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Dr. Olson of Cornell University Gives a Retrospective Lecture on US Food Insecurity

Center for Research and Families (CRF) recently hosted a lecture by Dr. Christine Olson of Cornell University as part of the Center’s ongoing Tay Gavin Erikson lecture series. Her talk was titled “U.S. Food Insecurity Then and Now: How Far Have We Come Since the 1980s?” An expert in her field Olson was chosen by CRF Scholar Jerusha Nelson Peterman to collaborate on her research in nutrition and the dietary practices of vulnerable populations.

Dr. Christine Olson has spent over 25 years studying the consequences of food insecurities, focusing on the nutritional concerns of women and children as well as the various factors of weight gain influences during pregnancy that lead to the development and future weight gain in women in children.

Dr. Olson lectured on the differentiation between food insecurity and hunger, explaining that many of the resources within poor countries where starvation occurs, usually portrayed through television commercials of swollen bellied children, does not equate with hunger in America. Historically, this has caused Americans to resist the idea that there are hunger issues in the U.S. Olson’s work helped to identify food insecurity as a lack of nutritionally adequate and safe foods, and the limited or uncertain ability to acquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable. Through this identification, hunger, which is the uneasy or painful sensation caused by a lack of food, is a consequence of food insecurity. Other key topics included: a history of measurement of hunger and food insecurity; how many U.S. families are affected by food insecurity; antecedents and consequences of food insecurity; and a real world reality check on how we are doing as a society to address these concerns.

Dr. Olson’s work at Cornell with doctoral student, Kathy Radimer has helped to bring awareness to the issue of food insecurity, and has played a leading role in policy changes around the monitoring of nutrition in U.S. families. Dr. Christine Olson exudes enthusiasm on the topic of policies that will continue to improve the food security conditions around the world.

Peterman recently submitted a grant proposal to the Charles H. Hood Foundation entitled, “Understanding Contributors to Child Refugee Dietary Practices and Weight Gain; Establishing a Model for Promoting Long-term Health” and intends to submit to NIH in early 2014.


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