The Columns

Fourth Annual SHECP Symposium to Address Food and Childhood Health

— by on July 30th, 2015

The increasing nutrition gap between children from the upper and lower classes will be the focus of the fourth annual symposium of the Shepherd Higher Education Consortium on Poverty (SHECP) on Aug. 2 in Lexington, Virginia.

“Poor nutrition has become a serious barrier to equal opportunity,” said Harlan Beckley, executive director of SHECP and former director of the Shepherd Poverty Program at Washington and Lee University. “We need a better understanding of this phenomenon so that we can more effectively reduce barriers to healthy, fulfilling and productive lives.”

Hosted by W&L and the Virginia Military Institute, the symposium is part of the Frueauff Closing Conference for the Shepherd Internship Program (SIP), in which more than 90 interns will convene in Lexington after working for eight weeks with impoverished people and communities. More than 40 faculty and staff from the 21 SHECP member institutions also will attend. The symposium is free and open to the public. For the full schedule, visit shepherdconsortium.org.

Twenty-nine undergrads and three law students from W&L participated in internships this year, serving all over the country, from a Navajo Reservation in Arizona to Burlington, Vermont, Atlanta, Georgia, and points further south.

“This programming will be a wonderful way for our students to begin to process what they have learned over the summer and to benefit from symposium speakers of national renown,” said Fran Elrod, associate director for W&L’s Community-Based Learning
, Shepherd Poverty Program.

The symposium will feature three highly regarded speakers shaped by different experiences and expertise. Their talks will take place in Marshall Hall, home of VMI’s Center for Leadership and Ethics.

Dr. Sandra Hassink, president of the American Academy of Pediatricians (AAP), brings the expertise of a physician concerned about obesity and food policy. Dr. Elaine Waxman, vice president of research and nutrition at Feeding America, has 25 years of experience in social policy research and consulting. Victoria Kumpuris Brown, a graduate of W&L and senior program officer at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, worked for 10 years with the Alliance for Healthier Generations negotiating with major food and beverage firms to market affordable and lower-calorie products in order to reduce obesity.

Hassink will speak on “Building the Foundations for Child Health: Moving Toward a National Agenda for Children.” In 1988, she began the weight management clinic at Nemours/AI DuPont Children’s Hospital, in Wilmington, Delaware. She is medical director of the APP Institute for Early Childhood Weight and advocates for legislation to address obesity. Her research on pathophysiologic mechanisms of obesity has informed three of her books: “A Parent’s Guide to Childhood Obesity”; “Pediatric Obesity: Prevention, Intervention, and Treatment Strategies for Primary Care”; and “Clinical Guide to Pediatric Weight Management.”

Waxman will speak on “The Evolution of Food Insecurity as a Public Health Issue.” She oversaw completion of Hunger in America 2014, the largest study of emergency food assistance in the U.S. and directed Hunger in America 2010 and the Map the Meal Gap project. Those studies provide the first county-level estimates of food insecurity in the country. Much of Waxman’s research focuses on the intersection of food insecurity and public health, a topic on which she has published multiple articles. She began a research position at The Urban Institute in May 2015.

During her work with the Alliance for Healthier Generations, Brown negotiated agreements with companies such as McDonalds, Coca Cola, Pepsico and the Dr. Pepper Snapple Group. She served earlier as a research analyst for the Arkansas Department of Health and Human Services and in the Department of Social Sciences and Health Policy at Wake Forest University School of Medicine. Brown enrolled in the first capstone seminar of the Shepherd Program on Poverty at W&L. After graduation in 1998, she attended the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Policy at the University of Texas. She will address “A Systems Approach to the Obesity Epidemic.”

On Aug. 1, Dr. Jonathan Wortham (W&L’04), a medical officer with the Outbreak Investigators Team at the Centers for Disease Control, will lead a discussion on the HBO documentary “The Weight of the Nation.”

On Aug. 3, SIP interns, faculty and staff will gather at W&L’s Science Center for a day of presentations and discussion about the interns’ summer experiences. The interactions will provide students with the opportunity to learn from each other about the diversity of settings they worked in, the chance to deliberate how their internships will affect their future college course choices, and the career and educational paths they might follow.

“Through these internships, students from SHECP institutions benefit from a wide range of experiences with agencies that tackle issues of poverty in rural and urban communities,” said Elrod. “Some of the agencies that host our students have been part of our program for many years, while others have been developed based on changing student interests and through connections from institutions that are part of SHECP. All are designed to meet vital needs of our partner agencies, while giving our students the opportunity to explore the fields of law, medicine, education, economic development and more.

“Through the SHECP symposia, we aim to inform students, faculty, and the public about the causes and remedies of recalcitrant poverty that we can reduce,” Elrod added. “Sandra Hassink, Elaine Waxman and Victoria Kumpuris Brown will help us understand and address the problem of child poverty at one of its most sensitive points, the health of our children.”

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