Who We Are
Our Scientific Team
Amy Yaroch, Ph.D., is executive director of the Center and oversees all operations. In addition, Yaroch also holds a Special Dean’s Appointment as AdjunctProfessor in the Department of Health Promotion, Social and Behavioral Health at the University of Nebraska of Medical Center, as well as serving as Adjunct Professor in the Department of Nutrition and Health Sciences at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She is also an affiliate member of the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center in Omaha.
Yaroch has authored more than 100 papers, three book chapters and numerous technical reports. She has received both federal and non-federal funding in diverse areas including childhood obesity prevention, local food systems (e.g., farm to where you are) and food insecurity (especially examining the coexistence of obesity and food insecurity within the context of the overarching food system). Her research incorporates a social ecological approach, working at individual, environmental and policy levels for positive behavior change. In addition, Yaroch leads evaluation efforts, both locally and nationally and is an active collaborator on projects with the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF).
A self-proclaimed foodie, Yaroch logs some of her own food adventures throughout the United States and enjoys organizing group dinners at farm-to-table restaurants with other friends and colleagues at meetings she attends. However, Yaroch grew up in New York City, so she didn’t have the opportunity to sample and appreciate locally-produced food until her 30’s and remembers really tasting a peach for the first time when she ate one straight off a tree in Colorado. After that, she was hooked on local foods and continues to have an interest in the subject both personally and professionally.
Read more here.
Courtney Pinard, Ph.D., conducts research focusing on public health outcomes of policies, programs and practices that impact nutrition and diet. This includes assessment of public health impacts of local and national efforts that affect food access, food security, obesity and related health disparities. Of particular interest is rural food access and how regional food systems can strengthen community food security in more remote and low-income areas. The work that she leads has an overarching emphasis on measurement and evaluation.
Since joining the Center in 2010, Pinard also holds a Special Dean’s Appointment in the Department of Health Promotion, Social and Behavioral Health in the College of Public Health at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, an Affiliate Membership with the Eppley Cancer Center, and an Adjunct Assistant Professor position in the Department of Nutrition and Health Sciences at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Pinard is a member of the Society of Behavioral Medicine and the International Society of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity.
Growing up on the west coast of Canada, Pinard remembers working in her parent’s large garden and learning to cook at an early age. These interests have continued, and she enjoys maintaining a garden, supporting local farmers, and preparing meals for friends and family.
Eric Calloway, Ph.D., is involved in several projects that focus on nutrition and childhood hunger and obesity. Eric is a member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the International Society of Physical Activity and Behavioral Nutrition. Some of his current research activities and interests include understanding food-purchasing behaviors, the relationship between diet and chronic diseases, food policy and SNAP, and environmental and familial factors associated with diet. Prior to his position at the Center he worked at the USDA’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion helping to create the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. He completed his doctorate and dietetic internship at the University of Texas at Austin.
Eric grew up in central Texas in a family that loved to cook fresh meals from scratch, mainly Mexican and Italian cuisine. He helped out in the kitchen from an early age and maintains a love of cooking today. He originally became interested in the sports performance side of nutrition in high school, but in college his focus shifted toward public health nutrition, particularly among low-income populations.
Teresa Smith, Ph.D., joined the Center in 2010 as a graduate research assistant, working under the mentorship of Executive Director Amy Yaroch, Ph.D. In December 2014, she earned her Doctor of Philosophy in Disease Prevention and Health Promotion Research from the University of Nebraska Medical Center, and was hired full time as a postdoctoral research fellow. Smith’s research expertise lies in the environmental, social and individual determinants of dietary behaviors as they relate to obesity prevention and cancer risk. This includes, but is not limited to, cultural and familial influences on individual dietary behaviors, healthy foods access and availability, issues of food insecurity and dietary measurement and analysis.
Smith is an active member of the Society of Behavioral Medicine and the International Society of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity. She is also an affiliate scholar with the Montana State University Food and Health Lab. Prior to joining the Center, she earned a BS in Education and Human Sciences and MS in Nutrition and Health Sciences from the University of Nebraska – Lincoln.
Smith believes that the right to choose fresh, healthy and real food should be afforded to all people and is passionate about making this vision a reality.
Growing up, Hill’s parents had a large garden as did both sets of her grandparents. Her Grandpa Hill was a real “green thumb” – he always had a beautiful garden. She comes from a long line of great cooks and loves to cook and bake for her own family and friends.
While providing health education and improving water sanitation in rural Africa, Lisa Boyd realized public health’s important role in determining the overall health of a community. There she witnessed the consequences of malnutrition and inadequate water sources on people’s lives and how the lack of proper nutrition limited some from reaching their full potential. Her public health interest is focused on utilizing population-based data to better understand factors that influence community health in order to inform positive changes to health policy, preventive services, therapeutics and public health programming.
Tom Barnard grew up in Omaha, Neb., where tending to a backyard garden with his mother as a child led to a hobby that sticks with him today. Throughout the years, preparing and sharing meals together with family and friends has remained an important part of his life, and a valuable foundation for building relationships. He hopes that at home, daycare or school, all children have the opportunity to grow, learn about and cook fresh foods so that it becomes a source of joy and excitement every day for life!
Casey Blaser, M.Sc.
Graduate Research Assistant
A native of rural Nebraska, Casey Blaser has always had an active hand in his diet; whether as a child helping tend to his grandparents’ vegetable garden, hunting and fishing trips with his father as a teen, or the small herb garden in his kitchen today. These events and the meals they helped create instilled in him the importance of food as a component of family and community. He hopes to incorporate the expertise he is developing as a PhD student in Biostatistics at the University of Nebraska Medical Center during his tenure at the Center.
Leah Carpenter, MPH
Leah Carpenter’s interests and work have spanned a variety of public health areas including infectious disease, youth violence and injury prevention. She became interested in nutrition through a graduate assistantship here at the Center. As a proud native of Nebraska, she is passionate about wanting all Nebraskans to be healthy and have access to programs that improve their quality of life.
Alethea Chiappone, MPH, MSW
Graduate Research Assistant
Alethea Chiappone grew up in Marietta, Ga., and moved to Omaha to pursue a PhD in Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Research at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. At a young age, cooking and baking became hobbies that she still enjoys today. Her mother, sister and grandparents served as role models in the kitchen. As a child, Alethea and here sister were in charge of cooking one meal a week. As a public health professional, she embraces the idea of maintaining a holistically healthy lifestyle.
Since her early teens, Lisa Englert has been infatuated with food. She is a strong proponent of eating seasonally and locally – for the cost savings, the health benefits, and the support of local farmers and businesses. While she currently grows her own herbs (and loves getting her hands in the dirt), she soon hopes to incorporate some vegetables into her garden. She feels particularly fortunate that her avocation and the Center’s work complement each other so well.
Hollyanne Fricke, MPH
Hollyanne Fricke first became interested in the intersection between food, society, and the environment while taking a sociology course at Creighton University, ultimately leading her to pursue a graduate degree in public health. In her free time, Hollyanne loves blogging about all things food and experiencing Omaha’s growing local foods scene.
Kelli Gruber, MPH
Growing up in a farming family taught Kelli to appreciate food from an early age. It’s safe to say corn was her favorite vegetable growing up. When she was a kid she would help her mom pick sweet corn off the stalk from a field behind their house. Her mom had a garden most years so they would enjoy fresh spinach, tomatoes, peppers and other veggies. With strong ties to food production, it seems fitting that she came from a family of talented cooks. Kelli was fortunate to grow up on homemade meals and very little fast food. She has no doubt this helped shape her interest in food and her healthy eating habits as an adult. She first studied the roles of food and nutrition on health in undergrad and has a continued interest in how nutrition can prevent and reduce disease.
Being a vegetarian-gone-vegan for a total of 24 years has shaped Julie’s outlook on health, nutrition, and wellness. Exploring vegan cooking, baking, eating, and living has been extremely rewarding for Julie and has inspired her to incorporate awareness, balance, and compassion into everyday life and to try to help others find healthy-living options that meet their lifestyles.
Director of Finance and Operational Services
Following her parents’ farm heritage, Rosemary Lind grew up in the farming community of Emmetsburg, Iowa, where she was involved in gardening and lots of summertime vegetable canning. In addition to raising their own chickens, they joked of having “one of everything” – one pig, one cow, one horse – on their small farm. During retirement, Rosemary plans to spend more time back on her family’s farm and hopes to start an orchard there.
Danelle Myer grew up on a farm near Logan, Iowa. Life experience led her to understand that the food we eat impacts our lives and health – a lot. She enjoys scratch cooking, building community through food, savoring flavors and celebrating seasonality. While working part time for the Center, Danelle also owns a chemical-free vegetable farm called One Farm.
Catherine Plumlee, MPH
Catherine Plumlee first became interested in nutrition as a Peace Corps health volunteer in Guatemala where she saw extreme poverty and food insecurity and worked to improve malnutrition. Since “local is global,” after receiving her Masters in Global Health, Catherine decided to focus her efforts domestically as she realized there is much work to be addressed here in the United States regarding the same issues of poverty, malnutrition and food insecurity. A transplant from Tennessee, Catherine enjoys exploring Nebraska’s parts unknown and getting to know Omaha. No matter where home is, she always keeps a garden to remind her of family, food and fortune.
Amanda Schneider grew up on a farm in south central Nebraska. Her family enjoyed spending time together preparing food with home-grown fruits and vegetables. Passionate about cooking and baking, Amanda has a desire to bring people together through food. Through the Center’s marketing projects, Amanda hopes to spread awareness about the Center’s mission to people across the United States.
Personally and professionally, Katie Stern’s world revolves around food and nutrition. She especially loves the fact that we don’t just eat because we’re hungry – we eat because our bodies need what food has to give us. That “something” can come in the form of nutrients and sustenance, comfort from memories or nostalgia, or as a reminder of who we are, where we come from, and what’s truly important to us.
Our Scientific Advisory Committee
HEIDI BLANCK, MS, PhD
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Chief of the Obesity Prevention and Control Branch in the Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health
Dr. Blanck has more than 15 years of CDC experience as a United States Public Health Service Officer and has authored more than 90 epidemiologic papers and reports in the areas of nutrition, physical activity, obesity and environmental exposures. She oversees CDC’s monitoring of state obesity prevalence and key nutrition and physical activity behavioral and systems supports. She is the creator and Senior Advisor to the agency’s Nutrition and Obesity Policy Research and Evaluation Network, an active member of the National Collaborative on Childhood Obesity Research, the HHS’ Healthy Weight, Nutrition and Physical Activity Taskforce and IOM Obesity Solutions Roundtable.
KEN RESNICOW, PhD
Irwin M. Rosenstock Collegiate Professor, Health Behavior and Health Education, School of Public Health at the University of Michigan and UM Cancer Center Director of Health Disparities Research
Dr. Resnicow is an internationally recognized expert in design and evaluation of health promotion interventions and motivational interviewing, and is a leading expert in conceptualizing and designing culturally sensitive community-based interventions for health promotion. He is also an expert in community-based interventions for nutrition, physical activity and smoking prevention in minorities. He specializes in theory-based tailoring including ethnic identity and self-determination theory. His research interests include the design and evaluation of health promotion programs for special populations, particularly cardiovascular and cancer prevention interventions for African Americans; understanding the relationship between ethnicity and health behaviors; and motivational interviewing for chronic disease prevention.
MARY STORY, PhD, RD
Professor and Associate Director of Academic Programs, Community and Family Medicine, Duke University and the Duke Global Health Institute, Durham, NC
Prior to her work at Duke, Dr. Story was Senior Associate Dean for Academic and Student Affairs and Professor in the Division of Epidemiology and Community Health in the School of Public Health, University of Minnesota, where she was also Adjunct Professor in the Department of Pediatrics, School of Medicine. She concurrently serves as Director of the National Program Office for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Healthy Eating Research Program that supports research on environmental and policy strategies to promote healthy eating among children to prevent childhood obesity. She has conducted numerous school and community-based environmental intervention and obesity prevention studies for children, adolescents and families.