A Friedman Carol

Dear Readers,

This month at The Sprout, we are keeping our heads up, wrapping up final projects and papers, and looking forward to the holidays and a well-deserved winter break (aka sleep). Leaving the Ebenezer Scrooge of years behind–2016–our contributors take you on a trip through nutrition past, present, and future.

Nutrition misconceptions abounded this year, and Julia Sementelli and Katelyn Castro are here to close the book on some hot topics. Julia gives us the blue-green scoop on the Instagram hit microalgae, while Katelyn sheds light on the media’s favorite winter-time nutrient, vitamin D. She even answers the hot-button question: Do you really need to take a D supplement?

Next stop, nutrition present. First, Yifan Xia explores current thinking on how meal timing influences our health, taking cues from both modern science and traditional Chinese medicine. Then, Micaela Young covered Branchfood’s November event, hosted by Branchfood founder and Friedman alum Lauren Abda, where a panel of experts and app start-up companies detailed the state of technology in food, health, and behavior change.

In nutrition’s future, Delphine Van Roosebeke sees apples, particularly non-browning ones. She gives us the intel on these new GM fruits that could be available next year. As in Charles Dicken’s tale, there are always opportunities for redemption, to grow and evolve. The Friedman Justice League urges the Friedman School to do just that, as they give us their thoughts on the school’s new Strategic Plan.

And in the more immediate future, Friedman students are looking forward to winter break. Need a good book to snuggle up with in-between naps? Danièle Todorov has you covered with a sneak peek of: You May Also Like: Taste in an Age of Endless Choice.

The Sprout‘s editors would like to thank their fall contributors for all of their hard work, and wish the graduating Friedman students luck with adventures that lie ahead. As for our readers, we look forward to bringing you another issue in February 2017!

Cheers,

Micaela & Kathleen

Microalgae: Do They Have a Place in Your Diet or Should They Be Left in the Pond?

by Julia Sementelli

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 presetIf you have an Instagram account, chances are you’ve seen a slew of blue-green smoothies pop up on your feed. High in antioxidants, healthy fats, and protein, microalgae are the latest superfood to take over the nutrition world. The most popular types of algae include chlorella, spirulina, Aphanizomenon flos-aquae (AFA), Blue Majik…the list goes on. Microalgae are claimed to boost your energy, decrease stress, and reduce your risk for diabetes and heart disease. The question, of course, is whether these microalgae have any science-based health benefits beyond the nutrients they provide. 

What’s the Deal with Vitamin D?

by Katelyn Castro

castro-1There is always one nutrient that seems to linger in the media for a while. Lately, vitamin D has been the lucky winner! Considering that over 40% of Americans are vitamin D deficient, according to the
National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 
it’s worth taking a closer look at vitamin D.

Timing of your Meals–Does it Matter?

by Yifan Xia

How would you feel if you were told to not have dinner for the rest of your life? Skipping dinner every day might sound shocking to most of us, but it was once a very common practice in ancient China in the Han Dynasty. In fact, even today Buddhism and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) promote this practice as a healthier choice than eating three meals per day. But does this practice have roots in science? Of course, controversy exists around this topic, but one thing that we can be certain of today is that the timing of our meals can have a much greater impact on our health than we originally thought.

Food Techies Commence: Insights from Branchfood’s November Panel

by Micaela Young

Perkins + Will, an architecture firm in downtown Boston, was the unlikely gathering place of health and food innovators on Wednesday, November 16. The event? Friedman alum and Branchfood founder Lauren Abda hosted an evening entitled “Innovators in Food Tech & Health,” a panel discussion and product tasting event showcasing startups and companies creating new solutions to age old problems of behavior change. Discussed was everything from the potential for food tech as a tool in preventative health, to how innovative start-up apps are using new ways to promote healthy eating and exercising.

Can I Eat An Engineered Apple, Please?screen-shot-2016-11-30-at-5-08-34-pm

by Delphine Van Roosebeke

The days of throwing your half-eaten apple away because it turned brown are over. Shiny non-browning apples are about to hit the consumer market in a few months. And this time, it’s not a fairy tale. Read on.

 

The Friedman Justice League’s Response to the Strategic Plan Launch

by The Friedman Justice League

The Friedman Justice League (FJL) assesses how the recent unveiling of the Friedman School’s Strategic Plan aligns with its own goals and vision for the future, and offers input on how the plan can be effectively implemented. FJL’s internal goals are also expressed, and all Friedman students are welcomed to engage with these efforts, as they please!

Book Review – You May Also Like: Taste in an Age of Endless Choice

by Danièle Todorov

We pick from a dozen entrée options, a couple hundred Netflix movies, or thousands of grocery store products by referencing our intuitive tastes. Or so we think. Tom Vanderbilt delves into the near-irrationality of our preferences in You May Also Like: Taste in an Age of Endless Choice.

 

Microalgae: Do They Have a Place in Your Diet or Should They Be Left in the Pond?

by Julia Sementelli

If you have an Instagram account, chances are you’ve seen a slew of blue-green smoothies pop up on your feed. That vibrant color comes from adding some form of powdered algae to the smoothie. High in antioxidants, healthy fats, and protein, microalgae are the latest superfood to take over the nutrition world. The most popular types of algae include chlorella, spirulina, Aphanizomenon flos-aquae (AFA), Blue Majik…the list goes on. Microalgae are claimed to boost your energy, decrease stress, and reduce your risk for diabetes and heart disease. The question, of course, is whether these microalgae have any science-based health benefits beyond the nutrients they provide. I’ve asked consumers, health food companies, and nutrition experts to weigh in on whether algae should be added to your daily regimen or if they’re better off as fish food.

What are algae?  And why are we eating them?

Microalgae are very small photosynthetic plants rich in chlorophyll, which is where the green comes from (hello flashbacks to high school biology class). According to research, algae types differ in the nutrients they provide but all share one characteristic: they are high in antioxidants.  (See “Get To Know Your Blue-Green Algae” in the sidebar to learn more about individual microalgae). While some microalgae have been on the market for years, they have just recently risen to fame in the nutrition world as social media, blogs, and magazines advertise the purported benefits. One microalga in particular, spirulina, has received a significant amount of attention.  Companies have jumped on the microalgae bandwagon by adding spirulina to their products and even selling it in pure form. Abby Schulman, vegan and nutrition enthusiast, says that her fascination with superfood culture generally led to hearing about microalgae, in particular spirulina.  “It is sort of billed as this amazing nutrient-dense secret pill,” she states. “I was actually concerned about my iron levels and nutrition generally when I first started using it, since it was right when I transitioned to veganism. It felt like a good way of packing in some vitamins was to try the spirulina.” As a vegan who eats a diet rich in fresh produce, Abby states that adding spirulina to her diet is “ a more shelf stable way of getting in greens at the level I eat them than having to buy huge tubs of greens all the time.”

