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Barbara Ann Hughes, ‘Legendary’ Authority on Public Health, Policy, Education and Legislation, Receives Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ Highest Honor

October 7, 2023

CHICAGO – Registered dietitian nutritionist Barbara Ann Hughes, an advocate for food, nutrition and health for more than 60 years and the first head of North Carolina’s Women’s, Infants and Children program, has been named the 2023 recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award, the highest honor given by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the world’s largest organization of food and nutrition professionals.

Hughes is a pioneer in the use of medical nutrition therapy to prevent and treat chronic conditions including coronary, renal and gastrointestinal disease, diabetes, eating disorders, hypertension and weight management.

From her early life in a disadvantaged rural Tennessee community, Hughes has spent a lifetime demonstrating leadership in organizations focused on nutrition and public health. Hughes, a resident of Raleigh, N.C., will receive her award October 7 at the Academy’s Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo® in Denver, Colo.

According to her colleagues in the Academy’s North Carolina affiliate, which Hughes served as president and a representative to the Academy’s House of Delegates:

Much of her early career was spent working to ensure that North Carolinians had access to health care and especially nutrition care. As one of the three original regional consulting dietitians of the state, she was instrumental in expanding the nutrition and dietary programmatic technical assistance to 30 local public health departments, administrators and food service staff in 20 community hospitals, six childcare centers, five youth detention centers, 50 daycare centers, 25 nursing homes, 16 homes for the aged and 30 county jails. 

She was then promoted to director and head of the Nutrition and Dietary Services Branch as well as the head of the WIC program for the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, a position she held for 16 years. Her work in this position is well-known in North Carolina and frequently described as legendary. 

Barbara Ann immersed herself in the new WIC program and her leadership was instrumental in taking the WIC Program statewide over a period of 11 years. She pioneered the availability of nutrition services by reaching many of North Carolina's 100 counties for the first time. 

Commodity programs were replaced with the WIC program and standards were adopted assuring that nutrition professionals were employed as providers of nutrition education in all 100 N.C. counties. More than 275 professional nutrition positions in county health departments had been established when she stepped down from her position in 1989.

Within the Academy at the national, state and local levels, Hughes made landmark contributions in advancing the nutrition and dietetics profession in areas including insurance reimbursement, licensure and public policy, serving on dozens of committees, task forces and groups including the Academy’s Board of Directors. 

Hughes is a past chair of the Academy’s Legislative and Public Policy Committee and played a key role in the 1980s in establishing the Academy’s governmental affairs office in Washington, D.C. 

Hughes continues to hold leadership positions within the Academy and other service organizations, including the Nutrition Care Process Research Outcomes Committee’s Population Level Nutrition Task Force (2017-2018); the House of Delegates Public Policy Task Force (2016); and an elected representative to the House of Delegates representing the Nutrition Education for the Public dietetic practice group (2013-2019).

Throughout her career, Hughes has been recognized for her contributions as a leader, mentor and educator. She has worked as an instructor at three colleges and universities and endowed student scholarships at two schools and the North Carolina and national Academy’s foundations.

Hughes earned an undergraduate degree from Carson-Newman College; a master’s degree in institution management from The Ohio State University; a master’s degree in religious education from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; a master’s in public health degree from the University of North Carolina; and a doctorate in health services from Walden University.


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Representing more than 112,000 credentialed nutrition and dietetics practitioners, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is the world’s largest organization of food and nutrition professionals. The Academy is committed to improving health and advancing the profession of dietetics through research, education and advocacy. Visit the Academy at

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