2023 Harkin On Wellness Report

It is the goal of the Harkin on Wellness Report, to highlight the top wellness and nutrition initiatives in the country that are examples of organizations able to make a large impact through effective policy, system, and environmental change. We encourage others to use this as a tool to build partnerships and create sustainable, cross sector coalitions within their own community and beyond. 

Event Information

Date: Thursday April 13, 2023

Time: 9:00 a.m.-4:45 p.m. CT

In Person Location: Olmsted Center at Drake University (2875 University Ave, Des Moines, IA 50311)

Virtual Location: YouTube Livestream

Registration: This event is free but registration is required.

Accomodations: American Sign Language (ASL) and live captions in English will be available for all general session content for all attendees. ASL are available for breakout sessions upon request. (To request accomodations, or ask accomodation questions email harkininstitute@drake.edu)

Event Summary

During the COVID-19 pandemic, healthcare systems were overrun with patients and supply chain issues disrupted our access to healthy foods. Community leaders and organizations responded by creating new approaches to address the relationship between food and health. These new approaches include the growth of food systems coalitions and councils working to shape, advise, and implement food policy. These groups also worked to increase opportunities and reduce barriers to healthy outcomes at the regional level.   This year’s Harkin on Wellness (HOW) Symposium will showcase the work being done at state and local levels to improve people’s lives by reimagining the food system from farm to table and everywhere in between.  We are pleased to welcome Deputy Under Secretary for the USDA’s Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services, Stacy Dean and Dr. Walter Willett, M.D., Dr. P.H., Professor of Epidemiology and Nutrition at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and co-chair of the EAT-Lancet Commission as the keynote speakers for HOW 2023. Additional speakers will include experts on the environmental impacts of food production and on local approaches to improving health and wellness. 

Event Agenda

(Times are in Central Standard Time)




9:00 a.m. Opening Remarks Ray Walton, The Harkin Institute

Senator Tom Harkin (Retired)

9:15 a.m. Morning Keynote Walter Willett, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
10:05 a.m. Break
10:15 a.m. Panel: Reimagining Sustainable Food Production Moderator: Liz Garst

Jean Bertrand Contina, Rodale Institute 

Chris Jones, University of Iowa

Kamyar Enshayan, University of Northern Iowa

Audrey Tran Lam, University of Northern Iowa

11:30 a.m. Lunch Break
12:30 p.m. Designee Awards Senator Tom Harkin (retired)

2023 Harkin on Wellness Designees

12:40 p.m. Afternoon Keynote Stacey Dean, Deputy Under Secretary, USDA
1:30 p.m. Break
1:40 p.m. Designee Breakout Sessions
2:15 p.m. Break
2:35 p.m. Panel: Healthy Food in Communities Moderator: Luke Elzinga, DMARC 

Erin McDonald, Health and Human Services 

Anne Palmer, Johns Hopkins University Center for a Livable Future 

Kendal Chavez, New Mexico Governor’s Office

3:50 p.m. The Iowa Good Food Plan Presentation  
4:50 p.m. Closing Remarks  

Meet our Harkin on Wellness Panelists and Speakers

Jean Bertrand Contina, Ph.D.

Jean Bertrand Contina, Ph.D.

Research Director, Rodale Institute Midwest Organic Center

Dr. Contina is the Research Director at the Rodale Institute Midwest Organic Center in Marion, Iowa. The Midwest Organic Center provides research, education, and assistance to farmers looking to implement organic practices on their farms. Dr. Contina’s research program is focused on developing agroecological methods for improving soil health, water quality, and for producing healthy and nutritious foods. Furthermore, his program is looking to diversify the Midwest cropping system through the adoption of food-grade crops that will help tackling food insecurity in Iowa and reducing its dependence on food import from other states. Dr. Contina received a BS in Environmental Science from Escuela Agricola Panamericana, Zamorano, Honduras. In Idaho, he conducted research on the use of sustainable methods for controlling soilborne diseases in potato crop, and used spatial models for understanding the epidemiology of plant diseases in the field. He earned his MS and PhD in Plant Pathology at the University of Idaho and worked as a Postdoctoral Scholar at the Oregon State University.
Kendal Chavez

Kendal Chavez

Food and Hunger Advisor, Office of New Mexico Governor

Kendal Chavez is the Food and Hunger Advisor in the Office of New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham. Previously, Chavez was the Farm to School Specialist for the New Mexico Public Education Department, where she worked to deepen the impact of local purchasing programs in New Mexico schools. Chavez is also an alumna of the University of New Mexico School of Public Administration and George Washington University Food Policy Fellowship Institute. Chavez currently serves as a Board Member of FoodCorps.
Kamyar Enshayan

