UMN Trainee Spotlight: Somadee Cheam

IMG_4659 (2)Somadee is a first year MPH Nutrition student in coordinated masters program at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities where she also received her undergraduate degree in nutrition and dietetics in 2018. She began her MCH traineeship in September 2018 and has been working on the development of the University of Minnesota’s Public Health Nutrition newsletter. Somadee is passionate about increasing healthy food access through transformation of the agricultural system to prioritize investments in healthy foods and farms and through the creation of a more transparent supply chain.

For the first semester of my program, I had the privilege of interning at St. Paul Ramsey County Public Health in the Healthy Communities division. During my time spent there, I primarily worked with the Food and Nutrition Commission which is funded and supported by the Statewide Healthy Initiative Partnership grant. I was introduced to the Good Food Purchasing Program and have been working on expanding the partnership between the Twin Cities coalition and the Commission. The Good Food Purchasing Program is a national program with local coalitions working to build relationships with institutions and encouraging them to direct their buying power to source their foods with the consideration of their five core values of nutrition, animal welfare, local economies, valued workforce, and sustainable agriculture.

Public institutions across the country spend billions of dollars on food purchases and have the opportunity to lead the movement for food system change and influence supply chains. Local food procurement through large institutions has been shown to positively impact the food system as it increases transparency throughout the supply chain. Currently the Twin Cities coalition is working with Minneapolis Public Schools and just finished a full assessment of food procurement of the district. With nutrition being one of the core values of the program, it is emphasized within procurement practices. With strategic planning, schools can leverage their purchasing power to provide nutritious food to their students without exceeding their limited budgets. It is very exciting to get involved in this program just as it is starting to gain national momentum. I look forward to continuing to strengthen local and regional food systems through fostering these relationships between producers and consumers and ultimately increasing access to healthy food to communities who need it most.

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