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Photo credit: Julia Sementelli

Microalgae’s time in the sun

 Blue-green microalgae have become a nutritional celebrity thanks to their prevalence in popular health food spots across the United States. Juice Generation, a national juice and smoothie chain, has jumped on the algae bandwagon by selling products that tout its supposed benefits. Products range from “Holy Water,” which contains Blue Majik, tulsi, coconut water, and pineapple, to concentrated shots of E3Live. These products claim to boost energy, enhance focus, and balance blood sugar. However, research to support these claims is lacking.

Infographic credit: Julia Sementelli

Infographic credit: Julia Sementelli

Health food businesses that use social media and blogs to advertise their products have also played a significant role in making microalgae famous. Sun Potion, an online medicinal plants and superfoods company, sells a slew of supplements, including chlorella. Sky Serge, Sun Potion spokesperson, is a big proponent of the power of chlorella. “Sun Potion chlorella is a single-celled green algae that is different than others, and is grown indoors and processed using an advanced sound frequency technology to crack the cell wall, making its many nutrients available for us to enjoy,” she explains. She says that she enjoys consuming chlorella in a glass of spring water each morning. “I have personally felt its detoxification benefits and have noticed healthier skin, better digestion and overall, a better wellbeing. Whether I am drinking it in my water in the morning or adding it to a salad dressing, I try and want to consume it every day!”

To further bolster Sun Potion’s belief in the power of its chlorella, founder, Scott Linde claims that chlorella “contains all eight essential amino acids, which could allow a person to live solely on chlorella and clean drinking water.” Not surprisingly, he too consumes chlorella daily. “Upon waking in the morning, I enjoy an eight ounce glass of water with a teaspoon of chlorella mixed in,” he says. “This simple action can punctuate the start of a great day. The body is slightly dehydrated after sleep, meaning the nutrients from the chlorella are absorbed almost immediately into the blood stream.” When asked about the nutrition benefits of chlorella, Linde claims that drinking chlorella offers much more than just antioxidants. “It helps to oxygenate the blood, waking up the brain; nourish the organs; aid in healthy elimination; and assist the body in moving toxins out of the system.” Not only have Serge and Linde experienced excellent results, but their customers have as well. “At Sun Potion, we have actually had customers tell us that they have forgotten to make their coffee in the morning because they were feeling so good from their morning chlorella ritual. This is perfect example of potent nutrition and best quality plant materials helping to saturate the body with positive influence, leading to looking, feeling, and operating at one’s best.”

The good, the bad, and the blue-green

Although many health claims about microalgae, such as increasing energy and regulating blood sugar, are not supported by science, research has shown some promising, more realistic benefits. A 2013 study showed that adding 3600 milligrams per day of chlorella to the diets of 38 chronic smokers for six weeks helped to improve their antioxidant status and reduce their risk of developing cancer. Another study found that daily intake of 5 grams of chlorella reduced cholesterol and triglyceride levels in patients with high cholesterol. Research has even found that supplementing chlorella can improve the symptoms of depression, when used in conjunction with antidepressant therapy. Still, many of these studies are the first of their kind and more evidence is needed regarding the long-term effects on cholesterol, cancer prevention, and depression, in addition to other conditions microalgae are claimed to help to alleviate.

While the supposed benefits of microalgae typically receive all of the attention, microalgae also have their own list of caveats. According to New York City-based registered dietitian, Willow Jarosh, “Some people can have allergic reactions to both spirulina and chlorella, so take that into consideration when trying. In addition, spirulina can accumulate heavy metals from contaminated waters.” She also states that microalgae can actually be too high in certain nutrients. “If you have high iron levels, have gone through menopause, or are a man, be aware of the high iron levels in microalgae—especially if you use them regularly.”

So what’s the verdict?

While there is certainly a lot of hype surrounding microalgae in the media, from companies that sell products containing them to preliminary supporting research, when it comes to recommending adding chlorella to your daily diet, experts are hesitant.

According to Jarosh, “There are some really major health claims, with very little scientific evidence/research to back up the claims, for both chlorella and spirulina.” As the co-owner of a nutrition consulting business, C&J Nutrition, she finds that her clients are frequently asking her about her thoughts on microalgae. “We’re always reluctant to recommend taking something when the long-term safety is unknown,” Jarosh says. “And since there’s not much research in humans to provide strong reasons to take these supplements (yet!), and the long-term research is also lacking, we’d recommend not using either on a regular basis.”

Microalgae are packed with antioxidants and those are always a good addition to your daily eats. Although the colors of microalgae appear supernatural and their effects often advertised as having the ability to give you superpowers, research is currently inadequate to say whether microalgae have more benefits than other antioxidant-rich foods. If you do decide to try it based on its antioxidant content, make sure that it does not replace other fruits and vegetables in your diet. Remember: Whole foods are always better than a powder.

Julia Sementelli is a second-year Nutrition Communication & Behavior Change student and registered dietitian.  Follow her on Instagram at @julia.the.rd.eats

 

 

 

 

 

 

What’s the Deal with Vitamin D?

by Katelyn Castro

There is always one nutrient that seems to linger in the media for a while. Lately, vitamin D has been the lucky winner! Considering that over 40% of Americans are vitamin D deficient, according to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), it’s worth taking a closer look at vitamin D.

Depression, cancer, heart disease, and type 1 diabetes are some of the many health conditions that have been linked to vitamin D deficiency. While it is too soon to point to vitamin D as a cure-all, this vitamin may be more important for our health than previously thought—especially during the winter months in New England!

Why is Vitamin D Important?

Vitamin D is most often known for its role in bone health, increasing calcium absorption and helping with bone mineralization alongside calcium and phosphorus. Historically, rickets in children and osteoporosis and bone fractures in adults have been the most common signs of vitamin D deficiency.

As a fat-soluble vitamin and a hormone, vitamin D is also involved in many other important metabolic processes. Did you know vitamin D activates over one thousand genes in the human genome? For example, vitamin D is needed for protein transcription within skeletal muscle, which may explain why vitamin D deficiency is associated with poor athletic performance. Vitamin D also regulates blood pressure by suppressing renin gene expression, supporting the possible relationship between vitamin D deficiency and risk of heart disease. Additionally, vitamin D status may alter immunity due to its role in cytokine production. Studies have found that vitamin D deficiency is associated with upper respiratory tract infections. While more research is needed to explore these connections, these findings continue to suggest that vitamin D plays an integral role in bone, muscle, cardiac, and immune health.

