I have always been fascinated by food and cooking, so enrolling in home economics at the University of Saskatchewan after high school in the early 1980s seemed a natural fit. In the early 1990s I then pursued a master’s degree at the University of Manitoba which has led to more than twenty years in public health nutrition. I also became a registered dietitian.
At first I was fortunate to work in northern Ontario where I encountered the disparities experienced by First Nations Canadians and the resulting food insecurity. After three and a half years I moved on to Winnipeg where I continued working with communities on various public health nutrition issues, and eventually moved into a management role. I grew increasingly dissatisfied with the public health response to the burgeoning obesity issue, which focused on individual lifestyles and personal responsibility, so I returned to complete a doctorate where I could explore more fundamentally the social and environmental determinants of obesity.
My quest led me to a fuller understanding of community food security issues, and the importance of understanding nutrition in an ecological context. It also took me full circle back to food and cooking, and I feel the development of ‘food literacy’ is an important prerequisite for health and food security, regardless of one’s gender or culture.
I believe public health nutrition affects everyone – without it, safe and fair food regulations disappear, disparities in nutrition-related risk factors and illnesses expand, and people forget how fundamental food is to our very existence. In today’s incredibly complex foodscape, public health nutrition is essential.