Revival of the Student Research Conference

by Jennifer Huang

The 10th Future of Food and Nutrition Graduate Student Research Conference, known fondly within the Friedman community as the SRC, took place on April 7th and 8th. Jennifer Huang gives us a photo-filled recap of this student-led event, where she—and all who attended—were blown away by the amazing capabilities of student presenters and the Friedmanites who worked tirelessly since last November on planning this event.

This year the SRC had its first-ever Poster Slam, where presenters competed against one another to win the prize for the best three-minute talk about their research. A total of 13 presenters from various institutions participated at this Friday evening event where an anomaly at Friedman occurred: Free beer and wine! (And delicious veggies, of course). Some presenters transformed their talks into an entertaining rap or poem, while others presented theirs straight. Topics ranged from food insecurity during and after climate shocks, celebrity marketing to global food supply and demand. Overall, there was just the right amount of (wine-fueled) nerdiness!

On Saturday, Helena Bottemiller Evich, Senior Food and Agriculture Reporter at POLITICO, gave the keynote lecture. While Helena anticipates fewer advancements in agriculture and nutrition policy during the Trump presidency than during the Obama administration, she holds a bit of hope after browsing Ivanka Trump’s Instagram, finding pictures of healthy food and farming. Maybe having Ivanka as an adviser isn’t a terrible thing after all, she mused. Helena also noted that advocates for the National School Lunch Program and other nutrition programs seem to agree as they have already begun to target lobbying efforts in Ivanka’s direction. In addition to Ivanka, Helena also mentioned other key players to follow for agriculture and nutrition issues, such as Chairmen Roberts in the US Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry and Chairmen Conaway in the US House Committee on Agriculture.

Helena recounted how she got out of her urban “bubble” before the election and spoke to farmers around the country. As a result, she was one of the few in Washington, D.C. who correctly predicted Trump presidency. She ended her talk by encouraging us all to branch out of our personal networks and engage with others of different mindsets.

Helena Bottemiller Evich gave her keynote speech. Photo: Jeroen Eyckmans.

Helena Bottemiller Evich gave her keynote speech. Photo: Jeroen Eyckmans.

The panel discussion in the afternoon continued the conversation about the future of food and nutrition, and was equally inspiring. The panelists came from various sectors, including Dr. Julian Agyeman, a professor of Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning at Tufts University, Dr. Richard Black, Principal at Quadrant D Consulting who recently served as the VP of Global R&D Nutrition Sciences PepsiCo, Ms. Anne McHugh, the Director of Chronic Disease Prevention and Control Division at the Boston Public Health Commission, and Ms. Sylvia Rowe, President of SR Strategy. Our very own Dr. Parke Wilde moderated the panel.

When discussing the role of scientific evidence across sectors, Ms. Rowe clearly summarized the current social climate when she said, “There is not going to be science for the sake of science anymore, [as] public faith in science is questioned.” On the topic of private and public partnerships, there was consensus among the panelists that it will be critical to “find the synergy of goals,” as stated by Ms. McHugh.

The panel ended on a lighthearted note when a student asked a hypothetical question: Without time and monetary constraints, what questions (not necessarily about food) would the panelists want to ask and solve? The answers ranged from establishing public-private partnerships to combatting obesity, nudging behavioral changes for healthier lifestyle, discovering the role of microbiome in health and disease, to promoting public acceptance of diversity by understanding our personal genomics. Their diverse responses suggest the richness of this multidisciplinary discussion.

Panel discussion on the role of scientific evidence across sectors. Photo: Jeroen Eyckmans.

Panel discussion on the role of scientific evidence across sectors. Photo: Jeroen Eyckmans.

 

Of all the wonderful SRC activities, I personally enjoyed interacting with student presenters the most during the Saturday presentation sessions and poster session. I learned about my fellow classmates’ research, such as alfatoxin exposure in pregnant Nepalese and the minimum grocery delivery order requirement for elderly SNAP participants. I also met people from other institutions who are working on topics I have been learning about in class. When I chatted with an Emory student about her qualitative evaluation of food and nutrition security knowledge and practices in Guatemala and Honduras, I drew my learning from Dr. Jennifer Coates’ NUTR217: Monitoring and Evaluation. When a University of Delaware student presented his regional field experiment on nontraditional irrigation water, I saw how the concepts I have learned in Dr. Sean Cash’s NUTR341: Economics of Agriculture and the Environment are applied. I am excited to cross paths with those students again when we are professionals.

Faculty and student presenters at the poster session. Photo: Jeroen Eyckmans.

Faculty and student presenters at the poster session. Photo: Jeroen Eyckmans.

 

The 10th Future of Food and Nutrition Conference ended with a delightful networking reception at Trade, where conference presenters and participants continued their conversations and deepened their connections with mouthwatering appetizers and refreshing drinks.