Where Do You Get Vitamin D?

Only a few foods are natural sources of vitamin D, including eggs and fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, tuna, and sardines. Instead, vitamin D-fortified foods like dairy products, juices, and breakfast cereals make up the majority of Americans’ vitamin D intake.

Sun exposure, on the other hand, can be the greatest source of vitamin D for some people–hence vitamin D’s nickname, the “sunshine vitamin.” Unlike any other vitamin, vitamin D can be synthesized in the body when the sun’s ultraviolet B rays reach the skin and convert cholesterol into a Vitamin D3, the precursor for vitamin D. Then, Vitamin D3 diffuses through the skin into the blood, where it is transported to the liver and kidneys and converted into vitamin D’s active form, 25(OH)D.

Research has found that exposing arms, legs, and face to the sun for 15 to 30 minutes twice a week provides about 1000 international units of vitamin D (equal to about 10 cups of milk!). Despite this robust source of vitamin D, deficiency is surprisingly common in the U.S.

Who is at Risk of Vitamin D Deficiency?

Many circumstances can alter vitamin D synthesis and absorption, increasing risk of vitamin D deficiency. Some of the factors that have been found to impact vitamin D status include the following:

  • Season: According to research, during the months of November to February, people living more than 37 degrees latitude north or south produce little or no vitamin D from the sun due of the angle of ultraviolet B sunrays. While vitamin D is stored in fat tissue and can be released into the blood when needed, our stores typically only last one to two months.
  • Limited Sun Exposure: Vitamin D synthesis can also be blocked when sunscreen is applied correctly or when long robes or head coverings are worn for religious reasons. For example, sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 8 decreased vitamin D synthesis in skin by about 95% in one study.
  • Skin Color: People with darker skin pigmentation have also been found in research to have lower levels of vitamin D due to decreased synthesis. This is supported by the high prevalence of vitamin D deficiency among certain ethnicities, with 82% African Americans and 69% Hispanics found to be vitamin D deficient according to NHANES.
  • Weight: Studies also suggest that overweight and obese people may have higher Vitamin D requirements. Since they have more body fat and since vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, vitamin D is more widely distributed in fat tissue, making it less bioavailable. As a result, more vitamin D may be needed for it to reach the blood stream for distribution in the body.
  • Age: Older adults have been found to have lower levels of the vitamin D, likely due to both decreased sun exposure and inefficient synthesis. One study found that 70 year-olds had about 25% of the vitamin D precursor compared to young adults, which decreased vitamin D synthesis in the skin by 75%.
  • Fat Malabsorption: When any gastrointestinal disorder or other health condition impairs fat absorption (i.e. liver disease, cystic fibrosis, celiac disease, or Crohn’s disease), vitamin D is also poorly absorbed and utilized since Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin.

 Vitamin D deficiency can be especially concerning because symptoms like bone pain and muscle weakness may go undetected in the early stages of deficiency. Although physicians do not routinely check vitamin D levels, those at risk of deficiency may benefit from a serum 25(OH)D test. This is a simple test used to measure the level of vitamin D circulating in blood, with levels less 20 nanograms per milliliter commonly used to diagnose deficiency. However, some organizations like the Endocrine Society argue that levels greater than 30 nanograms per milliliter should be recommended for optimal bone and muscle metabolism.

How Much Vitamin D Do You Need?

Similar to vitamin D serum levels, no ideal vitamin D intake has been well established since many factors contribute to vitamin D status. The U.S. Institute of Medicine recommends 600 to 800 international units (IU) of vitamin D daily for adults, assuming minimal sun exposure. On the other hand, the National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends larger doses of 1000 to 1200 IU daily for adults to support adequate bone health. Although vitamin D toxicity is rare, an upper level of 4000 IU has been set by the Institute of Medicine since extremely high levels can lead to calcium buildup, and could cause poor appetite, nausea, vomiting, weakness, and kidney problems.

With limited amounts of vitamin D provided from food, even fortified foods, diet alone is usually inadequate to meet vitamin D needs. For example, you would need to drink about 8 cups of milk every day to reach 800 IU of vitamin D from diet alone! While sun exposure can supplement food intake to meet vitamin D needs, many Americans still fall short of their needs due the factors outlined above.

For the 40% of Americans who have been found to be vitamin D deficient, vitamin D supplementation can be an effective and safe way to meet needs. Whether you’re an avid sunscreen-user or living here in New England during these fall and winter months, a daily vitamin D supplement can ensure that vitamin D stores are adequate. Multivitamins typically provide 400 IU of vitamin D, but a separate vitamin D supplement (D2 or D3) with 800 or 1000 IU may be needed to meet daily intake recommendations.

Katelyn Castro is a second-year student in the Dietetic Internship/MS Nutrition Program at the Friedman School. During the summer, she enjoys soaking up the sun if only for an excuse to get her daily dose of Vitamin D. During the winter, you can find her trekking through the snow, bundled up like the boy in A Christmas Story, and contemplating whether she needs a D supplement.

 

 

Timing of your Meals–Does it Matter?

by Yifan Xia

How would you feel if you were told to not have dinner for the rest of your life? Skipping dinner every day might sound shocking to most of us, but it was once a very common practice in ancient China in the Han Dynasty. In fact, even today Buddhism and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) promote this practice as a healthier choice than eating three meals per day. But does this practice have roots in science? Of course, controversy exists around this topic, but one thing that we can be certain of today is that the timing of our meals can have a much greater impact on our health than we originally thought.

Researchers investigating the circadian system (internal biological clock) have started looking at the effects of mealtime on our health. Surprisingly, preliminary evidence seems to support the claims of Buddhism and TCM, indicating that eating meals earlier in the day might help promote weight loss and reduce the risk of chronic disease.

What are circadian rhythms and the circadian system?

Circadian rhythms are changes in the body that follow a roughly 24-hour cycle in response to external cues such as light and darkness. Our circadian system, or internal biological clock, drives circadian rhythms and prepares us to function according to a 24-hour daily cycle, both physically and mentally.

Why do they matter to our health?

Our internal biological clock is involved in almost every aspect of our daily lives: it influences our sleep-and-wake cycle, determines when we feel most energetic or calm, and when we want to eat.

These days people don’t always rely on their biological clocks to tell them when to eat, and there are many distractions in the environment that can influence mealtime. We typically think how many calories we eat—and what we eat—are the major contributors to our weight and health, but researchers have found that eating at inappropriate times can disrupt the internal biological clock, harm metabolism, and increase the risk of obesity and chronic disease.

What does the research say?

Although currently the body of research evidence for this area is relatively small, there are several human studies worth highlighting. One randomized, open-label, parallel-arm study, conducted by Jakubowicz, D., et al and published in 2013, compared effects of two isocaloric weight loss diets on 93 obese/overweight women with metabolic syndrome. After 12 weeks, the group with higher caloric intake during breakfast showed greater weight loss and waist circumference reduction, as well as significantly greater decrease in fasting glucose and insulin level, than the group with higher caloric intake during dinner. Another study published in the same year with 420 participants noted that a 20-week weight-loss treatment was significantly more effective for early lunch eaters than late lunch eaters. In 2015, a randomized, cross-over trial, conducted in 32 women and published in International Journal of Obesity, showed that late eating pattern resulted in a significant decrease in pre-meal resting-energy expenditure, lower pre-meal utilization of carbohydrates, and decreased glucose tolerance, confirming the differential effects of meal timing on metabolic health. However, few studies were identified reporting negative findings, probably due to the fact that this is an emerging field and more research is needed to establish a solid relationship.

 So when should we eat? Is there a perfect mealtime schedule for everyone?

“There are so many factors that influence which meal schedules may be suitable for an individual (including biological and environmental) that I cannot give a universal recommendation,” says Gregory Potter, a PhD candidate in the Leeds Institute for Genetics, Health and Therapeutics (LIGHT) laboratory at the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom and lead author on the lab’s recent paper reviewing evidence of nutrition and the circadian systems, published in The British Journal of Nutrition in 2016. Potter also comments that regular mealtime seems to be more important than sticking to the same schedule as everyone else: “There is evidence that consistent meal patterns are likely to be superior to variable ones and, with everything else kept constant, it does appear that consuming a higher proportion of daily energy intake earlier in the waking day may lead to a lower energy balance and therefore body mass.”

Aleix Ribas-Latre, a PhD candidate at the Center for Metabolic and Degenerative Diseases at the University of Texas Health Science Center and lead author on another review paper investigating the interdependence of nutrient metabolism and the circadian systems, published in Molecular Metabolism in 2016, also agrees: “To find the appropriate meal time has to be something totally personalized, although [it] should not present [too] much difference.” Aleix especially noted that people who are born with a tendency to rise late, eat late, and go to bed late (“night owls” versus “early birds”) are more likely to be at risk for metabolic disease.

Do we have to eat three meals a day?

How many meals do you usually have? In fact, how much food makes a meal and how much is a snack? There is no universal definition, which makes these difficult questions to answer.

“To maintain a healthy attitude towards food, I think it is important to avoid being too rigid with eating habits … I do think consistency is important as more variable eating patterns may have adverse effects on metabolism,” says Potter. “Although there is evidence that time-of-day-restricted feeding (where food availability is restricted to but a few hours each day) has many beneficial effects on health in other animals such as mice, it is as yet unclear if this is true in humans. I’d also add that periodic fasting (going for one 24 hour period each week without energy containing foods and drinks) can confer health benefits for many individuals,” Potter comments.

[See Hannah Meier’s recent article on intermittent fasting for more.]

Based on their research, Ribais-Latre and his lab have a different opinion. “We should eat something every 3-4 hours (without counting 8 hours at night). Many people complain about that but then consume a huge percentage of calories during lunch or even worse at night, because they are very hungry. Eating a healthy snack prevents us [from] eating too [many] calories at once.” He suggests what he considers a healthier mealtime schedule:

–          6:00 am  Breakfast (30% total calories)

–          9:30 am  Healthy snack (10%)

–          1:00 pm  Lunch (35%)

–          4:30 pm  Healthy snack (10%)

–          8:00 pm  Dinner (15%)

What if you are a shift worker or your work requires you to travel across time zones a lot? Ribais-Latre’s advice is “not to impair more their lifestyle… at least it would be great if they are able to do exercise, eat healthy, sleep a good amount of hours.”

What does Traditional Chinese Medicine say?

There are historical reasons behind the no-dinner practice in ancient China in the Han Dynasty. First, food was not always available. Second, electricity hadn’t been invented, so people usually rested after sunset and they didn’t need much energy at what we now consider “dinner time.”

However, there are also health reasons behind this practice. In TCM theory, our internal clock has an intimate relationship with our organs. Each organ has its “time” for optimal performance, and we can reap many health benefits by following this clock. For example, TCM considers 1:00 am – 3:00 am the time of “Liver”. The theory says that is when the body should be in deep sleep so that the liver can help to rid toxins from our body and make fresh blood. Disruption at this time, such as staying up until 2:00 am, might affect the liver’s ability to dispel toxins, leading to many health problems, according to the theory.

Many Western researchers do not seem to be familiar with the TCM theory. When asked about the practice of skipping dinner, Potter comments, “I think that skipping dinner can be a perfectly healthy practice in some circumstances; in others, however, it may be ill advised if, for example, the individual subsequently has difficulty achieving consolidated sleep.”

On the flip side, Ribais-Latre says that “skipping a meal is not good at all. We should not eat more calories than those we need to [live], and in addition, the quality of these calories should be high… If you can split those calories [to] 5 times a day instead of three, I think this is healthier.”

Even though there is no universal agreement on mealtime, the tradition of “skipping dinner” did come back into style several years ago in China as a healthier way of losing weight, and was quite popular among Chinese college women. Yan, a sophomore from Shanghai and a friend of mine, said that she tried the method for six months but is now back to the three-meal pattern. “The first couple of days were tough, but after that, it was much easier and I felt my body was cleaner and lighter… I did lose weight, but that’s not the main goal anymore… I got up early every day feeling energetic. Maybe it’s because I only ate some fruits in the afternoon, I usually felt sleepy early and went to bed early, which made it easier to get up early the next day with enough sleep… I’m eating three meals now, but only small portions at dinner, and I think I will continue this practice for my health.”

So what’s the take-away?

Mealtime does seem to matter. But exactly how, why, and what we can do to improve our health remains a mystery. Researchers are now looking into the concept of “chrono-nutritional therapy,” or using mealtime planning to help people with obesity or other chronic diseases. When we resolve this mystery, the question of “When do you eat?” will not just be small talk, but perhaps a key to better health.

Yifan Xia is a second-year student studying Nutrition Communication and Behavior Change. She loves reading, traveling, street dancing, trying out new restaurants with friends in Boston, and watching Japanese animations.

 

 

Food Techies Commence: Insights from Branchfood’s November Panel

by Micaela Young

Perkins + Will, an architecture firm in downtown Boston, was the unlikely gathering place of health and food innovators on Wednesday, November 16. The event? Friedman alum and Branchfood founder Lauren Abda hosted an evening entitled “Innovators in Food Tech & Health,” a panel discussion and product tasting event showcasing startups and companies creating new solutions to age old problems of behavior change. Discussed was everything from the potential for food tech as a tool in preventative health, to how innovative start-up apps are using new ways to promote healthy eating and exercising.

At networking events, I am usually the awkward person standing in the periphery, deeply enveloped in conversations that I am actually not a part of. (Sigh.) But that was not the case at Branchfood’s November event. Geeking out about food with innovators, including students at Harvard developing solutions to refugee access to fresh produce, and the founder of a small, New Hampshire based fermented food company, MicroMama’s, this Friedmanite fit right in.

These start-ups were all brought together by Lauren Abda, a Friedman alum who is herself an innovator. After graduating from the Food Policy and Applied Nutrition program in 2012, she worked at the World Trade Organization in Geneva for two years as a Fellow in the Agriculture and Commodities Division. Ready for a change of scenery, Lauren came back to Boston and worked for a tech company called Litmus. Noticing that food tech and start-ups were fragmented, that there was poor flow and knowledge sharing between entrepreneurs in Boston—a hub for innovation—and that new companies needed support, Lauren started a meet-up group that eventually became Branchfood, which now offers monthly events, panels, classes, newsletters, networking meet-ups, and office hours for people looking to launch ventures in a slightly more informed way. Branchfood also leases space in their downtown Boston office to budding creatives and companies in need of a place to plant their seeds.

Branchfood’s November 2016 panel discussion took place at Perkins + Will, a global architecture firm with a number of projects focused on health and wellness. David Dymecki, the Sports and Recreation Global Market Leader, explained in his kick-off welcome speech that not only is the firm seeing a growing trend in active design, but that food is an important part of office culture. “The next best thing about eating good food,” Dymecki noted, “is talking about good food.” I certainly can’t argue with that!

Janelle Nanos, an esteemed reporter at the Boston Globe who covers tech and innovation, as well as the business of food (she interviewed our own Tim Griffin for a story on hydroponics in November), began by having the panelists introduce themselves:

In the first seat was Jake Cacciapaglia, VP of Media at Runkeeper, a mobile running app that helps runners, from weekending warriors to seasoned marathoners. With over 50 million users, the app was recently acquired by Asics in March, presenting a new challenge for Cacciapaglia and his team in learning how to find balance between the app and its users, the marketing and selling of shoes and apparel, and helping Asics be more relevant in the digital world. The app incorporates nutrition guidance by partnering with apps like LoseIt! and MyFitnessPal.

Next up was Kyle Cahill, the Director of Sustainability and Environmental Health at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts. Cahill’s biggest focus is on understanding how environmental factors influence society’s health.

The fourth panelist was Tara McCarthy, chief dietitian and co-founder of Kindrdfood, an app bringing focus to people who need to change their diet—for medical reasons—and bringing her expertise into their homes. McCarthy has also worked at Boston Children’s Hospital part-time since 2001.

Last but not least was Ian Brady, the Chief Executive of AVA, an app providing personalized nutritional guidance. Using their technology that is a combo plate of human intelligence (dietitians), plus robots, AVA is able to use client’s goals and food preferences to provide real-time recommendations that adapt “on the fly.” Oh—and AVA can tell you the macronutrient composition of a meal with just a photo! (Cue animated mind exploding clip.)

Nanos: What is your target audience? 

Cacciapaglia noted that most of their users are just trying to make running a part of the lifestyle, with a primary goal of weight loss. But the app isn’t just for helping weekend warriors form habits, or guiding experienced runners through harder training plans and race goals.  The ultimate target, Cacciapaglia says, are those who aren’t motivated, who aren’t likely to hit download in the first place.

Turns out this was a major theme of the night: amotivation.

Our health is multifactorial, noted Cahill, driven by our genes, our choices, and our environments, yet most of our resourceso to treating people once they are sick. “Food is cross cutting…the availability and quality of food, as well as where you live plays a significant role in food choices.” At Blue Cross Blue Shield, Cahill and colleagues bring an ecologic model to thinking about health, from individual choices to food system decisions.

Kindrdfood, McCarthy explained, targets anyone with health conditions, anyone who needs to change the way they eat. McCarthy then eloquently described the “care gap” between physician instructions (eat these foods; these foods are off limits) and what is actually put on the table, or taken to school in a lunchbox. Targeting all ages—although she admitted adults follow instructions better when the change is for their children—Kindrdfood attracts those who have just been diagnosed and are motivated to seek help. “The uphill battle,” said McCarthy, “is reaching those who do not think they need to change.”

Brady added that the common thread of why AVA users sign on is convenience, for real-time instant access (the “just tell me what to eat” folks). But the app also helps users manage conditions and link well-being with food. AVA targets those who want to change, but want help doing so.

Nanos: What do you see technology doing for your company?

Cahill took this question first, explaining that Blue Cross has an investment arm, called Zaffre, that is involved in helping local start-ups. One example in their portfolio is Zest Health, a platform for helping people access and navigate healthcare benefits, medical information and provider options more efficiently. But Zaffre’s investments are not just for linking patients to providers technologically, Cahill noted. They also prop up those who are using technology on the preventative side. For this, Cahill gave the example of Ovuline, a fertility trackernd health guidance app that follows women from preconception through child raising.

McCarthy then spoke of how telehealth, or video chatting with clients, is Kindrdfood’s only way of reaching clients. Why? Because it’s easy for families, McCarthy explained, and practitioners are able to be in their living rooms with them. “I get a lot more out of a visit when I am in their house. Being in their house, seeing how comfortable they are, seeing their actual food, seeing that they don’t have a table, seeing that the baby or child eats on the floor…that piece is huge.” McCarthy also explained that video chatting enables her to reach multiple caregivers, whereas in a traditional hospital or appointment setting you may not. And patients usually request more frequent visits than would normally be recommended. Telehealth adds an element of convenience inpatient appointments cannot come close to. However, the broken piece, she said, is connecting healthcare to use all of these technologies in sync.

Cacciapaglia echoed that telehealth is a great tool technology can offer, but noted that he has observed that maintaining app use and behavior change after these conversations was hard for clients even though the quality of time spent with the dietitian was great. But he was hopeful. “Having a nutritionist seems out of reach,” Cacciapaglia said. “It is expensive to have a one-on-one session and is hard to find the time, but it is now becoming more accessible.”

Because Brady and his team at AVA did not explicitly tell clients whether their recommendations and dietary information was coming from a person or a robot—keeping it vague—he has found that clients share more information than they might one-on-one with a dietitian. “People don’t have to look at someone through a video chat interface and share the bad thing they just did.” Instead, they can send it over text. This personal distance, whether good or bad, seems to be working for AVA, who sees the technology moving into forecasting, making proactive recommendations to clients to help them make the right choice—before they have to make it. How? Well, Brady explained that the technology uses natural language processing that attempts to tailor the response based on the question. The technical piece, however, is made up of a “backbone” of dietitians.

Nanos: What do you think the data you are pulling now could potentially do? What could we learn?

Cahill sees that the data he and his colleagues are pulling could be used on the population level. His vision is the creation of robust mapping tools that could integrate their data with public data sets around things that impact health, including where someone lives, the food environment, and access to medical clinics. Blue Cross Blue Shield could then zero-in to better work with employers on healthcare and interventions. Cahill explained that he would also like to use their data to promote a more holistic view in healthcare that includes nutrition habits, someone’s income, and other social issues that impact health. As an example, Cahill noted that he’s a vegetarian, “but my doctor’s never asked me that. May be nice to know—maybe not.”

AVA is looking for data to help fuel client’s motivation, to keep them accountable. Brady said that they leverage Myers-Briggs profiles, which he believes helps AVA take note of how an individual typically behaves and converses in order to best match responses, tailoring the conversation to the users’ level. Brady explained that if you speak formally, AVA wants to “speak” formally. And vice versa. “We often describe internally that we have ‘Ava’ who is sort-of middle of the road, then we have an ‘Emma’ version who is very supportive and will never yell at you for what you eat,” Brady said. “And then we have an ‘Olga’ version, who is very direct—you will not like the feedback you are going to get. I tried Olga, but I had to switch.”

Maybe Isaac Asimov was on to something…

Cacciapaglia sees the data as adding value to the customer experience, while making the app more relevant in runners’ lives. “Not only are we trying to figure out who is most valuable to us as a customer,” he said, “but we want to try and map out the journey of each of the members and be more relevant in that journey. For example, you can serve ads to someone on Facebook or in whatever app you are in, but if it’s not the right time or it doesn’t speak to you, we’re like ‘get out of my face’ with that stuff.”

Nanos: Where would you love to see the technology advance to?

McCarthy was eager to answer Nanos’ last question of the night. “I would love to see that we are not talking so much about medicine and talking more about prevention.” Her vision: “When you pull up someone’s e-medical records, a food button is there. We want that to be a focus, so it’s not an afterthought—it’s not skipped. A future where everyone is trained in food, everyone talks about food. I feel that it is a part that gets missed…these are big things.” To bring the point home, McCarthy recounts a time when a child’s healthcare team thought she was having a GI bleed. It turns out that the red fluid in the child’s tube was not blood at all, but beets that the child had eaten earlier in the day!

Then Brady took the floor. “Our ultimate goal is to help people fall in love with food again.” He aims for AVA to help clients be able to sit down and enjoy the experience—before, during, and after eating. “Our goal is to help people find that connection again.”

Cahill explained that he envisions technology helping to fix our broken food system, whether that means people’s appreciation of food, or if it means the process of getting food from field to table. “More money now goes into getting people to eat junk food that they shouldn’t eat than the other way around.”

In the last comment of the night, Cacciapaglia topped us off by reminding everyone that it is really hard to make healthy decisions all the time. (I hear you loud and clear, Jake!) “One thing that is really frustrating,” Cacciapaglia said, “is that I’m in my 30s and I still don’t understand what happens when I put something in my body and what my body is doing with that thing. Our education system doesn’t do a good job—unless you do a specific track to get that knowledge—we don’t really know.” He noted that we are left to discern media messages and advertisement intentions on our own. “Even with great effort on my part, I still have the question: ‘So what should I do?’ Technology can be powerful in making this journey a lot easier for an individual to take action, avoid temptation, and shape the environment in a way to do so.”

 

Branchfood’s November event was an interesting look into a side of the industry we don’t often talk about in classes at Friedman. Behavior change and motivation issues, however, are a constant topic of conversation. It seems that while technology can be a powerful tool to evoke change in those who are motivated, it is not yet the magic bullet of prevention. Only time will tell.

I encourage Sprout readers to check out Branchfood’s upcoming events HERE.

Micaela Young is a second-year Nutrition Communication student trying to soak up as much of Boston life as she can before graduation. First on her Boston bucket list is attending more Branchfood events!

 

Can I Eat An Engineered Apple, Please?

by Delphine Van Roosebeke

The days of throwing your half-eaten apple away because it turned brown are over. Shiny non-browning apples are about to hit the consumer market in a few months. And this time, it’s not a fairy tale. Read on.

Cartoon from Pinterest

Cartoon from Pinterest

In 1812, the German Grimm Brothers created the shiny red apple in Snow White, featuring it as the symbol of evil given to Snow White by the witch on behalf of the jealous queen. The story was told to children to teach them not to trust strangers. Two hundred years later, it is the shiny green Arctic® Apple that brings people together to tell stories. This time, Okanagan Specialty Fruits Inc., a Canadian agriculture biotech company that creates new varieties of apples, has replaced the jealous queen. Don’t get me wrong, you won’t get poisoned as Snow White did, but you may be surprised by sliced apples that won’t brown for two weeks.

What are non-browning apples?

No matter how you slice, bruise or bite your apple, every apple turns brown eventually. When the apple’s flesh is cut, the oxygen in the air interacts with chemicals in the flesh of the apple. An enzyme called polyphenol oxidase, or PPO, makes melanin, an iron-containing compound that gives apple cells a brown tinge. The same type of ‘oxidative’ browning happens in the browning of tea, coffee and mushrooms. Within five minutes of slicing, browning can alter an apple’s taste and make it less aesthetically pleasing, but it doesn’t mean the apple is old or rotten.

To prevent this oxidative browning, Okanagan developed proprietary technologies to engineer genetically modified (GM) apples. The apples, called Arctic® Apples, produce reduced amounts of PPO. To achieve this, small gene fragments, called silencing RNAs, were injected into the apple seeds using bacteria. Such an insertion with gene fragments is a red flag for the apple cell, as it resembles the first step of viral attack. As a response, it chops up every sequence of DNA that looks like the suspicious fragment, and thus the PPO gene gets decimated. Because the PPO production is reduced to less than 10% compared to regular apples, the Arctic® Apple, even when sliced, will stay clear of browning for about two weeks. That’s roughly the same extended life span as apple slices from McDonald’s and Burger King, which use lemon juice and calcium ascorbate to prevent browning. Indeed, lemon juice and calcium ascorbate have a similar cosmetic effect to the silencing fragments inserted into the Arctic® Apples.

A regular apple, on the left, shows brown spots, while an Arctic® Apple has a clearer appearance. Photo by Okanagan Specialty Fruits

A regular apple, on the left, shows brown spots, while an Arctic® Apple has a clearer appearance. Photo by Okanagan Specialty Fruits

 Why do we need non-browning apples?

Is the world waiting for a non-browning apple or is this just another ‘we-can, so-we-do-it’ product that eventually may threaten the ecosystem or our bodies? Well, according to Okanagan, very few fresh-cut apples are available on fruit plates, in salads, in cafeterias, or on airplanes, primarily due to the browning issue. Anti-browning treatments are costly and often add an off-taste, the company says. But these treatments are not needed for Arctic® Apples, which is why Okanagan hopes to get their apples available in more places. Consumer research has suggested that apple products, such as bagged apple slices, are the number one produce item that customers would like to see more packaged versions of. Since apple slices are arguably easier to eat than whole fruits, this innovation could propel apple sales. Indeed, the simple convenience of baby carrots doubled carrot consumption, and Okanagan is endeavoring to achieve the same results with apples.

Another argument for bringing engineered non-browning apples to the consumer market is the reduction of food waste. According to the company, apples are among the most wasted foods on the planet, with around 30 to 40 percent of the apples produced never being consumed because of superficial bruising and browning. Given that 52 percent of fresh produce goes to waste in the U.S. alone, consumption of non-browning apples, such as the Artic® Apple, may be one small step in the right direction to shrink this enormous mountain of food waste.

When will you be able to eat them?
Cartoon from Pinterest

Cartoon from Pinterest

Non-browning apples have gotten the green light to get on the market, as both the USDA and FDA approved Arctic® Apples for consumption. According to Okanagan, the first commercial Arctic® Apple orchards were planted in 2015, but it takes a few years for newly-planted apple trees to produce much fruit. They expect small test market quantities from the 2016 harvest, followed by a gradual commercial launch starting in 2017 with increasing availability each year thereafter. The first two varieties that will be available to consumers will be the Arctic® Granny and the Arctic® Golden. Currently, Arctic® Fuji is next in line with others planned to follow!

Although Neil Carter, the president and founder of Okanagan Specialty Fruits, has expressed in the New York Times that the apples will be labeled as Arctic®, they will not explicitly label their apples as GMO. Unlike other genetically engineered crops, Arctic® Apples do not contain foreign DNA but silencing RNAs to reduce the expression of the PPO gene. Therefore, Arctic® Apples are not effectively captured by the current regulatory structure on GMO labeling. According to the company, the label Arctic® is sufficient to create transparency and let the consumers decide whether they want GM apples that don’t brown.

Food for thought on non-browning apples

Despite the millions of dollars and more than 20 years of research that went into the development of non-browning apples, not everyone welcomes the new shiny green Arctic® Apples from Canada. Since we already have hybrid ‘low browning’ varieties, such as the Cortland apple, and successful preservative treatments, some people wonder whether we really need a genetically engineered apple that doesn’t brown. In fact, with the advent of the non-browning apple, the food industry has departed from the premise that GM foods are meant to increase productivity. Indeed, the Arctic® Apple is one of the few GM products that is developed to improve the product cosmetically, to match the media-driven image of a perfect apple rather than improving the crop’s yield or nutritional performance. However, despite the maintenance of a fresher look, the preservability of non-browning apples is similar to conventional apples as Arctic® Apples will eventually still brown due to the rotting process by bacteria and fungi.

Given that PPO is involved in the plant’s defense mechanism, it has been speculated that the mutation in non-browning apples could make the plant more susceptible to insect and microbial pest damage, thus increasing farmers’ reliance on pesticides. Although more pesticides might be needed to maintain productivity of the crops, if non-browning apples actually do reduce food waste, growing fewer acres of non-browning apples may be adequate to meet the market demand. Also, the primary market of the Arctic® Apple is sliced apples, which is a subset of all apples consumed. However, as sliced non-browning apples find their way into more products, demand could increase from, say, parents wanting to use these apples as a convenient and healthy snack in their picky eater’s lunch box. This may eventually drive the need for increased production. Given these market dynamics, the cost-benefit of non-browning apples for the society is elusive and it remains to be seen to what extent the Arctic® Apple puts a burden on the natural environment.

Delphine Van Roosebeke is a rising Biochemical and Molecular Nutrition graduate with a background in biochemical engineering. When she is not thinking about dark Belgian chocolate, she’s eating it! Delphine has a crush on nutrients and the magic they perform in our body, and loves to share her knowledge with anyone who wants to hear it in a fun and approachable way! 

 

 

The Friedman Justice League’s Response to the Strategic Plan Launch

by The Friedman Justice League

The Friedman Justice League (FJL) assesses how the recent unveiling of the Friedman School’s Strategic Plan aligns with its own goals and vision for the future, and offers input on how the plan can be effectively implemented. FJL’s internal goals are also expressed, and all Friedman students are welcomed to engage with these efforts, as they please!

Introduction

People of color and low-income people are more likely to experience the injustices perpetrated on both the production and consumption ends of the food system. Having broad racial and class representation in the Friedman School is key to producing alumni who can effectively navigate these issues throughout their careers. Therefore, Friedman Justice League (FJL) student group is eager to promote more diversified representation in our school community.

Last fall, FJL members gathered to conduct a visioning process, through which the group agreed on clear goals for engaging in the school’s Strategic Planning process. Our members served on several working groups and collaborated with other students, staff, and faculty to foster active engagement throughout the School. This planning process and our engagement with the administration over the past many years have led to numerous promising outcomes, including positive relationships with supportive members of the administration and increased opportunities to engage with faculty about curriculum improvements. Two FJL members sit on the Friedman School Diversity Task Force, and FJL members also helped plan the recent diversity and inclusion training at the Boston Health Science campus.

During the Strategic Plan Launch on November 15, we heard from President Monaco, Provost Harris, and Dean Mozaffarian about the Friedman School’s plan for advancing its mission “from cell to society.” Many of our members were present to listen, take notes, and pose questions. As a student organization committed to improving our School’s ability to address issues of discrimination and oppression within the food system, we paid particularly close attention to the  Strategic Plan goals that coincide with our own:

screen-shot-2016-11-30-at-4-26-45-pm

Recognition

We acknowledge that the Strategic Plan includes many goals that align and overlap with some of our personal and group values, and are particularly supportive of Goals II, V, X, and XI, which we advocated for within the working groups. FJL specifically encourages the Friedman School to infuse these values in all of its goals by raising consciousness about justice and equity through its curricula and public impact actions. Dean Mozaffarian emphasized the role students played during the planning process in driving social justice priorities to the surface, and we are grateful to have had the opportunity to contribute meaningfully to the plan. We look forward to continuing our engagement with the Strategic Plan, as we monitor and support the implementation of these goals.

Furthermore, we are optimistic about the progress that is currently being made within Friedman’s Diversity Task Force, which has been working to establish a formal School structure to actualize the Strategic Plan goals related to diversity, inclusion, and social justice. The Task Force is comprised of the Academic Dean of Education, the Associate Director of Student Affairs for Admissions, the Associate Director of Admissions, one faculty member, one staff member, and two current FJL members.  The Diversity Task Force has already begun to generate innovative approaches for more targeted recruitment of students with diverse socioeconomic and racial backgrounds. We look forward to continuing to work alongside the Task Force to recruit, support, and retain future leaders from historically oppressed groups in our society.

Promising Progress, Poised for Action

In the Strategic Plan’s introductory video, the Dean states: “We will also emphasize and integrate principles of social justice, inclusion, and diversity into every facet of what we do.” We applaud the incorporation of this broad commitment. However, the discussion during the launch focused primarily on advancing this commitment through increased integration of diversity and justice issues into the curriculum.

We are also interested in hearing more about the School’s specific plans to address the lack of diversity in the composition of our school, and we hope to see increased representation of communities of color and diverse socioeconomic backgrounds in the future. Dean Mozaffarian mentioned the importance of Friedman alumni to the advancement of our School’s values. Like our current students, our School’s alumni are primarily white. World-class leadership from our students and alumni will require that our student body and faculty be composed of people whose lived experiences provide a complex understanding of the successes and challenges of our food system. The Dean’s continued discussion of diversity both in promotional materials and during the launch is promising, and we hope that the School’s commitment to this goal becomes clearer in the near future.

Opportunities for Improvement

The translation of these goals and objectives into measurable improvement is the next step in ensuring a more diverse and well-equipped student body, network of alumni, and faculty. It is important that the School’s efforts to advance diversity and inclusion be rooted in humility. To effect real change, the School must fully and genuinely recognize its starting point in its goal of “expand[ing] and diversify[ing] our student body to train future leaders in nutrition science, policy, and practice” (Goal X). In this vein, it is important that the School accurately present the racial and ethnic demographic data of its current student body, which will serve as an accurate baseline for monitoring future progress. We did not feel that such a presentation was provided during the launch. For example, the graduation photo on Friedman by the Numbers (Page 16 of the Strategic Plan), is suggestive of greater demographic diversity than the current composition of the School. Data on the School’s racial and ethnic makeup exist but were not provided as part of Friedman by the Numbers. These data are presented on the Tufts University Diversity Dashboard, and the numbers paint a very different picture than the image chosen for the Strategic Plan’s promotion. Given that these data are available, we are disappointed that they were not presented alongside the other relevant data about our school’s current composition. It is critically important that the School take an honest accounting of its starting composition and avoid celebrating a diverse makeup that is not yet a reality.

Responsibility & Transparency

All members of the Friedman community share responsibility in the creation of a just and inclusive learning and working environment at the School, and we recognize that this is an important and dynamic moment in the School’s history. With regard to the diversity and inclusion-related goals in the plan, we see both great potential for our school to become a social justice leader, and we also recognize the great challenges that lie ahead.

Given the complexity of addressing systems of oppression through institutional action, we would like to know how the administration plans to delegate responsibility for the implementation of these goals, and are curious about how it will engage the Friedman community in the process of setting qualitative and quantitative metrics for advancing the aims of the Strategic Plan. We recognize that this work is difficult. Significant gains will require the focused and sustained engagement of skillful individuals working within the School’s own system. As such, we advocate for the hiring of at least one dedicated professional capable of advancing the diversity and inclusion-related goals. Schools on the Boston Health Sciences Campus have similar models, in which a designated administrator is focused on such issues. Dr. Joyce Sackey, for example, is the Dean of Multicultural Affairs at the School of Medicine.

We also support the creation of more streamlined, accessible, and transparent communication networks between the administration and the broader student body during the implementation process. One example that the School could emulate comes from our neighbor, Northeastern University (NEU). NEU recently demonstrated both humility and transparency while engaging their community broadly during the University’s recent diversity and inclusion action planning process. We think Friedman would benefit from creating a similar forum for students, staff, and faculty to discuss the process of operationalizing the Strategic Plan’s goals moving forward. Countless other examples of innovative anti-racism actions by higher education institutions exist, and we look forward to seeing which method Friedman adopts as we work to help the School advance its goals.

FJL’s 2016-17 Vision

In October, the Friedman Justice League (FJL) conducted its own visioning process to set priorities for the year. Members shared their personal visions for justice in the world as well as their ideas on the role of the Friedman School and FJL in realizing these visions. The discussion was distilled into three key outcomes:

  1. A plan for internal and external priorities that includes a focus on labor in the food system, examined through educational activities, advocacy campaigns, and curriculum enhancement;
  1. A commitment to engagement with the student body in a more inclusive manner, in an effort to develop broader coalitions around our goal of integrating social justice into all spheres at Friedman; and
  1. A strategic framework for FJL’s programming and activism expressed by the diagram below:
fjlConclusion

In alignment with our own visioning process, FJL remains committed to working with the administration to build on the momentum and traction we have generated together toward social justice and diversity. We remain steadfast in our determination to hold school decision-makers accountable for the goals set forth in the plan. The School’s renewed commitment to innovation, public impact, and social justice are now more important in light of the current political climate, and Friedman is well positioned to make a significant impact within our community and beyond. Now is the time to transform these words into actions, and FJL stands at the ready to support the School in ensuring that its laudable goals around diversity, inclusion, and social justice become its practice.

The Friedman Justice League seeks to make our community more diverse and find ways to allow the Friedman community to better address issues of discrimination and oppression in its teachings, research, and programs. To get involved with our discussions, events, and campaigns learn more here or email caitlin.joseph@tufts.edu to be added to the listserv.