The Society for Nutrition Education and Behavior Announces Joan Dye Gussow, EdD as the 2020 President’s Award Recipient
It is my great pleasure to name Dr. Joan Dye Gussow as this year’s recipient of the President’s Award. Dr. Gussow is Professor Emeritus at Teachers College, Columbia University. Joan’s impact on the field of nutrition education is undeniable and she has been credited with inspiring so many to think critically about the role of nutrition education and related research and policy in shaping the food system. Through her prolific writing and research, her many compelling speeches, her teaching and advocacy, she has inspired numerous students, colleagues, leaders, and stakeholders from every segment of the food system to explore connections and to think broadly about what health really means.
I have a long professional and personal relationship with Dr. Gussow. I was a student of Joan’s in the late 1970s. Having earned a Bachelor’s degree from Huxley College of the Environment in Bellingham, WA, I was looking for a way to connect my interest in food and nutrition with my foundational knowledge in environmental studies. Her course, Nutritional Ecology was exactly what I was looking for. It was the door through which I, and my fellow classmates entered to a world of connections – a systems approach to food, nutrition and health. For me and many of students of Joan’s, this was a life-changing course. No longer would seemingly simple nutrition-related questions such as, “What is a healthy diet?” seem straightforward and benign. Joan led us on a challenging and inspiring exploration of myriad “before the swallow” aspects of food and how food choices differ in their impacts on communities, natural resources and food system control.
Joan’s numerous contributions in scholarship, research and activism were detailed when she received the Helen Ulrich Award in 2017. One of my motivations for choosing Joan for the President’s award is because she has influenced many leaders across the broad nutrition, food, health and food system space. While certainly not a complete story, here is a sampling of how food and nutrition education and food system leaders described how Dr. Gussow has impacted their work:
“Joan you have inspired me to think broadly and deeply. Your vision that people need to know what happens on farms, how food is processed, how workers are treated all along the food chain, and that people living in poverty and people of color lack access to healthful food has been my rock throughout my career as a food and nutrition educator.”
Pam Koch: SNEB President-elect and Research Associate Professor and Executive Director, Laurie M. Tisch Center for Food, Education & Policy, Program in Nutrition, Department of Health & Behavior Studies, Teachers College, Columbia University.
“ Whenever I thought I was on to some new insight about how the food industry influences dietary choices, or how dietary guidelines are politicized to focus on nutrients rather than foods, or how agriculture, food choices, nutritional status, and health are inextricably linked, Joan Gussow was always there first. Her work was and is at the cutting edge of nutrition thinking. The world is only just now starting to catch up with her—and about time! Cheers to Joan, who has inspired all of us.”
Marion Nestle: Author, speaker, blogger, food industry critic, Paulette Goddard Professor, of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health, Emerita, at New York University.
“I was so fortunate to get to study with Joan, I always credit Joan as my inspiration for all the work I do. She made sure that we ask the right questions, think out of the box, and realize that food is not just a nutrient-delivery system, but is connected to just about everything worthwhile in life. And, it is the connections that are most important. We’re seeing now how her understanding of the importance of the food system has become the central focus for our nutrition profession as well as for the environmental and social equity movements happening now. We love you Joan!”
Barbara Storper: Founder, FoodPlay Productions
Joan’s passion and scholarship lifted up the story of food and those who work with it – from seed or animal, produced in fields of diverse size near and far, as it moves through supply chains to retail, foodservice and direct market channels alike, along with the policy and research arguments of the day – ultimately to nurture the health of people and the planet. I think of this as your legacy to the nutrition profession. Thank you my friend.
Toni Liquori, EdD, MPH, Founder and Former Director of School Food FOCUS
“Joan Gussow’s gift – and for me, it’s been the most influential gift of my career – is to talk about food, agriculture and health as one subject. Her basic premise has always been, How can you separate these things?”
Dan Barber: Chef at Blue Hill in Manhattan and at Stone Barns, Author of the Third Plate, and co-creator (with Michael Mazourek) of the honeynut squash
“Joan’s influence was so dramatic and so early in my career, it is hard to know where to begin! I was lucky enough to hear Joan speak just after college at an SNE annual conference — learning about the connections between nutrition, agriculture, justice, and sustainability reoriented my professional direction because it just rang “true”. Joan inspires and challenges us to seek the truth, care for the earth, and care for each other. She nourishes her students, friends and readers, just as she nourishes her garden. Thank you and congratulations, Joan!”
Katherine Alaimo: Associate Professor, Food Science and Human Nutrition, Michigan State University
“Joan Gussow has been my mentor ever since I began exploring the worlds of food and agriculture and nutrition– worlds she taught me to view as one. It was Joan who taught me to connect the dots, to keep my eye on food rather than nutrients, and to always leaven the outrage with humor. I owe Joan a tremendous debt, which she never fails to remind me. She richly deserves this honor. Congratulations to a great teacher.”
Michael Pollan: Author, journalist, activist, and professor of journalism at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism.
“Joan sparked my interest in sustainable food systems when I was a grad student. Through her writing, I learned that sustainability was the foundation of good nutrition, an idea that seemed revolutionary at the time. She brought others along through her staying power, humor, intellect, and generosity. Twenty years laters, her work is at the center of global and local conversations about food and nutrition. And while she lives more than 2,000 miles away from me, she is a strong presence in my classroom and at my dinner table. Congratulations, Joan!”
Betty T. Izumi: Associate Professor, Program Director, MPH in Health Promotion, OHSU-PSU School of Public Health; Director-at-Large, SNEB
“Joan has been a lifelong mentor for me in thinking broadly about our food and agricultural system, and particularly understanding the realities of getting food from seed to table (and the waste/recycling stream). She has always been a model for me about how to voice the difficult questions, even when it Is unpopular to do so. She was the first one to open the door for me so I could begin to see the fascinating political, economic and ecological dimensions of the food system—far beyond the nutrients we put into our mouths. Joan CARES—about her students as individuals, about the food system and about the planet. Love you Joan!!!”
Gail Feenstra: Food Systems Analyst. Deputy Director Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program. Agricultural Sustainability Institute. UC, Davis, CA.
“In 2014, I was doing research on Joan prior to her Food Sleuth Radio interview. I stumbled upon a video clip of her 2012 presentation in NYC at a Just Food event. That’s where she described those of us who doubt and work to improve our destructive food system as “sand in the gears.” I’ve remembered and repeated that quote many times, because we need encouragement now more than ever as we witness increasing injustices in food, agriculture and health systems. As the matriarch of nutritional ecology, Joan taught us to see the connections of food to everything else. The need for brave men and women to speak out and interfere with injustice has never been greater. Joan calls us to that charge. She’s one of the giants recognized as an American Who Tells the Truth.
Melinda Hemmelgarn, Creator and host, Food Sleuth Radio
“There is a particular native prairie plant here in central Iowa that has the ability to shift its leaves north and south to protect it and other plants from the hot sun. It locates itself in the most fertile soil, shoots up sturdy flower stems to 6 to 7 feet, and graciously offers its seeds to birds and other wildlife. The compass plant and Joan Gussow have remarkable similarities – they are highly valued ‘in their field;’ they both set deep roots and plant themselves firmly; they are resilient and can weather wildfires or floods; they preserve and protect what is around them so others can thrive; and they are generous in the ways they nurture and ‘feed’ others. The 1986 JNE article co-authored by Joan and Kate Clancy on sustainability and dietary guidelines has had a profound influence on my career’s work and has instilled a deep ethic in natural resource conservation – thus the prairie. Specifically, Joan’s work has been instrumental in shaping how I connected the health of our natural resources, to the health of our food system, and to the health of our communities and populations. Thank you, Joan, for your amazing wit, wisdom, tenacity, grace, and friendship.”
Angie Tagtow, Entrepreneur, systems thinker, leadership developer, solution-based innovator, and a change maker. Founder and Chief Strategist of Äkta Strategies.
These words represent the kinds of influence and impact Dr. Joan Dye Gussow has had on practitioners, activists, researchers, farmers and policy advocates. Her influence has been broad, deep and profound. It is my pleasure and honor to present her as the 2020 recipient of the SNEB President’s Award.
Jennifer L. Wilkins, PhD, RD
President, SNEB, 2019-2020