Category Archives: Stories

Husky cookbook aims to connect UW community through food storytelling

What food or dish best represents you?  Behind every dish lies a great story.

A new Husky cookbook project launching this month aims to showcase how our identities are shaped by food traditions and culture.  The project, being led by three graduate students in the Nutritional Sciences Program in the UW School of Public Health will promote the cooking and sharing of meals, and encourage dialogue across the University of Washington community to foster a sense of community and connection.

Erin McDonnell, Ivory Loh, Emahlea Jackson
Nutritional Sciences Program graduate students leading the Husky Cookbook project (left to right): Erin McDonnell, Ivory Loh, Emahlea Jackson

“The cookbook is an invitation to the broader University of Washington community to connect around a communal table, “ says Ivory Loh, the organizer leading the project.

Loh is the project visionary who was responsible for securing close to $5k to fund the cookbook by applying for a 2019 Husky Seed Fund Award.  She was one of two students selected to have projects funded this year.

Loh says her approach is to crowd-source recipes and food stories from UW students, faculty, and staff from every campus.

The idea for the project was sparked by an assigned reading and discussion on food and culture in Loh’s NUTR 513 class last year, taught by Jennifer Otten.

“The conversation in the class moved me,” says Loh. “Students shared stories about their lives and it illuminated for me that food is not only a way to break barriers and build relationships, but also a way in which stories of culture and traditions are shared.”

Photo of Ivory Loh
Ivory Loh, project lead of the Husky Cookbook.

Erin McDonnell and Emahlea Jackson, two other graduate students in the Nutritional Sciences Program are co-coordinating the project with Loh.  During the month of October, the team will curate submissions for the cookbook from all corners of the University, with a release planned for spring 2020, coinciding with a campus launch event.

Funds will be applied to printing a limited number of copies, and publishing recipes in a digital format. The team is looking for collaborators who have the infrastructure in place to host the recipes online so the cookbook may grow and be a self-sustaining resource beyond the life of the project.

The project team also includes students from the Evans SchoolSchool of Art + Art History + Design, Foster School of Business, and Department of English who are handling marketing, design and print work. A UW alumna, who now works at Amazon, is also involved in coordinating print publishing of the cookbook.

How to submit to the cookbook

The Husky Cookbook project is now collecting submissions via an online form through November 1.  Individuals who submit a recipe and food story will be entered into a drawing for one of several Amazon gift cards.   Eligibility to submit is open to all UW students, faculty, and staff from all UW campuses.

You may connect with the project team through their Facebook and Instagram channels, or send an email to huskycookbook@uw.edu with questions or information.

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Cookbook project team

University of Washington students involved in the project include:

  • Ivory Loh, a graduate student pursuing an MPH in Nutritional Sciences and RDN training through the Graduate Coordinated Program in Dietetics (GCPD) with the School of Public Health
  • Emahlea Jackson, a graduate student pursuing an MPH in Nutritional Sciences and RDN training in the GCPD in the School of Public Health
  • Erin McDonnell, a graduate student pursuing an MS in Nutritional Sciences and RDN training in the GCPD in the School of Public Health
  • Elizabeth Shi, a graduate student pursuing an MPA in the Evans School of Public Policy and Governance
  • Katie Chua, an undergraduate student majoring in language & literature in the College of Arts and Sciences, English department, and is also majoring in marketing  in the Michael G. Foster School of Business
  • Sabrina Zhu, an undergraduate student majoring in Interaction Design in the School of Art + Art History + Design
  • Sarah Smith, a UX Visual Designer at Amazon and alumna of UW School of Art + Art History + Design, Master of Design

Anne-Marie Gloster, a core faculty member in the Nutritional Sciences Program and lecturer in epidemiology with the UW School of Public Health is serving as project mentor.

Are minimum wage policies likely to affect the food purchases of low-wage workers?

A new study from the University of Washington School of Public Health explores how workers in low-wage jobs connect food and diet to perceptions of health and well-being, and whether a wage increase might influence how they acquire food or the types of food they might purchase.

Although many low-wage workers would like to use additional income to purchase higher quality foods or increase food-related leisure activities, they often perceive trade-offs with other food acquisition resources, such as decreases in food assistance benefits,  that prevent noticeable differences in food-spending patterns.

“This analysis could support policymakers and employers in addressing food insecurity because it highlights some of the constraints that workers in low-wage jobs face when making decisions about food,” says Lindsay Beck, lead author of the study and a master of public health student in nutritional sciences.

The study, which utilizes data gathered over three years during the policy phase-in period of the Seattle minimum wage policy (2015-2017), suggests more future research is needed to examine food choices and diet-related health outcomes in response to changes in wages or income.

Co-authors on the study from the UW School of Public Health include: Lindsay Beck, lead author and an MPH student in nutritional sciences in combination with the Graduate Coordinated Program in Dietetics (GCPD); Emilee Quinn, a research coordinator from the UW Center for Public Health Nutrition; Jessica Wolf, an MPH student in nutritional sciences and GCPD; James Buszkiewicz, a doctoral candidate in epidemiology; Jennifer Otten, senior author and an associate professor in environmental and occupational health sciences and core faculty member in the Nutritional Sciences Program;

More information

Getting fish to the table

Fish taco on dinner plate

A UW study maps West Coast hot spots where surplus fish could help meet nutrition needs in vulnerable communities

As a philosophy-student-turned-fishmonger, Zach Koehn often heard his customers talking about how healthy fish is—and how expensive it can be.

