27th Annual National Symposium on Family Issues - Families and Food

Date 10/21/19 to 10/22/19
Location Nittany Lion Inn, University Park campus, State College, PA
Contact Carolyn Scott
Contact Email css7@psu.edu

Families and Food

Multi-generational family sitting around the dinner tableFamilies play a crucial role in their members’ eating behaviors and orientations toward food. For example, mothers’ dietary patterns in pregnancy are linked to their infants’ food acceptance and children’s food preferences develop early in the context of family life. Later in development, responsive parenting practices can promote the development of healthful eating behaviors, but controlling or coercive parenting practices are associated with the development of problematic, dysregulated eating behaviors in children and adolescents. More generally, the social and emotional climate of mealtimes can serve as a context for promoting healthful behaviors around food.

In the current obesigenic environment within the U.S. and elsewhere around the world, efforts to foster healthful eating behavior and dietary patterns are often at odds with the ubiquity of widely marketed energy-dense foods. Yet, there is a paradoxical relation between food insecurity and obesity, and many low-income communities with high rates of obesity are also considered food deserts--with little or no access to fresh produce and nutrient-dense foods. Indeed, overweight and obesity have reached epidemic levels in the U.S., and low-income and minority individuals bear a disproportionate burden. Comprehensive, multi-level interventions and policy changes are needed to address these inequities and increase families’ capacity to promote healthy eating behaviors and dietary patterns in their members.

The 2019 National Symposium on Family Issues will provide an overview of these many interconnections between families and food.


Monday, October 21

8:15 am Check in and lite breakfast

8:45 am - 12 noon

Session 1: Family ecologies of food insecurity

The session focuses on factors from the micro- to the macro-levels that may explain the complex relations between food insecurity and vulnerability to overweight and obesity. