Nearly 600 Advocates Connect Virtually to Shape Future of the Profession

01/27/2022 - Nearly 600 food and nutrition professionals gathered virtually January 25-27 from across the country for the Nutrition and Dietetics Advocacy Summit to advocate for two of the Academy's top policy and advocacy priorities: medical nutrition therapy expansion and child nutrition. Over the span of three days, attendees received training on these important issues and met with 84 Senate offices to discuss the impact investing in these initiatives would have in communities across the country.

During the summit, the Academy presented the following awards in recognition of their commitment to health and nutrition priorities.

  • Public Policy Leadership Award: U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop (Ga.)
    Throughout his nearly three decades in office U.S. Rep. Sandford Bishop has been a supporter of many Academy policy and advocacy priorities. Congressman Bishop was nominated for the Public Policy Leadership Award by the Georgia Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics for his continuous support of policies that aim to strengthen access to healthy food to achieve nutrition security, such as school nutrition programs, WIC and SNAP.
  • Public Policy Leadership Award: U.S. Rep. Fred Upton (Mich.)
    U.S. Rep. Fred Upton has been a champion of many Academy policy and advocacy priorities throughout his more than 30 years of services in the U.S. House of Representatives. Congressman Upton was nominated for the Public Policy Leadership Award by the Michigan Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics in recognition of his continued support of nutrition and health policies, especially for his leadership as co-sponsor of the Medical Nutrition Therapy Act. If passed, the MNT Act would help Academy members receive more opportunities for reimbursement; help address the gap in care for seniors in the United States who only have access to MNT for diabetes and renal disease; and authorize more health care professionals to refer their patients for MNT.
  • Health Equity and Diversity Leadership Award: U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly (Ill.)
    U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly has been a longtime supporter of many of the Academy's policy and advocacy efforts, including health equity and the expansion of medical nutrition therapy. The congresswoman is the champion of the Medical Nutrition Therapy Act, which if passed would help Academy members receive more opportunities for reimbursement; help address the gap in care for seniors in the United States who only have access to MNT for diabetes and renal disease; and authorize more health care professionals to refer their patients for MNT. Rep. Kelly co-hosted the Academy's Nutrition and Health Equity Summit in 2021 as chair of the CBC Health Brain Trust and also participated in a women's health roundtable at Academy headquarters in 2019. In addition, she has been instrumental in supporting the Academy's advocacy efforts to increase funding for dietetics and allied health professions.
  • Award for Grassroots Excellence: Karen Ehrens, RD, LRD
    Throughout her career, Academy member Karen Ehrens, RD, LRD, has been a steadfast advocate for health, nutrition and professional issues impacting nutrition and dietetics practitioners and the public. Karen spent five years with the Department of Public Instruction working to improve school meals, has advocated at the state legislature for improved nutrition, education and early childhood opportunities, and served previously on the Academy's Legislative Public Policy Committee and as the chair of the Farm Bill Working Group. She has served in many local, state and national leadership roles, even running for the North Dakota House of Representatives where she has pledged to work diligently to ensure that children and seniors receive quality education and health care, and that all people have access to healthy food. Karen is a valuable source of health-focused information and guidance for policymakers and all levels of government, as well as for Academy members.

The Academy appreciates the generosity of summit attendees for sponsoring 79 registrations for student Academy members. The Academy also acknowledges the following affiliates, DPGs and MIGs for sponsoring scholarships for the Nutrition and Dietetics Advocacy Summit: DC Metro Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics; Dietitians in Business and Communications; Greater Cincinnati Dietetic Association; New York State Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics; Weight Management; West Virginia Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Thank you to the Cultures of Gender and Age for offering scholarships for the Policy and Advocacy Certificate of Training to your members.

Academy Members are encouraged to continue advocating throughout the year by joining the monthly Affinity Group meetings.