Linda Jo Doctor, W.K. Kellogg Foundation

TITLE: Program Officer, Food & Community Program

FUNDING AREAS: Food insecurity, childhood health, and childhood obesity

CONTACT: ljd@wkkf.org, 269-968-1611

IP TAKE: Doctor believes that everyone should have access to fresh fruits and vegetables, and that the farmers who provide them should be compensated fairly.  These are just a couple of goals of Doctor's and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation's Food & Community Program. 

PROFILE: At the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, which focuses on children’s physical health, mental health, and education in the United States and abroad, Linda Jo Doctor helps guide its Food & Community Program.

Access to healthy foods, particularly for children, is a major policy issue in the United States. Children who are not well-nourished are more likely to perform poorly in school and develop health problems, such as obesity. And childhood obesity is not something one grows out of easily. Children who struggle with obesity early in their lives are more likely to be obese as adults and to suffer from the various health problems correlated with adult obesity, like diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

With roughly 18 percent of American children defined as clinically obese—a number that has risen dramatically in recent decades—the kind of work Doctor and her team are doing at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation is immensely important in combating a serious problem for the United States' long-term health and well-being. Not to mention its financial viability: the Mayo Clinic estimates that the obesity epidemic is costing Americans tens of billions of dollars a year.

Doctor is the primary point of contact on dozens of Kellogg projects totaling many millions of dollars. Some recent ones include:

  • $2.5 million to the Tides Center so that schoolchildren in California can have access to healthy foods
  • $3.9 million to New York's Public Health Solutions to improve healthy food procurement, at the national level, for schoolchildren in free or reduced-price lunch programs
  • $1.3 million to Detroit's Community Health and Social Services Center to increase access to health care for children in the poverty-ravaged city under the age of five

In a major boon to grant seekers, in April 2014 Doctor spent more than an hour breaking down the W.K. Kellogg Foundation's work in this arena, complete with a slide show, including a discussion of the program's the theory of change and theory of action.

In addition to the grant work she does at Kellogg, Doctor is a regular speaker at conferences and other events focusing on the importance of childhood wellness and nutrition and the accessibility of healthy food options for children. She uses her speaking engagements and other media to raise awareness about American children's lack of access to nutritious foods and to push for public policy solutions.

In 2012, Kellogg published the results of a survey on Americans' attitudes toward food availability and the role of government in expanding access to health-food products. The study found that Americans' food priorities are vastly different from the food and agriculture policies their elected officials support. Namely, despite the unchecked growth of the industrial food system, Americans overwhelmingly support equal access to fresh produce, fair wages for farm workers, subsidies for small farms over agribusiness, and the use of food stamps at farmers' markets.

As Doctor explains in an article posted on Care2's website:

The poll data...demonstrates that the American public believes firmly in the good food movement. In the survey they clearly assert beliefs that produce should be healthy, affordable, green (by which we mean grown in environmentally friendly ways), and fair (meaning no one has been exploited in growing and producing it).

As is often the case in the nonprofit community, when public policy fails to reflect the wishes of the people, philanthropy can help fill in gaps so that people get the services and resources they need. In this case, while American children wait hungrily (in a literal sense) for access to fruits, vegetables, and basic nutrition, which are quite simply lacking in a lot of communities, Doctor's team at Kellogg is trying to meet demand in ways industrialized food companies and government agencies can't or won't.

Given the foundation's deep pockets and ongoing commitment to childhood nutrition, Doctor is definitely a worthwhile contact for anyone working on these issues. Just remember: You'll be dealing with a serious thinker in this space, so be ready for hard questions about how your work will have impact. 

VIDEO: