The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has appointed Angela Tagtow to be the executive director of USDA’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion (CNPP).  Tagtow is an environmental nutritionist and local food advocate and was formerly the endowed chairwoman at the Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture.  Tagtow starts as executive director of  CNPP  on July 14, just days before the next Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) meeting.

CNPP is charged with developing and promoting the Dietary Guidelines, including such educational outreach efforts as MyPlate, with the goal of improving the eating habits of Americans. Recent DGAC meetings have received more media attention than usual, mostly because new, hot-button issues, such as diet and climate change, caffeine safety, and grass-fed versus corn-fed beef, are being discussed. The committee is, for the first time, wrapping food safety and sustainability into the discussion in a formal way by having a subcommittee dedicated to the issues.

DGAC did catch the attention of House Republicans, who included cautionary language in the report language that went along with the fiscal 2015 agriculture appropriations bill. “The committee directs the secretary to ensure that the advisory committee focuses only on nutrient and dietary recommendations based upon sound nutrition science and not pursue an environmental agenda,” the appropriations committee wrote. “Should environmental or production factors be included in the panel’s recommendations to USDA and the Department of Health and Human Services, the committee expects the secretary to reject their inclusion in the final 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.”

According to the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, which selected Tagtow as a “food and community fellow” in 2008, she “defines the balance between environment and nutrition — educating eaters, health professionals, and policymakers on cultivating and participating in sustainable food systems that promote good health, vibrant communities, and environmental stewardship.”

“Throughout her career, Tagtow, who lives in Elkhart, Iowa, has woven agricultural sustainability issues together with nutrition. Tagtow entered the movement as a nutritionist, but upon observing the damage to her Iowa farmland from years of monoculture and pesticide inputs, she realized helping individuals understand what you put in the land is as essential as knowing what you put on your plate,” the group said.