Posted: July 6, 2018

Congratulations to Dr. Emily Piltch, who received her doctoral degree from Tufts University Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy in 2018. While studying at Tufts, she also was a student member of the EFSNE Production Team for four years, working with Drs. Tim Griffin and Christian Peters.

Piltch embraced the transdisciplinary nature of EFSNE through contributing to Production, Consumption, and Education Team projects. She constructed a database of major agronomic crop yields utilizing agricultural census data from all counties in the Northeast US region (1981 to 2010). These data were used to investigate yield changes over time and potential relationships of production across crop types. Emily assisted a Consumption Team student with qualitative data analysis piloting the Community Readiness Tool assessing food access work in six EFSNE communities. She also coordinated a Qualtrics survey of students and post-doctoral trainees who participated in EFSNE. The results she analyzed may find their way into an Education Team manuscript.

For her dissertation research, Piltch focused on understanding the barriers to and facilitators of supplying and purchasing fruits and vegetables at small stores in Navajo Nation, the largest federally recognized Native American tribe in the US. The three components of her dissertation nicely mirror components of EFSNE: she collected (a portion of) and analyzed store inventory data from 71 small stores in communities without grocery stores, and she interviewed 22 store owners or managers, as well as 72 customers of nine of the stores. While there are many and complex challenges to increasing access to and purchasing of fruits and vegetables in Navajo Nation, Piltch could summarize her findings as similar to those in other rural areas--the primary challenges identified were related to supply and demand. She presented her work at national conferences and to local groups on Navajo Nation, and is currently working to publish her manuscripts.

She is grateful for the guidance provided by numerous EFSNE faculty, including Production Team leader Tim Griffin, who served a major role as her advisor and committee chair. She credits the mentorship of both Griffin and Project Director Stephan Goetz for guiding her in constructing a successful application to the NIFA pre-doctoral fellowship program that supported her data collection and writing from 2015 through 2017.

Piltch successfully defended her dissertation in October and has since joined the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, where she coordinates a Hunger Free Communities pilot project while also teaching at Sacramento State University.

Congratulations, Emily!