DEOHS faculty member joins Washington State Food Policy Forum

January 11, 2023 | Lori Tiede
Photo of Jennifer Otten with a background of cherry tomatoes.

Associate Professor Jennifer Otten hopes to boost public health in Washington with a holistic approach to food systems

DEOHS Associate Professor Jennifer Otten.

Jennifer Otten, a faculty member and food systems scholar in the UW School of Public Health, has been appointed to the Washington State Food Policy Forum. The cross-sector group was formed by the Washington State Legislature in 2016 to make recommendations for improving food systems in the state.

Otten, an associate professor in the Department of Environmental & Occupational Health Sciences (DEOHS) and core faculty in the Nutritional Sciences Program, will serve a 2-year term on the forum.

“I am excited to serve on the Food Policy Forum so that I can continue working with partners to focus on where improvements can be made in our food system,” Otten said. “By taking a holistic approach to food systems, we can bring more awareness to issues of food production, access and security, and boost public health.”

The forum is run through a partnership among the Washington State Conservation Commission, the Washington State Department of Agriculture and the Office of Farmland Preservation.

Researching COVID’s impacts on food security

Understanding the impacts of COVID-19 on Washington State’s food system is a central theme of Otten’s recent research. In 2020, she led a joint project to develop the Washington State Food Security Survey (WAFOOD), finding that nearly 30% of WA households were food insecure.

Partners on the project included researchers from UW, Washington State University and Tacoma Community College.

Since then, the WAFOOD survey team has collected additional statewide data each year. The team has also produced 11 briefs to provide insights to Washington state agencies and community organizations responding to shifts in the food system and food needs of Washington residents.

The WAFOOD survey is now in its fourth iteration and is actively collecting data from Washington state residents.

Understanding food access for tribal communities in the pandemic

Otten has also collaborated with the Northwest Tribal Epidemiology Center, UW, WSU and Tacoma Community College to understand the impacts of the pandemic on the well-being, food security and access to traditional foods of Washington state tribal communities. This team’s findings were published in a 2021 report.

In December 2021, Otten was the lead author on a comprehensive statewide assessment report produced for the Washington State Department of Agriculture, which utilized data gathered from WAFOOD and the WA Tribal report, among other data.

Adapted from the original post here.





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