Estefania Marti-Malvido was studying food science as a UMass Amherst undergraduate when she took a graduate-level class on food science policy. She enjoyed the class so much, she said, that she decided to apply to the School of Public Policy graduate program—and to focus on that area in the program, as an SPP food science policy fellow.
The only program of its kind in the U.S., the fellowship program was founded in 2004 with the goal of bridging the gap between food scientists and the people who make food-related policy. “If we had more policy makers who really understand how food is made,” Marti-Malvido says, “we’d have more practical solutions and rational regulations that are guided by a set of principles and based in science.”
The fellowship program is supported by the UMass Amherst Food Science Policy Alliance, a group of executives from the top food companies in the country who get together to discuss important issues in the industry. Fellows are active in the alliance, participating in its twice-yearly meetings and other events. They also take a food science policy course that brings in speakers from the government and corporate worlds. “You get to learn from people outside of academia,” Marti-Malvido says. “They bring very current, hands-on problems into the classroom for discussion.”
The fellows also complete an independent study project with Fergus Clydesdale, distinguished university professor in the UMass Food Science Department and an associate faculty member at the School of Public Policy. Clydesdale founded the food science policy alliance and accompanying fellowships in 2004 with John Hird, then director of the UMass public policy program and now dean of the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences. Though officially retired, Clydesdale continues to direct the Food Science Policy Alliance and lead the fellowship program. “It is a tremendous honor to be involved with students who want to change the world and understand the necessity for science and technology to play a key role in this endeavor,” says Clydesdale, whom students describe as an invaluable mentor.
Fellow Danielle Corrado majored in food science as an undergraduate at Cornell but realized that she didn’t enjoy the isolation of working in a lab. “I was looking for something that was more social and more collaborative,” she says. Food science policy interested her because, she says, “It’s the primary driver of change in the industry.” The SPP fellowship, she adds, offered a unique opportunity to apply her science background to the food policy field.
The program also offers students the chance to work with food industry leaders, including presenting their independent study projects to the alliance, and to connect with professional opportunities. It was through an alliance member, for instance, that Corrado found an internship with the International Food Information Council in Washington, DC, where she covered Congressional hearings and wrote articles that helped consumers understand scientific news related to food. She graduated from the School of Public Policy in May and is now working at Coca Cola in the scientific and regulatory affairs division, focusing on label compliance with FDA regulations.
Marti-Malvido, meanwhile, found an internship with the Mexican Health Foundation, where she helped develop a public health and nutrition survey and wrote a report on health and wellness policies in the workplace. She is now working as a research assistant with the Africa Regional Office at the International Food Policy Research Institute in Washington, DC.
Photo: Danielle Corrado, Professor Fergus Clydesdale, and Estefania Marti-Malvido
About the School of Public Policy: Established in 2016, the UMass Amherst School of Public Policy is a hub for research and teaching, preparing students for leadership in public service. The program’s focuses include social change and public policy related to science and technology.
— Maureen Turner, communications manager, School of Public Policy