Yet Koehn knew cheap fish were available. Some groups, including the Monterey, CA, fish company where he worked, were even connecting inexpensive surplus fish with low-income populations that could benefit from it.

But, he wondered, “why is this not happening more?”

While pursuing a PhD in the UW’s School of Aquatic and Fisheries Sciences, Koehn discovered the perfect opportunity to investigate that question: the UW’s inaugural Population Health Initiative grants. The grants encourage cross-disciplinary teams to study key challenges in population health.

Koehn helped write a winning proposal that brought together faculty and staff from the UW Department of Environmental & Occupational Health Sciences (DEOHS) and other departments and programs across the College of the Environment and the School of Public Health.

“I thought we had overfished everything”

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DEOHS Associate Professor Jennifer Otten

Koehn worked with Jennifer Otten, DEOHS associate professor, to identify nutritionally vulnerable populations along the West Coast. By overlaying fisheries data, Koehn was able to pinpoint hot spots where large amounts of uncaught or unused fish could potentially be available.

Otten was surprised by some of the preliminary findings.

“I thought we had overfished everything,” said Otten, who is also core faculty in the UW Nutritional Sciences program. “I went into the project feeling like, ‘What could be out there?’”

Millions of servings of fish left in the ocean

It turns out that stocks of West Coast groundfish, which include some 60 species, have rebounded in recent decades thanks to careful management. Koehn, too, was amazed by how much extra fish could be harvested while staying below levels that fisheries biologists say are sustainable.

For Dover sole alone, he found, at least 20 million servings a year are left in the ocean. At less than $1 per pound off the dock, sole is also very affordable.

“The fact that we’re leaving millions of servings was shocking,” he said. “And it was also exciting, because to me, it’s a really strong opportunity.”

Fish tacos on the menu

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Zach Koehn, UW School of Aquatic and Fisheries Sciences

How can all that fish get to people who need it?

Researchers uncovered a number of challenges through interviews in coastal communities. Many individuals, as well as cooks in schools and other institutions, are uncertain how to prepare fish, said team member Emilee Quinn, research coordinator at the UW Center for Public Health Nutrition.

At the same time, researchers learned about innovative approaches to connecting communities with affordable seafood. In San Diego, for example, processors turned locally caught fish into affordable products that schools could use for dishes such as fish tacos that children loved.

“With just a little exposure and work, you can get people excited” about eating fish, Quinn said.

An important nutritional resource

Fisheries management focuses on maintaining healthy fish stocks and “on fish as a commodity,” Koehn said.

What’s missing from the conversation is the role of fish in health and nutrition. He hopes this study can begin to change that.

Beyond pinpointing communities where there’s both a need and an opportunity to provide fish for nutrition, the study also digs into the barriers and successes, Otten noted. “We can also give the stories behind the data.”

Koehn plans to complete the study this summer. He’d like to find more organizations interested in getting fish to people who need it, and then review the entire food system to “understand the local context that’s limiting the flow of fish.”

“That would be the dream,” Koehn said. “And then use that as a baseline to tell [fisheries regulators] that we need to start actively thinking about fish as a source of nutrition, and not just as a source of revenue.”

Other UW investigators involved in the study include: Edward H. Allison, School of Marine and Environmental Affairs; Christopher M. Anderson and Ray Hilborn, School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences.


This story was originally published in Health & Safety Matters, the blog of the UW Department of Environmental & Occupational Health Sciences.  Re-posted with permission.

Why is our bread so white? Dr. Stephen Jones to speak on wheat breeding May 29

Why is our bread so white flyer
Click to view and print event flyer

Attend a special lecture May 29 featuring Dr. Stephen S. Jones, a plant geneticist and professor in the Department of Crop and Soil Sciences at Washington State University. Dr. Jones will present: “Why is our bread so white? Wheat breeding, white flour and community”.

This special lecture will be presented to students in NUTR 241, our culinary nutrition sciences course, but is open to all interested faculty, students, and staff.

Jones is the director of the WSU Bread Lab, a plant breeding program which conducts research on thousands of lines of wheat, barley, buckwheat and other small grains to identify those that perform well for farmers, and that are most suitable for craft baking, cooking, malting, brewing, and distilling.

Together with his graduate students, Jones breeds wheat and other grains for local uses to be grown on small farms in the coastal West, the upper Northeast and other regions of the country.

So long, sodium: Researchers work with local school districts to prevent heart disease

Food service staff from Auburn School District cooking together
Food service staff from across the Auburn School DIstrict take part in a flavor-enhancement training.

The hallways and classrooms of Auburn Riverside High School may have been deserted on March 11, but the kitchen was abuzz as more than two dozen food service managers learned fresh approaches to creating healthy meals for students.

With kids out of school for a staff development day, cooks from across the school district in Auburn, a suburb south of Seattle, picked up tips to spice up their recipes – from tossing fruit salad with cilantro and lime, to roasting carrots instead of steaming them. When the dishes were done, the verdict was in: The salad could use more citrus. But no one mentioned salt.

The goal of the training was to show participants how to enhance the flavors of food without reaching for the salt shaker. It is part of a larger initiative led by Public Health – Seattle & King County and the Center for Public Health Nutrition at the University of Washington School of Public Health to implement strategies to reduce the amount of sodium people consume and to improve public health.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 9 in 10 children in the United States, ages 6 to 18 years, eat too much sodium daily. The majority of salt in the American diet, more than 70 percent, is from processed or restaurant foods. Studies have shown that eating too much sodium is linked to high blood pressure, a serious health threat that could lead to stroke, heart disease and heart failure. It is also associated with increased risk for diabetes and obesity.

The Seattle and King County project is one of eight efforts across the country that are part of the Sodium Reduction in Communities Program, funded for five years by the CDC’s Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention. The end goal is to reduce sodium in the food supply and in large scale food service. The project is in its third year.

Chef consultant Cathy Powers shows food service staff how to toss fruit salad with cilantro and lime.

“Flavor stations” empower students to make healthy choices

For the first two years, researchers partnered with the Renton and Highline school districts – both located in south Seattle – to implement behavior-change strategies that nudge students toward making healthy choices in their school environments. They also worked with the districts to purchase lower-sodium ingredients and to develop new, lower-sodium recipes.

Compared to sodium levels of student meals at the start of the project, average sodium consumption decreased after the intervention for most food categories, including cold sandwiches, rice bowls and burritos. In a one-week sample, post-intervention sample, 12 percent of student meal selections were lower sodium.

”It’s important to employ a variety of strategies to effectively reduce sodium while encouraging students to try new foods and participate in school lunch,” said Mary Podrabsky, an SPH dietitian, clinical instructor in health services and research coordinator in the Center for Public Health Nutrition. Podrabsky provides implementation and evaluation support for the school sodium project.

One such strategy used in 28 schools across both districts were “flavor stations,” where students could select low and sodium-free herbs and spices to boost food flavors. Both districts procured lower-sodium ingredients such as ketchup, beef patties and tomato soup. They also tested new recipes – some developed by students – that featured more local products and spices from around the world.

Introducing students to new ingredients and dishes

Sign for the city of Auburn in front of a train track

SPH researchers and local public health practitioners are now building on these learnings in Auburn. They’ve partnered with the school district’s culinary nutrition specialists to build flavor-enhancement skills among food service workers, find lower-sodium alternatives to some ingredients and create more “ethnically inspired” recipes. Researchers will later evaluate how these interventions change the way students select and eat lower-sodium foods.

“We want the recipes used in schools to include foods and flavors that are familiar and interesting to the student population,” Podrabsky said. More than 100 languages are spoken across Auburn. Some ethnicities and nationalities represented include Hispanic/Latino, Russian, Marshallese, Native American and Ethiopian.

Adds Ben Atkinson, the school district’s dietitian and coordinator for child nutrition: “Recipes should follow what we all strive to eat – a balanced diet that includes lean protein, vegetables, whole grains and healthy fats. But we also want to get kids excited about eating different, healthier kinds of foods.” On the menu recently at Auburn Riverside was a coconut curry.

Key findings from the project are shared with a learning network, which includes the Auburn, Renton, Highline, Seattle, Bellevue and Kent school districts. The group meets monthly to discuss how to implement successful interventions.

The deli sandwich dilemma

The most recent Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that most people ages 14 and older should consume less than 2,300 milligrams (mg) of sodium per day, about one teaspoon, as part of a healthy diet. Intake below this level is recommended for children younger than 14 years old and people who have high blood pressure. However, a new report released March 5 by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine slashed recommendations for sodium consumption to 1,800 mg daily or less, depending on age.

Project team group photo
The Auburn project team includes (L-R) Mary Podrabsky, Janis Campbell-Aikens, Ben Atkinson and Kate Ortiz.

So what food item do school nutritionists worry about most? Janis Campbell-Aikens, director of child nutrition for the Auburn School District, says: “Deli sandwiches are by far the highest-sodium item in our schools.” Campbell-Aikens and Atkinson agree that priority over the next year is to source lower-sodium lunch meats and breads or wraps that still taste good. If they learned anything from the food service training, it’s that bold flavors don’t have to hurt the bank or the body.

The project team is also working to reduce sodium in the food supply in King County emergency food settings, such as food banks and meal programs. They are working to make changes in policies, procurement guidelines and behavioral-economics strategies that make it easier and more appealing for clients to select healthy foods.

The project team also includes SPH’s Jessica Jones-Smith and Emilee Quinn, as well as Public Health – Seattle & King County’s Mariel Torres Mehdipour and Kate Ortiz. Three team members, Podrabsky, Atkinson and Ortiz are all graduates of the School’s Graduate Coordinated Program in Dietetics.


This story was first published on the University of Washington School of Public Health website in March 2019. Republished here with permission.