Nutritional Sciences Graduate Program: Ph.D., Community Nutrition

Community Nutrition Program

Nutritional problems in communities range from obesity to food insecurity in units from families to governments. The causes of poor nutrition are multiple and complex, involving biological, economic, social, cultural, and policy issues. The Community Nutrition Program at Cornell University educates scholars and community professionals who are dedicated to the promotion of health and prevention of disease in communities and populations.

Faculty members in Community Nutrition are concerned with:

  •  understanding the food choice behaviors of individuals, families, and groups and the contributions of food systems to those behaviors;

  • understanding the distribution and causes of nutritional disparities in populations using tools from epidemiology, social sciences and policy analysis;

  • designing, implementing and evaluating nutrition interventions, including nutrition education and nutrition-related policies.

The faculty in Community Nutrition addresses nutritional problems in communities through graduate education, research, and outreach/extension. The Community Nutrition Program is dedicated to educating committed scientists and educators whose prior background and experience will allow them to benefit from Cornell's rigorous intellectual environment.

Opportunities after Graduation

Doctoral graduates from the Community Nutrition Program work for universities, government agencies (National Institutes of Health, Centers for Disease Control), and applied research institutions. Master's degree graduates work for public health, cooperative extension, and community agencies, and educational institutions. Many go on to earn doctoral degrees.

Graduate Study

The Community Nutrition faculty tailors the graduate program to meet each student's background and educational goals. With guidance from their faculty advisor and graduate committee, students may focus their study on psychosocial, cultural, policy or economic aspects of nutrition, on the biological and clinical aspects of nutrition in the community or on a combination of these. The program is based in the Division of Nutritional Sciences, but involves faculty and courses from across the university and community partners from across New York and the United States. The faculty has experience in many aspects of community nutrition, and their expertise covers a spectrum from sociology and anthropology to public health and community nutrition practice.

Study in Community Nutrition begins with a solid understanding of the biological basis of human nutrition and health with application of social science theory and methods for working with groups and populations to address important nutrition issues in the community. In addition to courses in the biological aspects of nutrition, students are expected to take courses that recognize the social, psychological, cultural, agricultural, economic, clinical, and public health policy determinants of nutrition and health as well as courses that provide them with expertise in the analytic and conceptual methods used to describe and understand these issues. Numerous seminars offer opportunities for presentation and interpretation of research issues and research methods.

There are several ways to engage in graduate study in community nutrition at Cornell:

  • Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Nutrition with a concentration in Community Nutrition.

  • M.S. or Ph.D. degree in another field with a minor concentration in Community Nutrition.

Students who major in Community Nutrition minor in areas such as human development, education, public policy, program evaluation, anthropology, epidemiology, or communications to meet their multidisciplinary research needs.


The emphasis on the application of social and behavioral theory and methods to community nutrition problems is a distinguishing feature of community nutrition research at Cornell. Much of the research is collaborative and interdisciplinary. A field project typically forms the basis for the thesis or dissertation for students majoring in Community Nutrition, although it may be complemented by analysis of survey data or laboratory findings in some cases. Research methods used in community nutrition projects include qualitative methods, surveys, secondary data analysis, dietary assessment, policy analysis, participatory methods, and others. Opportunities for field research may be found with projects directed by Cornell faculty or collaborative arrangements for field study with other organizations in community settings.

The faculty members of the Community Nutrition Program are involved in many areas of research including:

Food Choices

  • Sociocultural determinants of food choices

  • Food choices over the life course

Food and Nutrition Policy

  • Community nutrition policy and implications for health

  • Family and community food decision making

  • Sustainable food systems

Nutrition and Health

  • Sociocultural determinants of nutritional disparities

  • Food insecurity

  • Biosocial contributors to obesity

Nutrition Education and Intervention

  • Program outcomes and efficacy

  • Interventions with low-income audiences

  • Environmental interventions to prevent obesity

  • Community nutrition interventions to improve health

Director of Graduate Studies Field of Nutrition Graduate Admissions Committee B19 Savage Hall Cornell University Ithaca , NY 14853-6301 or e-mail to: Telephone: (607) 255-2628 Fax: (607) 255-1033