Advancing Anti-Hunger Legislation in Minnesota

On Thursday, February 27th, the non-profit Hunger Solutions organized their annual Hunger Day on the Hill where MCH Trainees, Marianna Colucci and Somadee Cheam had the opportunity to participate in advocacy at the Capitol in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Attending this event was a great opportunity to learn about hunger-fighting efforts, and provided a chance for the trainees to speak with districts’ legislators about important nutrition related issues in order to motivate decision makers to take supportive action on hunger policy issues. Issues on the legislative agenda included, eliminating school lunch shaming, continued funding for mobile food shelves, promotion of hunger free campuses, and building a new food shelf in Saint Paul. With a White House Administration that has been persistent in proposals to cut benefits and instill fear, state-level legislation is more important than ever in order to protect children, students and low-income individuals. Follow this link for more information on the bills the trainees asked our legislators to support!

Arizona State University TRANSCEND Program March Updates

The Arizona State University Maternal and Child Health Trainees have had several wonderful experiences this academic year. However, one of the most notable highlights of our traineeship experience thus far was the opportunity to participate in the Arizona Leadership Education in Neurodevelopment (LEND) leadership intensive workshop. This workshop was hosted by two amazingly knowledgeable and exuberant leadership consultants- Dr. Claudia Fernandez and Dr. Angela Rosenburg. This experience provided us trainees extremely relevant and evidence-based training in several areas of leadership, while addressing each maternal and child health competency. We discussed important topics such as communication, conflict resolution, mentoring, interviewing, and much more with other future and current MCH leaders. Additionally, this opportunity trained us and gave us the tools we need to host difficult conversations, maintain professional relationships, and understand how to work effectively in a team- something especially important when addressing maternal and child health topics and issues. From this workshop, we also had the opportunity to learn about our own unique styles of conflict resolution, attitudes towards change, leadership, and overall communication. Further, we discussed ways we can bridge differences in our styles when working together. It was quite mind-opening to see the variety of styles among our peers, and also to be able to understand their styles. For example, some MCH trainees had conflict resolution styles that were primarily “avoiding”, whereas others had “compromising” styles of conflict. By learning about our own styles of conflict, and the styles of each other, we were able to come together and understand how we can work together to more effectively overcome conflict, but also understand that sometimes, conflict may not always be necessary. 

After attending this seminar, we have a greater awareness for how to create and contribute to a productive work environment, talk about difficult issues, work with others whose communication styles differ from our own, and deal with conflicts in a constructive manner. This was an opportunity that we were all so grateful to be a part of, and if ever the opportunity permits for other MCH trainees to attend a seminar for leadership training, we believe it would be a very valuable experience. If anyone is interested in learning more about leadership, some informative reads are “It-Factor Leadership” written by LEND host Claudia Fernadez, and her husband Ruben Fernandez (find on amazon here: https://www.amazon.com/Factor-Leadership-Dr-Claudia-Fernandez/dp/0989396606). Additionally, “Dare to Lead” by Brene Bailey is a favorite of the 2019-2020 ASU MCH Trainees and it also comes with a read-along workbook (find it here: https://daretolead.brenebrown.com/). Enjoy!

Aside from our experiences with LEND, we are also excited to share about upcoming experiences that two of our trainees, Madison and Erinn, will be able to participate in. Madison and Erinn were recently accepted to present their research at the Nutrition 2020 conference in Seattle in June. Madison will be presenting on the effects of romantic relationships on dietary habits in college freshmen, while Erinn will be presenting her findings on discrepancies between parents’ and adolescents’ perceptions of family meal habits. They are both very excited to share their research, as well as to see what others have to say!

Arizona State University: Maternal and Child Health Grantee’s Meeting

2020 MCH Grantee’s at Capitol Hill

This past week, the Arizona State University TRANSCEND group attended the Maternal and Child Health Grantee’s meeting in Washington D.C. We were excited to network with our fellow grantees from the seven other programs in the MCH Training network and learned a lot while we were there! 

One of our favorite parts of the two-day conference was the public policy training with Dr. Lindsay Hayes-Maslow. Our day started early and we were led by Dr. Hayes-Maslow on the very busy subway system (an experience of its own!) to Capitol Hill. 

That morning began with a very helpful overview of how laws are passed from Dr. Shelia Fleischacker from Georgetown University. Next, we heard from Cailtin Van Sant, a senior policy advisor for Representative Butterfield, where she provided an insight into her day-to-day routine in her position. She also explained to us the relationship between research and policy, and how these both have an influence on one another. Lastly, Sarah Reinhardt presented on the role that non-profit organizations play in the legislative process. She also provided an insight to how the Dietary Guidelines for Americans are written collaboratively. We then received training on how to communicate with congressional staff for our visits scheduled later that day. 

One group visited Senator Kyrsten Sinema’s office and provided education regarding barriers to breastfeeding for women in Arizona. Another group visited Representative Paul Gosar’s office, where they discussed the role of school lunches in rural settings and the importance of ensuring that children are given enough time to eat at lunchtime.

Overall, we left Capitol Hill feeling motivated and recharged.  It was a great way to start off 2020 and the Spring semester with a bigger picture of MCH in mind!

UTK Former Trainee Spotlight: Alexandra Alford

Alex Alford

Alexandra Alford is a registered and licensed dietitian in Atlanta, GA. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Human Ecology with a concentration in Dietetics at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore (UMES) in Princess Anne, MD. Alexandra then attended the University of Tennessee (UT) in Knoxville, TN to earn her Master of Science in Public Health Nutrition and her Master of Public Health in Community Health Education. In addition, she completed her dietetic internship at UT. While at UT, Alexandra was also a Maternal and Child Health (MCH) Nutrition Leadership Trainee, where she developed several leadership and planning skills that have helped her career blossom.

