How This JBF National Scholar is Fighting Against Hunger
JBF National Scholar Emily LaRose talks about ending world hungerEmily LaRose
February 28, 2022
Applications are now open for 2022-2023 James Beard Foundation scholarships! Each year, the James Beard Foundation offers tuition waivers and grants to students across the country who plan to further their education at a culinary school or hospitality institution, college, or university. As of 2022, the Foundation will have awarded nearly $9 million in financial aid to over 2000 recipients.
We are catching up with previous winners to hear their stories and see how the scholarship has impacted them. Below, we spoke to 2018 JBF National Scholar Emily LaRose. In her words, learn how she used her scholarship to pursue her career of providing safe and nutritious food to people across the world.
Food brings me great joy, and sharing food is how I show love, provide support, and care for others. I grew up in southern Louisiana, and in my family, food was central to family gatherings, holidays, and celebrations. We ate king cakes in the weeks leading up to Mardi Gras, crawfish in the spring, Creole cream cheese and strawberries at Easter, and redfish and speckled trout when we caught them. Belgian dishes on my mother’s side, Italian on my father’s, and Southern specialties hailing from where we all lived became part of who I am.
In honoring all that food represents, my primary career goal has always been to feed people. Lured by the buzz and bustle of restaurant work, my first job in the industry was at 15, waiting tables at a gourmet wine shop and café. I loved the pace, but I found I was drawn to the kitchen—I wanted to cook, though, I found it difficult to convince managers and restauranteurs that hiring me for kitchen work was a good idea. Undeterred on my path to becoming a chef, I applied and was accepted to Johnson & Wales University (JWU). There, I completed undergraduate degrees in culinary arts and culinary arts nutrition. After graduation, I became a registered dietitian and continued working in restaurants and teaching cooking classes before transitioning to solely nutrition-focused work.
Inspired by the Amma Canteens of Tamil Nadu, the global reach of the World Food Programme, and the chef-driven World Central Kitchen, plus my 15 years of working in restaurants, hospitals, clinics, and academia, I decided to return to school to pursue a doctorate in public health (DrPH) to support projects focused on ending hunger in the U.S. and abroad. Once accepted to the DrPH program at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, I immediately began exploring funding options. I scoured the internet, but I found few awards to support doctoral degrees. As an alumna of JWU, I searched their website and found the James Beard Foundation Scholarship information. I knew about the foundation’s awards, industry impact, and events, but learning about the foundation's values and scholarships was new. Knowing that my background and aspirations were different from prior award candidates, I applied for the National Scholars award with my fingers crossed.
Just after I began my program in the summer of 2018, I received news of the award. With new funding to support my tuition and program costs, I jumped into my coursework with an immense amount of gratitude and reduced financial pressure—especially since working during my first year would have been impossible. With support from the JBF, I completed a certificate program in nutrition and global health, embraced coursework in food law and policy and food and climate, and was continually challenged by the public health, research, and leadership curriculum.
Over the past two years, I have provided support for global food- and nutrition-related projects that collectively operate in more than 50 countries via work with the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), Operation Smile, Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders), PATH, and the World Bank. As a result of my studies, I found new passions in defining and measuring impact, knowledge sharing, and developing strategic initiatives to advance how we think about, plan, and implement food and nutrition programs.
Food is vital for life, and sufficient quantities of nutritious, safe foods are needed for health and physical activity; for children, they are also critical for growth, development, and learning capacity. Unfortunately, however, food is not available, accessible, or affordable for many people worldwide. Influenced by many factors, including the rising cost of food, poverty, climate change, systemic injustices, and pandemic-related challenges, current estimates suggest that hunger affected between 720 and 811 million people globally in 2020—about 120 million more people than in 2019. The U.S. is no exception. Food insecurity, hunger, and poverty are on the rise, especially among older adults, rural communities, families with children, and Black, Latinx, and Indigenous peoples.
Access to nutritious, safe food is a human right, and I plan to continue to work toward pursuing this right. We must work collectively and collaboratively to develop strategies to nourish our global citizens and planet. However, a world free of hunger is only the first step. I dream of a world where all people can make food choices with dignity; food brings joy, comfort, and pleasure; and we can share in the beauty and celebration of food as part of who we are.
Applications for the 2022-2023 James Beard Foundation Scholarships are now open until April 8, 2022. To learn more about the program and application process, visit jamesbeard.org/scholarships.
Emily LaRose is an independent nutrition and global health consultant newly based in France. Her current projects include working as a technical advisor for Operation Smile and a consultant with World Bank. When she’s not working, she spends time visiting the daily marché, sampling cheeses, and exploring other local delicacies. You can find her on LinkedIn.