Thomas C. Sorensen Seminar: Food Deserts and Public Policy

University of Nebraska at Omaha, College of Public Affairs and Community Service (CPACS), Room 132D

University of Nebraska at Omaha
College of Public Affairs and Community Service (CPACS)
6001 Dodge Street
Room: 132D
Omaha, Nebraska 68182

What are food deserts? Why do they exist?
And more importantly, what can be done about them? According to the US Centers for Disease Control, a food desert is an area that lacks access to affordable and healthy foods that make up a nutritious diet. Many believe that the presence of food deserts may be related to wide-ranging, preventable health problems such as obesity and heart disease, particularly affecting lower-income communities, in both rural and urban America. This forum will focus on food deserts, identify their causes, and explore local and state policy approaches and community initiatives to effectively address them.

This forum is co-sponsored by No More Empty Pots, UNMC College of Public Health Student Association, the University of Nebraska College of Arts and Sciences through the Thomas C. Sorensen Policy Seminar series endowment, and the University of Nebraska Public Policy Center. This event is free and open to the public.

Related documents:
Cultivating Resilience: A Food System Blueprint

Brenda CouncilFacilitator:
Senator Brenda Council
Omaha native Senator Brenda Council was elected to the Nebraska Legislature in 2008. She is a former judge for the Nebraska Commission of Industrial Relations as well as faculty for the Railroad and Airline Labor Law Section of the ABA American Legal Institute. Senator Council currently serves on the board of directors for the Boys and Girls Club of Omaha, the Charles Drew Health Center Foundation, the Latino Center of the Midlands, the Creighton University Law School Advisory Board, Minority Economic Development Council, and the Omaha Chamber of Commerce. Senator Council has also been honored with the Professionalism Award from the Nebraska State Bar Association, Creighton University’s Elizabeth Pittman Award, the National Prominence Award from the Urban League of Nebraska, the Alumni Association Award from the University of Nebraska, as well as the A+ Award from Omaha Public Schools.

Stephanie AhlschwedeRev. Stephanie Ahlschwede
United Methodist Ministries
A native of Lincoln, Nebraska, Stephanie came to United Methodist Ministries as executive director in 2005. She has been a United Methodist pastor in the Nebraska Annual Conference since 1995, serving congregations in Lincoln, Bellevue, and Omaha. Stephanie’s non-profit experience includes a diverse group of boards and committees, ranging from neighborhood and business associations to committees at UNMC and the Metropolitan Area Continuum of Care for the Homeless. She currently serves as secretary of the South Central Jurisdiction Women’s Leadership Team and is a former chair of the national Community Food Security Coalition’s Food and Faith Committee. Ahlschwede received Omaha by Design’s Neighborhood Leaf award in 2007 in recognition of her work developing community gardens in Omaha.

Annette Artherton
Omaha Economic Development Corporation
Annette Artherton grew up in the Bronx, New York, in an area that has seen much disinvestment and redevelopment through community engagement. Ms. Artherton is the research and development director with Omaha Economic Development Corporation. She also serves as a member of the Advisory Committee of No More Empty Pots. She holds a Master of Science degree in Urban Studies from the University of Nebraska – Omaha. She actively works in the development of innovative and collaborative community development efforts that address the socio-economic issues in the North Omaha community. She identifies and designs methods and approaches for issues identification, data gathering, and analysis. She is a member of the American Association of Grant Professionals and is directly responsible for grant writing and proposal development for Omaha Economic Development Corporation and its partners. Ms. Artherton is an advocate of sustainable development and is passionate about improving the condition of the human and built environment. She has a strong commitment to the encouragement of practices and policies that improve the whole quality of life of our most vulnerable citizens.

Jim KnopikJim Knopik
North Star Neighbors
Jim Knopik grew up on a farm near North Star, Nebraska, a village that no longer exists. After three decades of conventional farm experience, he and some fellow farmers looked to move toward something more sustainable. Forming a group called North Star Neighbors, they downsized, started farming organically, and began direct marketing. North Star Neighbors manages marketing and delivering packaged meat raised by its members. Most rural communities have lost all infrastructure for processing and transporting locally grown food. Jim actively works with others trying to establish fair and new markets for small farmers. They are currently working on several projects. One is building a mobile meat processing unit and another is a year-round on-line farmers market with a delivery system now serving part of eastern Nebraska. He serves on the boards of organizations such as the Center for Rural Affairs, the Nebraska Environmental Action Coalition, and the Nebraska Food Cooperative and was recently elected to the Nance County Board of Supervisors.

F.R. “Fritz” Nordengren, MPH
Assistant Professor – Des Moines University
Board Member – Iowa Food Systems Council
Fritz Nordengren splits his time between two worlds. In one, he’s an assistant professor for a graduate medical school. In the other, he’s the owner of Two Mile Ranch, which raises game birds, grows pasture-raised ducks, turkeys, and chickens that are antibiotic-free. He is also a board member of the Iowa Food Systems council to recommend policy, research, and program options for an Iowa food system that supports healthier Iowans, communities, economies, and the environment.

Nordengren has also served as special assistant to the president of a four-year college, the program director of a paramedic training program, vice president of a multi-million dollar advertising agency, president of his own consulting firm, and co-founder of a non-profit organization that worked with two Nobel Prize-nominated charities, along with a select group of NGOs that were making a significant difference in the lives of people who were in need or at risk.

He’s produced documentaries in 12 different countries and was an early pioneer in producing Internet-based media multimedia storytelling projects in the early 1990s. Nordengren has been recognized for his creative work four times by USA Today, was twice picked as one of the Top 100 Producers by AV Video/Multimedia Producer magazine, and has been recognized by the National Press Photographers Association.

Courtney PinardCourtney Pinard, Ph.D.
Research Scientist – Gretchen Swanson Center for Nutrition
Assistant Professor – University of Nebraska Medical Center
Associate Member of Cancer Prevention and Control Program, UNMC Eppley Cancer Center

Dr. Pinard is a research scientist with the Gretchen Swanson Center for Nutrition (formerly The Center for Human Nutrition), which is dedicated to the promotion of human health and well-being through nutrition and health promotion in key public health areas: childhood obesity prevention, food insecurity, and local food systems. In addition, she has a part-time appointment as an assistant professor with the College of Public Health in the Department of Health Promotion, Social and Behavioral Health at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. She has worked on numerous intervention projects related to health behavior, wellness, and weight management with an emphasis on low-income families.

Dr. Pinard’s current research concentrates on designing research and measurement tools for dissemination to lower-income, racial, and ethnic populations at the highest risk for obesity. The means to achieve this goal include a focus on environmental and policy strategies (e.g., improving access to more healthful foods) and the utilization of technology to extend the point of contact and existing community resources.

For more information, please contact Tarik Abdel-Monem at (402) 472-3147 or Annette Artherton at (402) 346-2300.