April 27, 2021
Dr. Jess Haines, Associate Professor of Applied Nutrition at the University of Guelph in Ontario (Canada) is the Laureate of the 2nd Edition of the Danone International Prize for Alimentation (DIPA). The DIPA is awarded every two years by the Danone Institute International (DII) in collaboration with the French “Fondation pour la Recherche Médicale” (FRM).
Dr. Jess Haines, PhD, MHSc, RD is an Associate Professor in the Department of Family Relations and Applied Nutrition at the University of Guelph, Canada. Prior to her appointment at University of Guelph, Dr. Haines was a faculty member at the Obesity Prevention Program at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Haines has made important contributions to research focused on community and family-based interventions aimed at promoting healthful behaviors among families with preschool children.
Among several studies and projects, she is the co-director of the Guelph Family Health Study, a family-based cohort study designed to identify early life risk predictors of chronic diseases and examine the influence of interventions and policies on the health behaviors and outcomes of families. She co-leads an interdisciplinary team of experts in nutrition, epidemiology, health economics, microbiology, biostatistics and genetics. To date, the cohort includes over 300 families with the goal of recruiting an additional 300 families over the next 2 years. After years of work focused on interventions to support healthful eating, Dr. Haines’s research has expanded to also explore strategies for sustainable eating among families.
Bridging research findings and practical guidance, promoting sustainable healthy eating among families, through novel, interdisciplinary research and knowledge mobilization.
The overarching goal of Dr. Haines’s research is to identify strategies to promote sustainable healthy eating among families to support the health of the families and of the planet.
Ensuring the world growing population has adequate nutritious food while also preserving the planet is one of the most pressing challenges facing our world today. Data show that current diets across much of the world are of low nutritional quality and include many foods produced in ways that rely on non-renewable inputs and unsustainable practices. In addition, approximately one third of the food produced worldwide is lost or wasted and, in Canada, nearly 50% of food waste occurs at the household level.
To preserve the health of the planet and our own health, we need to identify effective strategies that support consumers to eat a sustainable healthy diet and reduce food waste. The program of research developed by Dr. Haines directly addresses this challenge. Her research bridges cutting-edge epidemiologic and direct observational research on the predictors of sustainable healthy eating and household food waste with the development of behavior change interventions and knowledge mobilization tools, focused on supporting families to adopt sustainable healthy eating practices.
Dr. Haines uses interdisciplinary research approaches, engaging key knowledge users in the research process and working to mobilize results to inform programs and policies about real effects and lasting change that benefits the health of families and children. Her research is focused in three key areas: food literacy, positive food parenting, and fathers’ influence on children’s eating.
1. Impact of food literacy to support sustainable health behaviors
Dr. Haines’s interdisciplinary team has led research to understand how factors, such as food literacy, are associated with diet quality and household food waste. They have translated these findings into novel behavior change interventions and education tools to support sustainable healthy eating among families. A pilot intervention study “Weeknight Supper Savers”, funded by Danone Institute North America’s One Planet One Health Initiative, was designed to improve food literacy and reduce household food waste among families with school-age children. The intervention includes a “Our study found that families throw away up to $1,600 food waste each year and that the majority of this food waste is fruits and vegetables (…) We could improve nutrition intake by reducing food waste.” Jess Haines 2 nd Edition of the DANONE INTERNATIONAL PRIZE FOR ALIMENTATION - email@example.com Press kit backgrounder DIPA 2nd Edition AWARD dedicated cookbook, with tips and recipes designed to reduce food waste, a family cooking and education class, and behavioral supports, such as meal planning worksheets. Results showed that the intervention can reduce household food waste and that families enjoyed participating in the intervention. These results will inform a full-scale trial of the intervention. Her research team is also collaborating with Health Canada to develop a cookbook designed to support families in meeting Canada’s 2019 Dietary Guidelines focused on sustainable healthy eating.
2. Positive food parenting to support healthy eating in children
Much of the existing research exploring how food parenting behaviors influence children’s dietary intake has used parent self-report and may not be valid due to inaccurate recall and bias. To address this gap, Jess Haines established the Parent-Child Feeding Lab with infrastructure funds from the Canadian Foundation for Innovation. Using state of-the-art audio and visual recording technology, this lab allows her research team to observe directly how parental feeding behaviors influence children's eating behavior. Building on this observational work, Dr. Haines and her team recently conducted focus group interviews with parents of young children to understand how their attitudes regarding sustainability are influencing their food choices. The conclusions will be used for the messaging for the sustainable healthy eating interventions with families.
3. The potential role of fathers
While substantial research has shown that parents are the primary influence on young children’s eating behaviors, most of the studies focused exclusively on mothers. Dr. Haines and her team led the first Canadian study to examine fathers’ food parenting, which found that fathers’, but not mothers’, modeling of healthy eating was associated with healthier eating habits among children. In collaboration with Dr. Kirsten Davison from Boston College, Dr. Haines has created the Fathers & Families Study, which will be the largest cohort of fathers to date in the United States. Through this cohort, they will explore how father’s engagement in child feeding, their food parenting practices, and their own eating behaviors, influence their children eating behaviors. Results will provide a framework for effectively engaging fathers in efforts to promote sustainable healthy eating among children
A knowledge-to-action cycle for a more sustainable diet among families
Dr. Jess Haines’s research spans the entire knowledge-to-action cycle. She bridges epidemiologic and observational research on the predictors of sustainable healthy eating with the development of novel and scalable behavior change interventions and knowledge mobilization tools. She led interdisciplinary teams including agriculture economists, geographers, food producers and nutrition researchers to understand how family food literacy influences both healthy eating and household food waste. This interdisciplinary collaboration led to the most comprehensive household food waste study to date. These results informed the development of Weeknight Supper Savers, a novel intervention designed to improve family food literacy and reduce household food waste. Her team has moved the field of food parenting forward using direct observation of parent-child feeding interactions and her interdisciplinary approach has led to pioneering advances in the understanding of how best to support sustainable healthy eating among families.
Five tips to help families eat a sustainable healthy diet
- Add plant-based proteins to the menu. Plant-based proteins, like beans, chickpeas, and lentils, are healthy choices that also benefit our planet. To start, families can try to replace one or two meat-based meals each week with plant-based options.
- Choose local foods. Selecting foods produced closer to home will reduce the need for the food to travel large distances, which will reduce carbon emissions and your food footprint.
- Cook meals at home. Cooking at home can help families control where their food is sourced and what ingredients are used. It also saves money and is a great way to teach children cooking skills. Our team has created 5 cookbooks with delicious, easy-to-prepare recipes to help get children involved: www.guelphfamilyhealthstudy.com/cookbooks
- Plan your meals. To reduce food waste, families can plan meals and purchase only the foods they need each week. This not only helps the planet, but also helps save money.
- Use up your leftovers. When planning meals for the week, families can include a “use it up day” when they will use up leftover meals or foods in their home. Our team created the “Rock What You’ve Got” cookbook that includes recipes designed to help families use up the foods in their fridge to reduce food waste: www.guelphfamilyhealthstudy.com/2019/09/19/rock-what-youve-got-recipes-for-reducing-food-waste/
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