Jennifer Wilkins joined the Division of Nutritional Sciences in 1993. Her work focuses on how the food and agriculture system impacts public health, environmental sustainability, and community well-being. Degrees include: BS degree in 1978 from Huxley College of Environmental Studies, Western Washington University, MS degree in 1981 from Teachers College, Columbia University, Ph.D. in 1991 from Washington State University, in Nutrition and Consumer Economics, RD post-graduate dietetic residency at University of Washington Hospitals.
Shortly after joining the Cornell faculty Jennifer conceptualized and developed the first regional food guide in the United States, the Northeast Regional Food Guide. This food guide promotes health, sustainability, and local food systems. She was one of eight people selected from a national pool of over 150 for Class IV of the Kellogg Foundation Food and Society Policy Fellowship. During this 2-year fellowship (2004 to 2006) her work appeared in the media including an op-ed in the New York Times and she developed a newspaper column, The Food Citizen which has appeared monthly in the Albany Times Union since May 2006, and in the Ithaca Journal from November 2007 to April 2010.
In 2010, Dr. Wilkins became the Community Coordinator for the Cornell Dietetic Internship Program. Since the early 2000s she has directed the Cornell Farm to School Program, for which she received a Dannon Institute Award for Excellence in Community Nutrition in 2003. She directs the Cornell Farmers' Market Nutrition Program Outreach, in partnership with the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, and NYS Department of Health. She served as president of Agriculture, Food and Human Values Society from 2003-2004, served on the board of Directors for the Society for Nutrition Education (SNE) from 1994-97, was a member of SNE's Advisory Committee on Public Policy (ACPP) from 2006-2008, and chaired the ACPP from 2009-2010. She currently serves on the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Standards for Professional Performance for Sustainable Food and Water Systems Work Group.
Jennifer is the 2004 recipient of the Environmental Nutrition Award from the Hunger and Environmental Nutrition Dietetic Practice Group within the American Dietetic Association. In 2007, she received the Outstanding Community Public Service from the College of Human Ecology. She has served on the Chefs Collaborative Board of Overseers and was a visiting professor at the Università degli Scienze Gastronomiche (University of Gastronomic Sciences) in Pollenzo and Colorno, Italy from 2008-2011.
Teaching and Advising Statement:
One of the most important goals of teaching is to provide students the resources and environment most conducive to developing critical thinking skills. With critical thinking as a key objective of teaching, the learning process is much more than the mere acquisition and retention of information or skills.
Students need to develop critical thinking and learning skills in order to be able to see and understand the world in new ways, and to take up their responsibilities as citizens in a complex, globalized, and vulnerable world. Teaching and learning then can be viewed as a process whereby students examine the subject at hand and their worldview – and use course material and discussion as grist to grind and reshape their lenses on the world.
To be most effective in achieve this goal, teaching should generate an exchange of ideas through thoughtful discussion rather than provide a one-way delivery of information. Part of teaching is to develop a classroom culture whereby students present material and ideas in a logical, respectful and coherent way.
Critical thinking seems particularly relevant to the teaching of nutrition today given the fervent criticisms being levied on (perceived) traditional roles of the food and nutrition profession, as well as the very real challenges for future food systems – with economic, environmental, and public health implications.
It is important in teaching to a group of students to present material in a way that is accessible to as broad range of capabilities and backgrounds as possible. Encouraging dialogue among students and work in small groups is a strategy I feel works to increase engagement and to bring everyone along. In the teaching process I believe that inviting question and dialogue is a critical amendment to short presentations, in a more traditional lecture format. The setting and atmosphere for student exchange and discussion needs to be set by the teacher.
One of the most rewarding teaching situations, I believe, is when students are actively discussing with each other (including myself as a facilitating participant) how concepts and information from readings relate to experiences in their lives and other literature they have reviewed. This group learning is energizing and tends to spark new understandings and new questions for ongoing inquiry.
I recognize and enjoy the important mentoring role in teaching and strive to provide tools students need to acquire new knowledge and apply that knowledge. I enjoy learning about students’ interests, providing resources for assist them in further exploration, and discussing how to apply their interests to real-world application. I believe that students respond best and most meaningfully when their individuality is recognized and honored.
I think it is important to use examples that are tangible and to which students can easily relate. For a course I taught in DNS a few years ago, I developed an assignment to help students learn about the food system by analyzing a food product of their choice. I worked with the students to help them set parameters for their analysis, and the strategies for conducting the study. The learning that took place was multi-dimensional in nature. Not only did the students actively learn about the products they investigated, they also learned about those chosen for analysis by their classmates since short presentations to the class were part of the assignment. Further, they learned about several dimensions such as transparency, democracy, and marketing as they relate to the U.S. food supply. I published a description of this exercise in the peer-reviewed journal, Food, Culture and Society in 2004.
Since students come to a subject with varying points of view, I strive to get them to question the conclusions presented in the course materials, and to challenge assumptions. To demonstrate this value, I endeavor to be transparent about my point of view and my assumptions. One of the challenges in teaching is to recognize and tap into the deepening well of experience, knowledge and perspectives that exist within the students themselves. In this regard, I provide ample time for discussion and questioning.
To address different learning styles, I endeavor to develop different types of instructional and evaluation strategies. Assignments are structured to facilitate critical thinking of the material. I also recognize that cultural and social background of students may influence not only how they approach subject matter but also how they interact with material, with other students, and with professors. I have come appreciate such differences and their implications for teaching through the diverse audiences I have taught over the years – undergraduates, professionals, community-members, international undergraduates, and now dietetic interns. In each case I tailor and target material for the specific audience.
If I think about the professors who have inspired me the most and from whom I easily and willingly learned, they were those who were knowledgeable and enthusiastic about their subject, and passionate about its relevance to their immediate communities and to broad social, cultural, or ecological issues. These professors were also able to use teaching technology skillfully and thoughtfully without an over-reliance on that technology. They exuded a sense of curiosity about the world within and beyond their subjects and conveyed the possibility of always being open to new thoughts and to being surprised. Through active reading about teaching, discussions with others whose teaching skills I respect, and observing my own class processes, I am striving to become that kind of teacher.
Current Professional Activities:
Community Coordinator, Cornell Dietetic Internship Program
Director, Cornell Farm to School Program
Director, CCE Farmers' Market Nutrition Outreach Program
Member, Agriculture, Food and Human Values
Member, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (The Academy)
Member, Society Nutrition Education and Behavior (SNEB)
Current Research Activities:
Role of "Stage" (study trips) in gastronomic education.
Nutritional difference between local and long-distance transported fruits and vegetables.
Quantitative assessment of interest and current practices related to state-grown and value-added products among New York State college and university dining directors.
Implications of shift in source of dietary animal protein for land availability and potential bio-fuel production.
Impact of participating in Community Supported Agriculture on long-term fruit and vegetable intake and overall diet quality among continuing, new, and low-income CSA members.
Current Public Engagement Activities:
Farmers Market Nutrition Program Outreach
Eat3: Eat Well, Eat Local, Eat Together
Cornell Farm to School Program
Web-based farm to school resources for extension educators and other community leaders
Web-based Food System Education, "Discover the Food System"
Northeast Regional Food Guide (now MyNEPlate)
Professional development in farm-to-school, regional dietary guidance, community food systems and related policy
PhD 1991 - Washington State University
Nutrition and Consumer Economics
RD 1983 - University of Washington Medical Center
Clinical Dietetic Residency
MS 1981 - Teachers College, Columbia University
BS 1978 - Huxley College of Environmental Studies, Western Washington
Nutrition and Environmental Health
NS 6250 Community Nutrition in Action (3 credits)
Farmers Market Nutrition Program Outreach
Facebook: Cornell University Farmers Market Program Outreach
Eat3: Eat Well, Eat Local, Eat Together
Cornell Farm to School Program
• Community Coordinator, Dietetic Internship Program, Division of Nutritional Sciences
• Director, Cornell Farm to School Program
• Director, Cornell Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program Outreach
Robien K, Tagtow A, Bergquist E, Bruening M, Dierks L, Robinson-O’Brien R, Steinitz T. Tahsin B, Underwood T, Wilkins J, Hui K. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Standards of Professional Performance for Registered Dietitian Nutritionists (Competent, Proficient, and Expert) in Sustainable, Resilient and Healthy Food and Water Systems. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Accepted by JAND November 2013. In Press.
Devine CM and Wilkins JL. (pending). Changing Local Food Environments: An Ecological Approach to Increasing Local Healthy Food Access. Chapter in Morland K, Local Food Environments: Food Access in America. Mount Sinai School of Medicine, Department of Preventive Medicine.
Wilkins, JL. (pending). Diet, Health and the Food System. Chapter in “Food Systems and Public Health.” Textbook to developed by Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future. Publisher: Wiley/Jossey Bass.
Angie Tagtow, Kate Clancy, Joan Gussow, Eduardo J. Sanchez, Mary Story, and Jennifer L. Wilkins. Food Policy, Systems, and Environment: Strategies for Making Healthful Food the Easiest Choice. Childhood Obesity. 2011. 7(2): 83-89. doi:10.1089/chi.2011.07.02.1003.tagtow.
Peters CJ, Bills NL, Lembo AJ, Wilkins JL, and GW Fick. 2011. Mapping potential foodsheds in New York State by food group: An approach for prioritizing which foods to grow locally. Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems. 2011. Available on CJO 2011 doi:10.1017/S1742170511000196.
Wilkins, JL, Lapp J, Tagtow A and Roberts S. Beyond Eating Right: The Emergence of Civic Dietetics to Foster Health and Sustainability Through Food System Change. Journal of Hunger & Environmental Nutrition. 2010; 5(1): 2-12.
Peters CJ, Bills NL, Lembo AJ, Wilkins JL, and GW Fick. 2009. Mapping potential foodsheds in New York State: A spatial model for evaluating the capacity to localize food production. Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems: 24(1); 72–84.
Wilkins JL. Civic dietetics: opportunities for integrating civic agriculture concepts into dietetic practice. Agriculture and Human Values Journal. 2009; 26(1 and 2):57–66.
Peters CJ, Bills NL, Wilkins JL, and GW Fick. Foodshed analysis and its relevance to sustainability. Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems. 2008; 23(4). Published online by Cambridge University Press 08 Dec 2008.
Peters CJ, Wilkins JL, and GW Fick. Testing a complete diet for estimating the land resource requirements of food consumption and agricultural carrying capacity: The New York State example. Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems. 2007;22(2):145–153. Published Online by Cambridge University Press 04 Jul 2007.
Wilkins JL. Eating Right Here: The Role of Dietary Guidance in Remaking Community-Based Food Systems. Chapter in Hinrichs C and Lyson TA (eds.) Remaking the North American Food System. 2007. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press.
Roberts KS, Struble MB, McCullum C, Wilkins JL. Use of a risk communication model to evaluate dietetics professionals’ viewpoints on genetically engineered foods and crops. Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 2006;106(5):719-727.
Wilkins, JL. Eating right here: Moving from consumer to food citizen. Presidential address to the Agriculture, Food, and Human Values Society and the Society for the Study of Food and Society, Hyde Park, New York, June 11, 2004. Agriculture and Human Values. 2005;22(3):269-273.
Wilkins JL. Seeing Beyond the Package: Teaching about the Food System through Food Product Analysis. Food, Culture, and Society. 2005;8(1):91-108.
Selected Keywords: Food Systems and Health
Regional Dietary Guidance
The information on this bio page is taken from the CHE Annual Report.