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Jessica Fanzo

Global Food and Agriculture Ethics and Policy

Berman Institute of Bioethics
Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies
Department of International Health, Bloomberg School of Public Health

Jessica Fanzo is leading the university’s collaborative efforts in ethics, global food, and agricultural policy. She joined Johns Hopkins as a Bloomberg Distinguished Associate Professor in 2015.

In low-income and post-conflict countries worldwide, Fanzo has worked to improve food security and nutrition for women and children and to ensure they have high-quality food and better diets. Her area of expertise focuses on the multi-sectoral and system approaches. She has developed and coordinated large-scale applied research projects in in sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and East Africa.

“All of my degrees are in nutrition, so I always had an interest in food systems,” says Fanzo. She was a postdoctoral lab scientist for four years but found she wanted to work more directly with people. “I switched gears and focused much more on global health. My entry into international work was HIV/AIDS—that was the first time I went to rural sub-Saharan Africa.” After a few years, her interests converged and she began to study public health nutrition, focusing on the interdependence of agriculture, nutrition, and food security.

Her projects seek to understand the links between the nutritional, environmental, on-farm, social, economic and political components of development. The central thrust of her work focuses on the interaction in food systems between nutrition, ecology and agriculture so as to propose innovatory solutions that can be replicated on a large scale and benefit the health of populations.

This work is concentrated in three areas: on the linkages between agriculture, water, and health to improve diversity and quality of maternal and young children’s diets in low-income rural communities; the importance of regaining livelihoods in post-conflict regions through better nutrition governance; and metrics and ethics for the emerging area of equitable, sustainable diets and value chains.

Prior to coming to Johns Hopkins, Fanzo was an Assistant Professor of Nutrition in the Institute of Human Nutrition and Department of Pediatrics at Columbia University in New York. She also served as the Senior Advisor of Nutrition Policy at the Center on Globalization and Sustainable Development at the Earth Institute. She also has provided technical and policy counsel on international development projects and programs at the United Nations World Food Programme, World Health Organization, UNICEF, and World Bank.

“At Hopkins, where there is such a strong international focus, there is an opportunity to build a food security and food systems program between Berman and the School of Advanced International Studies,” said Fanzo on her move to Hopkins.

Since arriving, she has created new courses to get students interested in issues of food security, equity, and ethical issues around global food systems. “For example, how do we ensure people in low-income countries have enough animal-source food, and that people in high-income countries don’t eat too much? How can we balance demand for these foods with planetary health? There are a lot of moral and ethical issues to understand,” she says.

Fanzo received her BS, MS and PhD in Nutrition at the University of Arizona, and was the Stephen I. Morse Postdoctoral Fellow in Immunology in the Department of Molecular Medicine at Columbia University. She was the first laureate of the Carasso Foundation’s Sustainable Diets Prize in 2012 for her work on sustainable food and diets for long-term human health.

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