, she has been leading the Center for Research in Nutrition and Health Disparities at the University of South Carolina, focusing her research program on the effects of nutrition and food policy on food security and children’s nutrition. For the past five years, she has been studying how communities build a movement to gain control over the food system.
Annie Hardison-Moody is Assistant Professor and Extension Specialist in the Department of Agricultural and Human Sciences at North Carolina State University. Dr. Hardison-Moody works in the emerging field of religion and health, with a focus on gender, reproductive health, foods and nutrition, and parenting. She serves as co-PI for Voices into Action: The Families, Food, and Health Project, a USDA-funded study of the family food environment and Director of Faithful Families Eating Smart and Moving More, a faith-based health promotion intervention.
Dr. Leslie Hossfeld, is a Rural Sociologist who has written, received and managed over $5 million in grants to support local food systems and food insecurity research and programmatic activities, through USDA, Southern SARE, Southern SAWG, and major foundations. She has received numerous awards related to rural economic development, and community engagement, and has extensive experience examining rural poverty and economic restructuring. She has devoted the past 13 years to local food systems development in North Carolina examining food access and food insecurity and linkages to local food economy and economic development for high need communities. She has made two presentations to the United States Congress and one to the North Carolina Legislature on rural economic decline. She is co-founder and President of the Southeastern North Carolina Food Systems program Feast Down East (www.feastdowneast.org), an economic development project with the goals of poverty reduction, engagement, and empowerment of limited-resource farmers and consumers. Dr. Hossfeld is currently Associate Director of Local Food Systems, Food Insecurity/Food Access and Economic Development for the UMMC-MSU (University of Mississippi Medical Center and Mississippi State University) Myrlie Evers Williams Institute on the Elimination of Health Disparities in Missisisppi. She is a member of the Southeastern Consortium for Research in Food Security, and past president of the Southern Sociological Society, and appointed to the USDA Rural Growth and Opportunity Strikeforce. She joined Mississippi State University as Head of the Department of Sociology in July 2015 and founded and directs the Mississippi Food Insecurity Project at Mississippi State University (www.mfip.msstate.edu). She is currently working with state partners to develop local food systems infrastructure in Mississippi that links food systems research, economic development, and food insecurity and food access agendas. Dr. Hossfeld works closely with doctoral candidates and new and emerging scholars to build local food systems and food insecurity scholarship and expertise at Missisisppi State University.
Laura Jean Kerr is a PhD student in the Department of Sociology at Mississippi State University. She is a reach affiliate with the University of Mississippi Medical Center’s Myrlie-Evers Williams Institute for the Elimination of Health Disparities. She has worked in research for over six years as an analyst and associate. She earned her Bachelor’s from the University of Southern Mississippi and her Master’s from Mississippi State University. Her research interests are social inequality, policy, and rural communities.
Dr. Marsha Spence, Associate Professor of Practice, is the Director of the Public Health Nutrition Graduate Program and the Maternal and Child Health (MCH) Nutrition Leadership Education and Training Program at the University of Tennessee. Her research and outreach focus on pediatric obesity prevention and improving child care, school, and community nutrition and physical activity environments in low-income communities, using positive youth development, leadership development, and family engagement. Dr. Spence partners with local health departments, school systems, child care centers, and community organizations to increase capacity so that children and adolescents have access to nutritious meals and snacks and safe places to play and engage in physical activity. Dr. Spence, who is a registered and licensed dietitian nutritionist, earned a doctorate in Human Ecology with a focus on Community Nutrition, a master’s of Nutrition Science with a concentration in Public Health Nutrition, a master’s of Public Health with a concentration in Health Planning and Administration, and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Tennessee.