Kamyar Enshayan

Director, University of Northern Iowa's Center for Energy & Environmental Education

Kamyar Enshayan is an agricultural engineer and has been active in creating a thriving local/regional food economy in Black Hawk and neighboring counties.  He has served on the Cedar Falls City Council and is a recipient of Practical Farmers of Iowa’s Sustainable Agriculture Achievement Award. He has taught courses on energy literacy and food & agriculture in Iowa at the University of Northern Iowa. He serves as the director of UNI’s Center for Energy & Environmental Education. 
Stacy Dean

Stacy Dean

Dep. Under Secretary USDA Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services

Stacy Dean was appointed as Deputy Under Secretary for the USDA’s Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services by President Joe Biden. In her role, Deputy Under Secretary Dean helps advance President Biden’s agenda on increasing nutrition assistance for struggling families and individuals as well as tackling systemic racism and barriers to opportunity. Previously, Deputy Under Secretary Dean served as the Vice President for Food Assistance Policy at the Center on Budget Policy Priorities and worked as a budget analyst at the Office of Management and Budget. 
Chris Jones

Chris Jones

Research Engineer, IIHR Hydroscience & Engineering at the University of Iowa

Chris Jones is a Research Engineer with IIHR Hydroscience & Engineering at the University of Iowa. He has a Ph.D. in Analytical Chemistry from Montana State University and BA in Chemistry and Biology from Simpson College in Indianola. His research focuses on contaminant hydrology in agricultural landscapes, municipal water supply, and water monitoring. He previously worked at the Des Moines Water Works and the Iowa Soybean Association. He has authored and co-authored 50 scientific papers, three book chapters, and is the author of the forthcoming book, The Swine Republic, due out in June. He also writes a popular blog on Iowa agriculture, water quality, and the associated politics. His work has been featured in the Des Moines Register, the Cedar Rapids Gazette, the Seattle Times, the Christian Science Monitor, The Guardian, IPTV’s Market to Market, IPR’s River to River, and he has appeared on NPR’s On Point.
Erin McDonald

Erin McDonald

Lead, Federal Plan for Equitable Long-Term Recovery and Resilience in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Health

Erin McDonald is the Lead for the Federal Plan for Equitable Long-Term Recovery and Resilience in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Health where she leads the whole-of-government effort across over 44 departments and agencies to build long-term resilience. Before stepping into this role she was the Regional Administrator for the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) in Region 3, where she led ACF’s strategic cross-cutting initiatives and priorities to promote the economic wellbeing of children and families across five states and the District of Columbia.  Prior to joining federal service, Dr. McDonald served in leadership roles in public sector, philanthropic, and non-profit organizations.  She served as the Chief Strategy Officer for Human Services in the New York City Mayor’s Office, the Vice President of Research and Strategy at Feeding America, and the Director of Research and Evaluation at Women’s World Banking.  Dr. McDonald previously held roles as a researcher at The Urban Institute and a systems change leader in the national child welfare system.  She holds a PhD in Public Health and Research from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and a Master’s in Public Policy from Johns Hopkins University Policy Studies Institute.
Anne Palmer

Anne Palmer

Director of Practice, Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future

Anne Palmer, MAIA, is an Associate Scientist in the Department of Health, Behavior, and Society and the Director of Practice at the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future. She oversees the Food Policy Networks project, which seeks to improve the capacity of food policy councils and similar groups to advance food system policies at the state, local, regional and tribal level. Her research interests include the role of food retail in public health, how regional food supply chains can serve low- income areas, food system governance and equity, and the impact of federal food policy on communities. She co-teaches a course on applying systems thinking to obesity prevention. Prior working at CLF, she spent 13 years designing, developing, and executing public health communication campaigns in Asia. 
Audrey E. Tran Lam

Audrey E. Tran Lam

Environmental Health Program Director, University of Northern Iowa's Center for Energy & Environmental Education

Audrey E. Tran Lam works to address the intersection of ecological sustainability and human health. She serves as the environmental health program director for UNI’s Center for Energy & Environmental Education and on the boards of the Heartland Health Research Alliance, Pesticide Action Network, Iowa Rural Health Association, and the Plant Based Foods Institute. Audrey holds a master’s degree in public health from the University of Iowa, and a Food Systems, Farming, and Public Health graduate certificate from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
Dr. Walter Willett

Dr. Walter Willett

Professor of Epidemiology and Nutrition at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

Dr. Walter Willett, M.D., Dr. P.H., is a Professor of Epidemiology and Nutrition at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Dr. Willett is also the co-chair of the EAT-Lancet Commission which brings together scientists and researchers to discuss how to create a food system that promotes health and protects the environment. 


The 2023 Harkin on Wellness Symposium was made possible due to generous donations from the following organizations