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Jacques Berger

Jacques Berger 130x180I grew up in a tiny village in rural southern France, near Castelnaudary (the capital of the famous and unique ‘Cassoulet’ made with beans and fat duck ‘confit’) and close to the vineyards of Corbières, where my grandfather and uncles were small farmers. Thus it was evident to be interested in food and nutrition! Wonderful learning of life in the conviviality and sharing, close to nature.

I studied at the University of Sciences in Toulouse, and I got my PhD. in nutrition from the University of Sciences and Technology, Montpellier. Subsequently, I spent two years as a post-doc in the department of nutrition at the University of California, Davis, US in the laboratory of Professor Barbara Schneeman. For sure, her aura, kindness and expertise, strengthened my interest in human nutrition.

As I was rapidly becoming interested in working in the field of public nutrition, in partnership with researchers from other countries, I joined in 1985 what became the Institute of Research for Development, dedicated to developing research, training and expertise.

My main interest was improvement of the nutritional status and health of the most vulnerable populations around the world by designing and evaluating strategies of intervention to control micronutrient deficiencies. I was specially engaged with iron deficiency, and improvement of the nutritional status of vulnerable groups such as women of childbearing age, infants and young children. Strategies integrated micronutrient supplementation, food fortification and food diversification.

My first post was in Lomé, Togo (1987-1989) in partnership with the Organisation de Coordination et de Coopération pour la lutte contre les Grandes Endémies, where I was working on prevention of iron deficiency in children living in a malaria zone. Thereafter I spent seven years in Bolivia (1990-1997) working with colleagues of the Instituto Boliviano de Biología de Altura in La Paz, developing several projects on iron deficiency, anemia and stunting. After Bolivia, I was posted in Hanoi, Vietnam at the National Institute of Nutrition (1998-2007) where we carried out with Vietnamese researchers studies on the prevention of micronutrient deficiencies in women in reproductive age, infants and young children. I have collaborated with colleagues from for example Cambodia, Ecuador, Indonesia, Peru, South Africa, Senegal, Thailand, and Venezuela.

The two decades of my life spent in the global South have been a constant source of learning, sharing and motivation. They convince me of the pertinence of a concerted approach taking into account local context, needs, knowledge and expertise.

I am now particularly interested in expanding my research field and partnership towards sustainable food-based approaches, in the belief that even the most impoverished populations in the world can have access to affordable and quality foods, respecting their habits and environment.