March 2018 Member Spotlight

Amanda Frankeny: Advocating for a Sustainable Food Future

By Katie Dwyer, PAND media team member

Do you know where your food comes from? Most dietitians are interested in the connection between farm, factory, family table and everything in between, but the relationships shared by American agriculture, agribusiness, food policy and hunger are what pulled Amanda Frankeny, RDN, LDN into dietetics to begin with, and what drives everything she does in the field.
Her passions for agriculture and food systems grew from childhood weekends spent in the Pennsylvania countryside outside her hometown of Hershey. Once she started college, her family moved to their country home full-time to start Beehaven Acres, a “zoo” of farm animals and a garden.

“I fell head over heels for the magic and grit that comes with this lifestyle,” Frankey said. “There is nothing like soil under your nails and harvesting with the seasons. It changed my life.”
“When I decided on my nutrition major, the link between how farmers impact how we eat was indisputable. What lured me in was how the disruption and growth of our food system impacts nutrition, hunger, food purchasing, agriculture, really everything!”

Frankeny sought out any book or article pertaining to food politics and systems, school lunch programs, sustainable agriculture, poverty and hunger. She obtained her dietetics credentials through Penn State University and later took classes on the Farm Bill, sustainable agriculture, and poverty-related hunger through Johns Hopkins University. She lead a nutrition project in Africa to see how building a local agriculture system could help meet the nutrient needs of communities without a lot of added cost.

As an RD, her voracity for learning turned into a mission to educate. As Community Nutritionist for the Pennsylvania Nutrition Education Network, her job is to collaborate with every stakeholder in nutrition policy — dietitians, lawmakers, researchers, scientists, journalists, medical professionals, food service workers, and potential donors, just to name a few — to disseminate all kinds of nutrition information and potential solutions. She recently began sourcing food and nutrition policy updates for Pennsylvania Delegate to the AND House of Delegates Susan Adams.

“We share ground-breaking solutions for hunger, obesity and poverty; introduce approachable nutrition programming; translate the most recent nutrition research, and provide continuing education and networking opportunities,” she said. “My job is all about strengthening partnerships across our state and keeping our education resources up to date.”
As a passion project, Frankeny also works with a team of dietitians, food pantry workers and anti-hunger advocates at Eat.Together.PA. The organization encourages people to share meals with family and friends, and shares tips on healthy food prep.
“Mealtime can feed people’s souls,” she said. “I love elevating the people in our network who so passionately serve the hungry, the sick, you name it. My jaw drops when I hear about a food pantry worker waking up at 4 a.m. to feed their community and then head to a full day’s work. What a powerhouse!”

Frankeny said that as the general population becomes increasingly concerned with where their food came from and its environmental impact, “the time is ripe” for dietitians to lead the way in shaping that concern into pathways for action.
“Involvement opportunities within sustainable agriculture are everywhere,” she said. “From growing your own garden plot to volunteering at food pantries, supporting your county’s food policy council, purchasing foods from or working at local farms, or leading nutrition education sessions at local farmers’ markets, there are may ways for nutrition professionals to make an impact in their communities.”

For those interested in learning more about sustainable food systems, Frankeny suggested credible resources like the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, Food Tank, and of course, the Pennsylvania Nutrition Education Network.

“Once informed, dietitians can totally sing with the choir supporting this movement. They can do their part by learning about, wrestling with, educating and advocating for a more equitable model for our food systems,” she said.
Frankeny also sees burgeoning data and information-sharing as a key component to building partnerships within the food and medical communities going forward. Nutrition and wellness have bigger roles to play; getting informed and involved can ensure dietitians have a stronger voice in the food policy decisions of the future.