Networking reception. Photo: Jeroen Eyckmans.

Networking reception. Photo: Jeroen Eyckmans.

The learning and the personal connections that this year’s SRC has facilitated for meand for all who attendedare invaluable. The coming together of creative and ingenious students from around the country who are working to make our food and nutrition future better is truly an event you need to see to believe. I am grateful for the SRC team, particularly the SRC chairs, Dianna Bartone and Delphine Van Roosebeke, for leading this wonderful event. I am already looking forward to the 11th Future of Food and Nutrition SRC!

The hardworking team of Friedmanites who made the 10th SRC possible! Photo: Jeroen Eyckmans.

The hardworking team of Friedmanites who made the 10th SRC possible! Photo: Jeroen Eyckmans. 

 

Jennifer Huang is a first-year Food Policy and Applied Nutrition MS student and a registered dietitian. She is interested in econometrics, agricultural trade, and food safety.

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9 Reasons to Attend Friedman’s 9th Annual Student Research Conference

by Matt Moore

The Future of Food and Nutrition Graduate Student Research Conference (SRC) takes place on Saturday, April 11. Students from Friedman and across the country will attend and present original research from a range of topics related to nutrition and food systems. Last year’s conference drew over 200 attendees from 30 institutions across the country. The Sprout presents nine reasons for Friedman students to attend.

1. Content

The conference has grown every year, and the planning committee received a record-breaking number of abstract proposals from schools across the country. The final agenda will include something for everyone: presentations are expected to cover a range of domestic- and international-focused topics such as agriculture, nutrition science, policy and programming, food security, climate change, food systems, and epidemiology.

2. Support Friedman

Students who attend will provide an audience for their classmates who are presenting, and it is a great way to discover what colleagues outside their own concentration have been working on. Furthermore, the conference is scheduled to coincide with the accepted student open house, so current Friedmanites will be able to answer questions and recruit for the new class.

3. Collaboration

Students from over 35 colleges and universities across the United States are expected to attend this year. Not only do they share common interests with Friedman students, but they will enrich discussions by bringing new and different ideas and perspectives to the table.

4. Angela TagtowAngela Tagtow, Executive Director, Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion

The new Executive Director of the USDA’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion (a position first held by Friedman’s own Eileen Kennedy) will present this year’s keynote: “Nutrition Policy at a Crossroads: Dietary Guidelines for Americans Application and Evolution.” Tagtow has a background in sustainable diets and has worked to promote social and environmental justice in the national food system. She founded the Journal of Hunger & Environmental Nutrition, the Iowa Food Systems Council, and the Iowa Food Access & Health Work Group. She is also a former Food & Society Policy Fellow at the Institute for Agriculture & Trade Policy.

5. Expert Panel

In addition to the keynote, an expert panel titled “Sustainable Diets and the Implications for Dietary Guidance in the United States” will tackle the topic of sustainable diets. The panel will be moderated by Parke Wilde and will feature Dr. Miriam Nelson, member of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) and chair of the Food Sustainability and Safety Sub-Committee, and Dr. Andrew Rosenberg, Director of the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

6. Sustainable Diets

The topic of sustainable diets has been at the heart of the national food policy debate. It has caused a bit of controversy in Congress, and almost everyone in the nutrition field has an opinion on whether sustainable diets should be a factor in shaping the Dietary Guidelines. Most recently, the DGAC released its Scientific Report, and the sustainability consideration has been the center of attention. At the SRC, attendees will have a chance to jump in and discuss the issue with people actively working in the field.

7. Networking

Attendees will have a chance to meet with presenters, faculty, and students to engage and further discuss the topics of the day. There will be time for mingling throughout the conference during lunch and refreshment breaks. Then to cap off the event, there will be a post-conference networking reception at Trade, located a short walk from the Friedman Schools (540 Atlantic Avenue). Free food will be provided, of course.

8. Student-Run

The SRC is entirely planned and executed by Friedman students. Led by co-chairs Janeen Madan (FPAN ‘15) and Claire Anglim (NUTCOM ‘16), a group of 25 students has been working since last October to coordinate the conference. Nobody is better qualified to develop a program of content that will appeal to current graduate students than the colleagues they work with every day.

9. Cost

Any Tufts student can attend for just $15, which is grad-school-budget friendly and a bargain for a full-day event, including breakfast, snacks, lunch, and appetizers at the networking reception.

Anyone interested in attending can get more information and register at the SRC website. The final schedule will be released this month, and students can take advantage of early-bird registration until the week of the conference.

Matt Moore is a first-year AFE student who received a lot of help from Abbie Steiner and Janeen Madan in writing this piece. He looks forward to a Spring Break trip to his bed.