top of page

Food and Childhood Health is Focus of 2015 Symposium

The increasing nutrition gap between children from the privileged and children from less well-supported classes will be the focus of the 2015 Symposium of the Shepherd Higher Education Consortium on Poverty (SHECP) on Sunday, August 2 in Lexington, Virginia.

“Poor nutrition has become a serious barrier to equal opportunity,” said Harlan Beckley, executive director of SHECP. “We need a better understanding of this phenomenon so that we can more effectively reduce barriers to healthy and fulfilling productive lives.”

The symposium will feature three outstanding speakers informed by different experiences and expertise. Sessions will take place on the campus of Virginia Military Institute (VMI) in Marshall Hall, which is home to the VMI Center for Leadership and Ethics.

Dr. Hassink is president of President of the American Academy of Pediatricians (AAP)

Dr. Hassink is president of President of the American Academy of Pediatricians.

Dr. Sandra Hassink, current President of the American Academy of Pediatricians (AAP) brings the expertise of a physician concerned about obesity and food policy.

Dr. Elaine Waxman will join the Urban Institute in late May.  She serves as Vice President of Research and Nutrition, Feeding America, and brings twenty-five years of experience in social policy research and consulting.

Victoria Kumpuris Brown, was recently appointed as Senior Program Office at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation after serving for nearly decade with the Alliance for Healthier Generations negotiating with major food and beverage firms to market affordable and lower calorie products in order to reduce obesity. She has a distinctive perspective on the corporate responsibility of major firms in the food industry.

The symposium format also permits these three speakers to interact with each other and the audience.

The afternoon program will feature presentations by Drs. Hassink and Waxman followed by a discussion among all three speakers and the audience. Ms. Brown will address the group at an evening banquet held at in the Hall of Valor in Marshall Hall.

Dr. Hassink will address “Building the Foundations for Child Health: Moving toward a National Agenda for Children.” In 1988, she began the weight management clinic at Nemours/AI DuPont Children’s Hospital located in Wilmington, Delaware. She is the Medical Director of the APP Institute for Early Childhood Weight and advocates regularly for better legislation to address obesity. In addition to her medical degree from Vanderbilt University, Dr. Hassink earned her master’s degree in pastoral care and counseling from Neumann College in Aston, PA in 2000. Her research on pathophysiologic mechanisms of obesity has informed three of her books: A Parent’s Guide to Childhood Obesity, Pediatric Obesity: Prevention, Intervention, and Treatment Strategies for Primary Care, and Clinical Guide to Pediatric Weight Management.

Dr. Waxman is the author of "A Parent’s Guide to Childhood Obesity."

Dr. Waxman’s research focuses on the intersection of food insecurity and public health.  She is the author of “Hunger in America.” (2014)

Dr. Waxman will speak on “The Evolution of Food Insecurity as a Public Health Issue.” She oversaw completion of Hunger in America 2014, the largest study ever conducted of emergency food assistance in the United States and directed Hunger in America 2010 and the Map the Meal Gap project. These studies provide the first county-level estimates of food insecurity in the United States. She received her doctorate from the School of Social Service Administration at The University of Chicago where she also serves as a lecturer and field supervisor. Much of Dr. Waxman’s research focuses on the intersection of food insecurity and public health, a matter on which she has published multiple articles. She will begin a research position at the Urban Institute in May 2015.

During her work with the Alliance for Healthier Generations, Ms. Brown negotiated agreements with companies such as McDonald’s, Coca Cola, Pepsi, and the Dr. Pepper Snapple Group. She served earlier as a research analyst for the Arkansas Department of Health and Human Services and in the Department of Social Sciences and Health Policy at the Wake Forest University School of Medicine. Ms. Brown enrolled in the first capstone seminar of the Shepherd Program on Poverty at Washington and Lee University. She is alumna of Washington and Lee and the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Policy at the University of Texas. She will address “Private Sector Engagement in the Fight against Childhood Obesity.”

More than 90 interns returning from eight-week summer internships working with people living in impoverished communities will attend the symposium will over faculty and staff from SHECP member institutions. Also attending will be more than 40 faculty and staff from SHECP 21 member schools. The symposium is open to the public. Registration will open 1 June.

Victoria Brown will be the banquet speaker.

Victoria Brown will be the banquet speaker.

SHECP symposia seek to inform students, faculty, and the public about the causes and remedies of recalcitrant poverty that we can reduce. Sandra Hassink, Elaine Waxman, and Victoria Kumpuris Brown will help us understand and address the problem of child poverty at one of its most sensitive points, the health of our children.

For more information, visit the SHECP Symposium web page,


bottom of page