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Arnold School of Public Health


6th Annual Nutrition Symposium brings researchers and practitioners together

March 30, 2016 | Erin Bluvas, bluvase@sc.edu 

Researchers and nutrition experts from the University of South Carolina and statewide organizations gathered Friday, March 18, at USC’s new Alumni Center for the sixth Annual Symposium, Healthy Eating in Context: The Realities of the Dietary Guidelines. Participants convened from academic, community and government agencies, and the event was hosted by the Center for Research in Nutrition and Health Disparities (Nutrition Center) and the Environment and Sustainability Program.

The symposium began with a warm welcome from Nutrition Center Director and Health Promotion, Education, and Behavior Associate Professor Sonya Jones and the Director of the Environment and Sustainability Program and Research Professor in the School of the Earth, Ocean and Environment, Gwen Geidel. The keynote speaker, community rights movement leader Paul Cienfuegos, then took the stage. Cienfuegos discussed the influence of corporations on communities’ abilities to determine the quality, cost, sourcing, etc. of food, water, and air. He also pointed out their potential role in possible dilution of the dietary guidelines—rendering them less effective than they could be on their own. Cienfuegos wrapped up his presentation with a discussion with the symposium participants regarding ways they could leverage community rights through community organizing that can help lead to improved conditions related to air, water and nutrition as well as empowerment among citizens.

The symposium then held two discussion panels. The first focused on Helping Communities Understand Dietary Guidelines and How to Meet Them, such as nutrition education, changing the food served in schools, increasing opportunities for physical activity, roles of SNAP and food stores, research from a recent study on different dietary indices, and identification of whole grains vs refined grains. The second panel centered around Diversity in Diet vs. Diversity in Agriculture, discussing local efforts to improve food access and address childhood obesity prevention by building community capacity, the benefits of the Mediterranean diet, and the implications of the 2014 Farm Bill.

The various components of the symposium enabled the event to meet its goal of connecting diverse communities who are interested in building and strengthening collaborations to address poverty, hunger and nutrition. In doing so, the symposium focused on eliciting the cross-fertilization of ideas to create meaningful linkages between these diverse interest groups in order to connect research and practice to inform policy.