Welcoming a Food Policy Champion

Even though his appointment at the Friedman School begins today, new faculty member Jerold Mande has been tackling the important issues in food policy for many years. He brings a real-world perspective of policy in action to our already stellar body of food policy knowledge at the school.

"We are thrilled to have Jerry Mande join the faculty and lead our impact initiative," said Friedman School Dean Dariush Mozaffarian. "The first step in building a strong organization is hiring the right leadership. Jerry is a proven leader with extensive experience translating food policy to health impact."

Mande was Senior Advisor to the Under Secretary, Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services (FNCS) for President Obama, overseeing the Food and Nutrition Service, which feeds 1 in 4 Americans and promotes healthful diets through the Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion. FNCS programs work to end hunger and childhood obesity in the United States and provide nutrition assistance, dietary guidance, nutrition policy coordination, and nutrition education.

Mr. Mande understands the complex intersection of nutrition science and policy and that merely supplying people with the right nutrition information is not enough to ensure a healthy public. Far beyond issues of personal responsibility, real change in public health requires changing our food environment.

“Most Americans don’t understand how someone who is food insecure ends up obese,” he says. “Many people falsely believe it’s the obese person’s fault that they are overweight. The truth is that while personal responsibility plays a role, the data show clearly that we live in a toxic food environment. Getting public policymakers to understand that it’s the environment and not the lack of personal discipline that has driven the obesity epidemic is one of our greatest challenges. If we can advance that understanding, then we can begin to reverse the trend.”

Mr. Mande brings a wealth of experience in public health, nutrition, and public policy to the job. In 2009 he was appointed by President Obama and USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack as Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety, and after two years transitioned to focusing on reforming the national feeding programs. Mande brings prior academic experience as well. Before joining the Obama administration, he was the associate director for public policy at the Yale Cancer Center, and on the faculty at the Yale School of Medicine in New Haven, Connecticut. There, he devised a national model that leveraged state leadership to increase cancer prevention and control, including diet and cancer, and was affiliated faculty with the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Nutrition. Earlier in his career, as senior advisor to the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, he helped shape national policy on nutrition, food safety, and tobacco and led the design of the Nutrition Facts label that now appears on virtually all packaged foods. Following his tenure at FDA, Mr. Mande served on the White House staff as a health policy advisor, working on food, cancer, and tobacco policy, and was deputy assistant secretary for occupational health at the Department of Labor. He began his career as a legislative assistant for Al Gore in the U.S. House and Senate, managing Gore's health and environment agenda, and helping Gore write the nation's organ donation and transplantation laws.

Why does Mande believe that evidence-based policy created from sound nutrition science is so vital? Because he knows that meaningful system-wide change needs to happen at the highest levels to make a real impact.

“Once I started to understand nutrition and health, I realized I didn’t have the patience to change how people ate one person at a time. Government seemed like a more powerful lever for change. I still believe that. It is the place where the public interest comes first.”

At the Friedman School, in addition to teaching, he will help to realize one of our 8 strategic aims, to create a Public Impact Initiative that launches a school wide strategy and structure for advocacy, food policy change, and public health impact. He will work closely with our faculty and staff to build a broad network of partner organizations that represent key sectors on issues of nutrition science, policy, and public impact. He plans to begin by working to make the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, SNAP, healthier. 

“Diet-related disease and obesity are diminishing quality of life and driving up health costs, threatening our economy, undermining our military readiness, and endangering our national security. Hunger remains a serious national problem, but the clinical consequences of food insecurity in the US have changed. The primary adverse health effect is now diet-related disease and obesity, not calorie-protein malnutrition. We intend to lead a national effort to work with Congress and anti-poverty groups to have SNAP, which helps feed more than 20 million children, place equal focus on food insecurity and dietary health.”

Eventually, we seek to develop a School Center to provide structure and staff for the entire initiative.

We welcome the knowledge and expertise of Mr. Mande as we move forward into new strategic directions.

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