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Union of Concerned Scientists names WANDA Founder as 2021 Science Defender

Each year, the Union of Concerned Scientists honors a few individuals and groups who have taken a stand for science to help their communities and benefit the public good. This year's winners have done so in the face of political pressure, structural injustices, and long odds. It's our honor to announce WANDA Founder Tambra Raye Stevenson as the 2021 Science Defender.

Tambra Raye Stevenson began noticing a pattern as many members of her family were diagnosed with diseases such as cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. She realized that these diseases are becoming more prevalent among people in Africa and their descendants in the United States and recognized a key determinant: a food and nutrition system that is fraught with racial inequity. In response, Stevenson studied nutrition, earned a degree in public health, and founded WANDA: Women Advancing Nutrition Dietetics and Agriculture, a nonprofit that seeks to change a nutritional landscape that today benefits only a select few.  

To address this issue, WANDA has worked to improve access to nourishing food and provided free nutrition classes in the Washington, DC, area. The group highlights that fewer than three percent of registered dieticians-nutritionists in the United States are Black, and that more than 90 percent of Black farmers have lost their land. As Stevenson explains, WANDA is creating a pipeline of “frontline food freedom fighters,” putting women and girls of African descent at the forefront of a movement by providing them with opportunities to be community leaders on the issue of nutrition.

Stevenson says, “How can we Black women reclaim our food system that has historically always exploited our labor, our knowledge, and our culture? We reclaim that by reconnecting to our power source, which is our ancestral roots, and being able to understand that our voice matters.” 

Now Stevenson’s impact on our food system will likely grow: US Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced in 2021 that she will serve on the agency’s National Agricultural Research, Extension, Education, and Economics Advisory Board, providing input on several USDA programs and projects.  

Above excerpt originally published on the Union of Concerned Scientists' blog.

➡️Read about the additional Science Defenders at UCS:

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