Food for Health Initiative

The mission of the SPH Food for Health Initiative is to cultivate partnerships, community engagement, and funds for food equity and justice. The Food for Health Initiative supports the SPH division of Epidemiology and Community Health as a leader and trusted resource in translating research to action and state-of-the art teaching designed to train the next generation of public health professionals.

Advisory Board

Emily Anderson
Director of Community Health
Essentia Duluth 

Emily Anderson, MPH, MBA, is the Director of Community Health for Essentia Health, a nonprofit, integrated health system caring for patients in Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Dakota, and Idaho. 

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Anderson leads strategic activities and develops partnerships to support health and vitality with local communities across Essentia’s service area. She has a passion for improving health in rural communities and is involved in many coalitions focused on health and quality of life in Northern Minnesota.

Larry D’Amico
President and Co-Owner
D’Amico and Partners

Larry D’Amico has been one of the Twin Cities’ most successful restaurateurs and catering experts for more than 35 years. 

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With five James Beard Award nominations for his thriving dining portfolio, D’Amico brings culinary concepts to life and is the heart of the D’Amico kitchen operations. D’Amico & Partners isn’t just about excellent food – the D’Amico name is synonymous with superb, elegant dining experiences and inspired design. The Twin Cities restaurant portfolio currently includes Café & Bar Lurcat in Minneapolis, Campiello in Eden Prairie, The Brooklyn at Edinburgh USA Golf Course in Brooklyn Park, six D’Amico & Sons restaurants, plus 10 exclusive catering properties that combined serve thousands of weddings, meetings and celebrations of all sizes each year.

Julia Halberg
Advisory Board Co-Chair

Dr. Julia Halberg, M.D., M.S., M.P.H.,FACOEM, is a physician and business executive leveraging her medical background and passion for healthcare quality improvement to deliver innovative and disruptive health and wellbeing strategies.

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Most recently she led General Mills’ Global Health department as their chief medical officer managing its on-site clinic, designing the company’s global approach to preventive care, providing health advocacy to employees, and partnering with the Benefits team to implement company-wide well-being programs. Prior to working for General Mills, Dr. Halberg worked in private practice, hospital-based health systems, and with insurers in the areas of workers’ compensation and disability management. Her diverse background gives her a deep understanding of the healthcare industry from multiple perspectives. Her areas of expertise include employer health solutions leading to value-driven health care with improved quality and cost-appropriate care.

Lisa Harnack
Division of Epidemiology and Community Health, School of Public Health

Lisa Harnack, DrPH, RD, is a professor in the School of Public Health at the University of Minnesota.

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She conducts research to identify policies and programs that are effective in supporting good nutrition and health for all. She has led or collaborated on dozens of studies and published more than 150 peer-reviewed papers. Harnack also co-directs the Healthy Weight Research Center and directs the school’s Nutrition Coordinating Center, a center that provides software and services that support the dietary assessment needs of hundreds of researchers across the U.S.

Thierry Ibri
Chief Operations and Programs Officer
Second Harvest Heartland

Thierry Ibri is the chief operations and programs officer at Second Harvest Heartland, the second largest food bank in the nation.

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Ibri is responsible for driving and overseeing all end-to-end sourcing and distribution of meals to the community, including partner relations and programs like SNAP outreach and child hunger efforts. Passionate about food, Ibri joins Second Harvest Heartland with 30 years of experience in the food industry and a career spanning three continents with Sodexo, General Mills and most recently founding The Fresh Connection, a food delivery startup in the Twin Cities. Ibri is both professionally and personally connected with the issues of ending hunger through community partnerships. During college, he co-founded “Les Restos du Coeur,” the first large scale food shelf in France, providing him with a very early opportunity to interact with various community members to source and collect food, find locations, organize distribution and to grasp the importance of dedicated volunteers. Ibri earned his master of business administration from the Harvard Business School and his bachelor of business administration from ESC Le Havre.

Ann Kirby McGill
Director for Strategic Alignment
Hospitality Minnesota 

Ann Kirby McGill has had the good fortune to work for some of Minnesota’s finest statewide organizations—the University of Minnesota, the Citizens League, Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota, and now Hospitality Minnesota.

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This has given her a richly textured experience of her home state. She joined Hospitality Minnesota as their Director of Strategic Alignment in January 2020 to help reshape the newly merged trade association serving the restaurant, lodging, resort and campground industry. In 2018, Kirby McGill launched Concord Strategies, a consultancy focused on helping clients align mission and action, for good, through organizational positioning, operational alignment and relationship management. She currently serves as the chair of the Minnesota chapter of Slow Food, an organization dedicated to fostering equitable access to good, clean, fair food.

Dianne Neumark-Sztainer
Division Head and Professor
Division of Epidemiology and Community Health, School of Public Health

Dianne Neumark-Sztainer, PhD, MPH, RD, is a Mayo Professor and Head of the Division of Epidemiology and Community Health at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health.

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As division head, Neumark-Sztainer works to ensure that faculty, staff, and students are engaging in state-of-the art research and training aimed at improving the health of the public. Neumark-Sztainer’s own research focuses on a broad spectrum of eating and weight-related outcomes including eating disorders, unhealthy weight control behaviors, body image, dietary intake, weight stigmatization, and obesity. She is dedicated to ensuring that her research has a positive impact on the health of the public, particularly vulnerable populations. She leads an active program of research including the largest and most comprehensive longitudinal body of research in the U.S. that examines predictors of eating- and weight-related problems in young people. Current research interests include investigating the potential for the practice of yoga as a tool to address eating disorders and relevant risk factors. Neumark-Sztainer is passionate about training students. She is the director of a new applied epidemiology training program for PhD students and post-doctoral fellows aimed at training the next generation of researchers to promote positive weight-related health among youth and families from diverse ethnic/racial and socio-economic populations. Neumark-Sztainer has published over 500 articles in peer-reviewed scientific journals. Her research has been recognized with awards from the Academy for Eating Disorders, the National Eating Disorders Association, and the Eating Disorders Coalition and received an Outstanding Investigator Award from the National Institutes of Health to fund her work.

Laura Perdue
Nutrition Policy Coordinator
Minnesota Department of Health 

Laura Perdue, MPH, is a graduate of the public health nutrition program.

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She currently works as the nutrition policy coordinator at the Minnesota Department of Health, where she promotes equitable access to healthy food through policy, systems and environment changes. Laura is also the current chair of the Legislative and Public Policy Committee for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Jamie Pfuhl
MN Grocers Association

The Minnesota Grocers Association is the only state trade association representing the common interests of those engaged in all aspects of Minnesota’s food industry.

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The association is committed to raising awareness, through a unified voice, to the significant role industry plays within its communities. Pfuhl has been with the organization for 24 years, serving as its president for the past fourteen. As an industry leader, Pfuhl sits on a variety of committees, boards, and task forces, raising awareness to the wide variety of issues facing the food industry. Pfuhl serves in Governor-appointed positions on the Food Safety Task Force and Good Food Access Advisory Committee. Pfuhl has served on the Board of Directors of the Food Industry Association Executives and Food Marketing Institute Government Relations Committee.

James A. Rice
Advisory Board Co-Chair

James A. Rice, Ph.D. FACHE, co-chairs the SPH Food for Health Initiative advisory board.

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Rice serves on the volunteer cabinet for the school’s Driven: Shaping a future of health campaign, and is an alumnus of the University of Minnesota. As national adviser for governance and leadership at the Arthur J. Gallagher firm, he works to enhance the effectiveness of boards of directors of the health sector, nonprofit organizations, and credit unions across North America and Europe. He has worked in over 35 countries, and has held faculty positions at Cambridge University in England, Strathmore University School of Business in Nairobi, the Advance Institute for Health Management in Prague, and the University of Minnesota.

Jo Seddon
Executive Chef and Entrepreneur 

Jo Seddon is a British chef, living in the Twin Cities.

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In 2015, she left her career as a physician to pursue a lifelong passion for cooking. After completing culinary school, Seddon worked in Michelin-starred restaurants in the UK including the iconic London institution, The River Café. After moving to Minneapolis, she was part of the team that opened Bellecour in Wayzata, has been chef to the Wild Hockey team, and has worked for the Broder’s family of restaurants. She is now running Jo’s Kitchen, her own successful small-scale bespoke catering and private dining company. As part of her “COVID-pivot,” she is now delivering handmade, restaurant-quality meals across the Twin Cities. Seddon is passionate about respecting the simplicity of uncompromisingly good, seasonal produce and enjoys cooking vegetable-forward food. She also believes strongly in the importance of teaching kids the life skills of cooking and eating well as they learn how to become healthy adults.

Sean Sherman
The Sioux Chef, and

Sean Sherman, Oglala Lakota, born in Pine Ridge, SD, has been cooking across the U.S. and Mexico over the past 30 years, and has become renowned nationally and internationally in the culinary movement of Indigenous foods. 

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His main focus has been on the revitalization and evolution of Indigenous foods systems throughout North America. Chef Sean has studied on his own extensively to determine the foundations of these food systems to gain a full understanding of bringing back a sense of Native American cuisine to today’s world. In 2014, he opened The Sioux Chef as a caterer and food educator in the Minneapolis/Saint Paul area. He and his business partner Dana Thompson also designed and opened the Tatanka Truck, which featured 100 percent pre-contact foods of the Dakota and Minnesota territories. In October 2017, Sherman was able to perform the first decolonized dinner at the James Beard House in Manhattan along with his team. His first book, The Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen, was awarded the James Beard medal for Best American Cookbook for 2018 and was chosen as one of the top ten cookbooks of 2017 by the LA Times, San Francisco Chronicle, and the Smithsonian Magazine. Also that year, Chef Sean was selected as a Bush Fellow, and received the 2019 Leadership Award by the James Beard Foundation. The Sioux Chef team continues with their mission to help educate and make indigenous foods more accessible to as many communities as possible through the recently founded nonprofit North American Traditional Indigenous Food Systems (NATIFS). Through this entity, Sherman sees this vision as even more relevant in the time of COVID. Educating the world on localizing food systems is critical and we believe that we can leverage NATIFS to expedite this mission. Learn more at

Jeff Standish
Industry and Government Liaison
MnDRIVE Environment, University of Minnesota

Jeff Standish is the industry and government liaison for MnDRIVE Environment at the University of Minnesota.

