The National School Lunch Program (NSLP) aims to alleviate hunger and nourish children by providing low-cost and free lunches in schools across the United States (US). Given its reach, the NSLP is an ideal setting to encourage the consumption of foods with limited environmental impacts. To date, minimal research has assessed the environmental impacts of the lunches served through the NSLP. This research will evaluate the environmental impacts of school lunches served through the NSLP using a nationally representative sample of lunches. The following environmental impacts from the agricultural production of the lunches will be modeled: global warming potential; marine and freshwater eutrophication potential; land use; and water scarcity. This assessment is the basis for a larger analysis which will design menus with lower environmental impacts for a local school district with nutrient, economic, and social constraints.
Alexandra is a PhD candidate at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy in the Agriculture, Food and Environment department. She expects to complete her studies in May 2021. Prior to Tufts, Alexandra earned her B.S. in Environmental Studies and MPH in Public Health with a focus in Environmental Health from Emory University. For her master’s thesis, she assessed the impact of a hand hygiene intervention on farms in Mexico to reduce the risk of foodborne illness from enteric diseases. After graduating from Emory, Alexandra worked as a consultant for the Tobacco Control Research Branch of the National Cancer Institute. After a year, she transitioned to a job at a non-profit called D.C. Central Kitchen. Alexandra worked for two years as a nutrition and community outreach coordinator where she managed nutrition and physical activity interventions for students K-5 in D.C. public/charter schools. At Tufts, she is the co-founder of the Sustainable Diets Journal Club.
Current Studies and Future Goals
When asked what she found most meaningful about her field of study, Alexandra responded with the following: “The world food system is a major driver of climate change, natural resource depletion, environmental degradation, and diet related disease. One promising solution to address these environmental and health issues is the widespread adoption of sustainable diets. This is because sustainable diets, as defined by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (UN FAO), protect ecosystems, support human health and wellbeing, and are culturally acceptable, accessible, economically fair, and affordable. My research aims to study, define, and promote sustainable diets in order to address these issues simultaneously.”
When asked what interested her in becoming a TIE Fellow, Alexandra responded with the following: “I was interested in being a TIE Fellow because of the interdisciplinary nature of the program. Much like TIE, my research is interdisciplinary as it requires environmental science, agronomy, engineering, math and computer science.”
After Tufts, Alexandra will apply for the Presidential Management Fellowship, which is designed to develop leaders in government. The fellowship offers opportunities to apply for research positions at government agencies, including at the USDA Food and Nutrition Service office which interprets and implements school meals policy. Unfortunately, there are currently no environmental standards in federal nutrition policy. Therefore, Alexandra aspires to be a force in this agency. She hopes to champion the design and monitoring of programs that encourage the procurement and consumption of sustainable school meals.
When not doing school work, Alexandra likes to practice yoga, run, cook and bake.