After graduating from UT, Alexandra worked at the UT Extension office in Wilson County, TN. While at UT Extension, Alexandra focused on the Farmers’ Market Fresh program in Wilson County, TN. This program was delivered at farmers’ markets that accepted payment from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, and it was intended to help those with limited resources eat more local fruits and vegetables through education and access. Alexandra marketed the program to residents in the county, and led the implementation at a local farmers’ market in Lebanon, TN.

After her position with UT Extension, she worked full time for the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), National Institute of Food and Agriculture in Washington, DC. During Alexandra’s time with the USDA, she primarily supported the leadership of the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP). EFNEP is a national nutrition education program in the United States that targets low-income populations aiming to reduce nutrition insecurity of low-income families and youth. Alexandra worked with stakeholders across the nation and its territories to help improve the lives of those in the MCH population from a national perspective. There, she helped create and update policies that impacted the growth and reach of EFNEP. Alexandra also played an important role in reviewing and approving the planning and progress of EFNEP, ensuring each individual program was following federal guidelines and policies.

She then moved to Atlanta to work for Open Hand Atlanta, which is a non-profit organization that aims to cook, deliver, teach, and care. Alexandra currently provides nutrition education and counseling to a wide variety of individuals. At Open Hand, she provides monthly nutrition education in group settings and medical nutrition therapy to those living with HIV/AIDS and other health conditions.  She continues to help those with limited resources by linking her clients in need to the medically tailored meals that are created and delivered by Open Hand.

Since graduating and completing her time as an MCH Nutrition Leadership Trainee, Alexandra has remained working with the MCH population, helping those that need it most. She plans to continue these efforts throughout her career, forever thankful for the training and leadership provided by UMES, UT, and especially, the UT MCH Nutrition Leadership, Education, and Training Program.

UTK Trainee Spotlight: Emily Wojtowicz

Emily is a 1st year student and trainee at the University of Tennessee, pursuing a PhD in Community Nutrition. 

Emily WojtowiczEmily received her Bachelor of Science degree in Nutrition and Dietetics from the University of Arizona. Then, she went on to complete a combined dietetic internship and Master of Science program at Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) in Cleveland, Ohio. Emily’s Master’s degree is in Community Nutrition with an emphasis on child and maternal health. After completing her dietetic internship, she worked with the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program as a high-risk dietitian, lactation consultant, and Breastfeeding Peer Counselor Program (BFPC) coordinator. Her research interests include barriers to breastfeeding, infant feeding, and human lactation.

I’ve been interested in nutrition for as long as I can remember. During my under graduate years, it quickly became apparent that community nutrition, specifically related to the maternal and child population, was my passion. I worked as a nutritionist with the WIC program immediately following my undergraduate studies. Although I had already learned about breastfeeding in school, I didn’t fully grasp the importance until working for WIC. I was so excited to learn more about breastfeeding and human lactation that I completed breastfeeding counselor training during spring break from Case Western. Only days after graduating from CWRU, I started working as a WIC clinic supervisor and dietitian in Oregon, where the majority of my time was spent providing direct nutrition counseling for high risk women, infants and children. A year later I moved to Arizona to continue working with WIC as a high-risk dietitian. During that time I also interned with the lactation department at the University of Arizona Medical Center, spending approximately 500 hours learning one on one from experienced IBCLCs (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant) while proving direct lactation care. In 2015 I became certified as an IBCLC my self.

Through all of this time working directly with the MCH population, it has become clear that breastfeeding parents are in need of more support and better care in order to be successful. Not only am I passionate about conducting research to determine and reduce barriers to breastfeeding. I am also determined to help improve policy pertaining to lactation training requirements for many health professions. I am confident that the MCH traineeship will help me to achieve these goals.

Promoting Healthy Weight Colloquium 3.0: A Socio-Ecological Perspective – Healthful Food Access

Julianne Julianne is a first year Master’s student at University of Tennessee, Knoxville pursuing a degree in Public Health Nutrition. She hopes to work with medically underserved children and sustainable food systems. She holds a Bachelor’s degree from University of Dayton in Dietetics, Food and Nutrition. 

On Friday, September 27th, the University of Tennessee’s MCH Nutrition Leadership team along with the Department of Nutrition hosted the Promoting Healthy Weight Colloquium 3.0 (PHW3.0): A Socio-Ecological Perspective – Healthful Food Access. This was my first time being involved in the planning of this event and participating in the colloquium. As I reflect on this series, I am optimistic about the future because I witnessed the impassioned leadership the presenters brought to the colloquium. Each speaker connected the programs or organizations they work for to the Socio-Ecological Model (SEM) and explained how their program or organization uniquely addressed barriers individuals and communities have to obtaining healthful access to foods.

One of the themes that sparked my own passions and interest was food equity and conversation regarding the nutritional value foods being served to the most vulnerable populations in society, especially single mothers and their children. Listening to the presenters speak about how their organizations or programs have made an impact reminded me how vital it is for collaboration across the SEM and between different professions for a common goal: equitable and healthful food access for the most vulnerable. My interests in working towards food equity and justice for the most vulnerable were strengthened by seeing all of the positive leverage of programs and organizations like EFNEP, SNAP-ED, Shop Smart Tennessee, Fresh Pantry through Second Harvest, and Partnership for Healthier America. PHW3.0 has challenged me to continue thinking about my time as a new graduate student to keep evaluating and improving positive initiatives addressing barriers to healthful food access for vulnerable populations.

PHW Fall
Program Presentation Panelists at the Promoting Healthy Weight Colloquium on September 27, 2019.  Panelists represented the following programs: University of Tennessee Extension Program, Second Harvest Food Bank of East Tennessee’s Fresh Pantry Mobile Program, and the Shop Smart Tennessee research intervention program.