Interview with Nancy Easton, Co-founder and Executive Director, Wellness in the Schools

by Cameron St. Germain

Nancy Easton, C0-founder and Executive Director, Wellness in the Schools

Nancy Easton is the Executive Director of Wellness in the Schools (WITS). She co-founded WITS in 2005, aiming to inspire healthy eating, environmental awareness, and fitness as a way of life for public school kids. As Executive Director, Easton has helped WITS grow from one school in New York City to over 100 throughout the United States, serving approximately 50,000 students. Easton was named a Food Revolution Hero by chef-food activist Jamie Oliver, and “Renegade Lunch Lady” Ann Cooper recognized her as a Lunchbox Hero for her dedication to school lunch reform.

Easton earned her undergraduate degree from Princeton University, a Master’s Degree from Bank Street College of Education, and her Administration and Supervision certification from City College and Fordham University. Before founding WITS, she worked for the New York City Department of Education for over 15 years as a teacher, a teacher mentor, and a School Leader. Easton is a graduate of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and is certified by the American Association of Drugless Practitioners.

Where you grew up: Miami, Florida

Where you live now: Manhattan, Upper West Side

Background and education: Princeton University, BA; Bank Street College of Education, Masters in Education; Fordham University, Supervision and Administration Certification; Institute of Integrative Nutrition

Food policy/food as medicine hero: My Mom! She quietly taught me by example. She encouraged the local athletic club to sell citrus instead of candy.  She raised “free range” chickens in the suburbs of Miami for their fresh eggs; she had an amazing “organic” garden before we knew about certification. As a child, I was slightly embarrassed by my brown bread and carob brownies, but I grew to fully appreciate all that she taught me, often against the status quo.

One word to describe our food system: Improving

One word to describe our healthcare system: Broken

Your favorite food: Depends on the season.

Your breakfast this morning: I was training for the NYC marathon and can’t eat enough. I think I had three breakfasts this morning – one for each of my kids’ sittings.

Your last meal on earth: It wouldn’t be about the meal, but about the people and the place – my family and dearest friends, on a beach. With the sun setting and then the moon rising.  And, we all cooked the meal together.

Must-have healing food/ingredient: Grapefruit.  It was my pregnancy craving.

Food policy, health, food as medicine book, website(s) social media/blog must-follow/read: So many! I often turn to Marion Nestle and Bettina Siegel for their combination of intellect and clarity/simplicity on pretty much all food policy issues.  I credit Andrew Weil (via my mom) for my first introduction to this space.

Your elevator pitch for food as medicine? Food has the power to prevent and possibly even reverse serious health ailments, from diabetes to obesity. Eating well requires planning and time, but it’s much less expensive than treatment.

Which widespread nutritional misconceptions worry you the most? Faux health food: food marketed as good for you, but actually loaded with salt, sugar, fat, and/or artificial ingredients

What do you see as the next step for food as medicine? Gatherings like this are raising awareness, but the next step is for medical schools across the country and world to dedicate more hours to nutrition and culinary education and for conversations to switch to prevention. Institutions such as The Goldring Center for Culinary Medicine at Tulane University School of Medicine are leading the way…


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