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In this role he is responsible for managing the unit’s overall engagement strategy, which includes management of the funding programs and events. Standish’s decades of experience is grounded in research and project management, within both academia and the private sector. His work over the past decade has focused on public/private partnerships, and most recently with the University, he has developed a broad regional network of sustainability and environmental remediation expertise. Standish utilizes this network to connect University researchers with external partners to stimulate collaborative, interdisciplinary research and problem solving. His knowledge of the food and agricultural system — in the context of social, financial, and environmental sustainability and resilient, circular economies — will be valuable in ensuring inclusivity and equality for the “Food For Health Initiative” and its outcomes. Standish is also an Associate Fellow at the Institute on the Environment at the U of M.

Mark Steffen
Vice President and Chief Medical Officer
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota

As vice president and chief medical officer of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, Mark Steffen, MD, MPH, oversees medical management strategies that encompass the organization’s medical policies, clinical programs, community health, and health equity initiatives.

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Dr. Steffen is also responsible for leading healthcare quality and affordability initiatives within the company’s medical management programs. He serves as the chair of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation Board and is a board member on the Minnesota Community Measures Board. Dr. Steffen came to Blue Cross in 2018 from Humana, where he focused on population health including national value based strategies for patients with chronic kidney disease and end-stage renal disease. Previously, he spent five years at the Mayo Clinic as a medical director within Preventive, Occupational and Aerospace Medicine while also serving as education chair for the division. Dr. Steffen’s career in medical leadership began with a three-year tenure as medical director for the Fairview Red Wing MedicalCenter, a position in which he collaborated with local businesses to improve health and control costs. Dr. Steffen began his work as a physician in rural Family Medicine and worked clinically in a variety of settings including community hospitals and academic medical centers. He has board certifications in Family Medicine, Preventive Medicine, and Occupational Medicine. Dr. Steffen received his bachelor’s degree in biochemistry from the University of Minnesota Duluth and both his medical degree and master’s in public health from the University of Minnesota.

Stella Whitney-West
NorthPoint Health & Wellness Center

Stella Whitney-West is chief executive officer of NorthPoint Health & Wellness Center, a federally qualified health center serving over 28,000 residents in North Minneapolis and Hennepin County.

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NorthPoint which provides comprehensive medical, dental, behavioral health, pharmacy, laboratory, radiology, and human services has realized dramatic growth in patients, revenue, and mission effectiveness under her leadership. NorthPoint is administered through a partnership between Hennepin County and a Community Board of Directors composed of NorthPoint’s patients and people who live and/or work in the community. NorthPoint strives to improve the physical and socio-economic health of the North Minneapolis community through an integrated model of health and human services with its mission: Partnering to Create a Healthier Community. Whitney-West has extensive experience in governance and policy and has been honored with several leadership and fellowship awards including a Bush Leadership Fellowship, The International Black Women’s Congress Community Service, and as a 2015 Women’s Health Leadership TRUST honoree. She holds an MBA from the University of St. Thomas and a BSc in Biology from the University of Minnesota.  Whitney-West serves on the Twin Cities LISC Advisory Board, the Minnesota Association of Community Health Centers (MNACHC) Board, and is co-chair of the board of Directors of the African American Leadership Forum (AALF).

Support Food for Health

Prior to the pandemic 30 percent of Minnesota’s population — more than 1.6 million people — lacked easy access to healthy food. The current pandemic and recent social unrest have laid bare long-standing health inequities and have increased food disparities at an alarming rate.

The University of Minnesota School of Public Health (SPH) has demonstrated leadership in times of public health crises and we will continue to lead. We partner with local and federal government, healthcare delivery systems, and communities to develop, implement, and share policies, science, and practice that tackle today’s most pressing health challenges related to structural racism and global infectious disease outbreaks. Our location, collaborative spirit, expert faculty, and integrated health sciences infrastructure uniquely position the school as a national leader in food access, nutrition, and healthy weight research and education.

The SPH Division of Epidemiology and Community Health is driven by a mission to improve the health of the public and decrease health inequities through scientifically rigorous research, translation of research into action, and state-of-the-art teaching to prepare the next generation of public health professionals. Philanthropy plays a profound role in advancing this mission and bridging the critical gaps in public health funding to combat and advance health equity for all populations.

Your gift will:
Provide innovative learning experiences for students to learn where they live.
Support our faculty as they engage in innovative research to meet the myriad challenges of the current pandemic, and as they prepare the next generation of public health leaders with the skills they need to improve public health.

Please give generously today.

Your gift will:

  • Provide innovative learning experiences for students to learn where they live
  • Support our faculty as they engage in innovative research to meet the myriad challenges of the current pandemic, and
  • Prepare the next generation of student public health leaders with the skills they need to improve public health
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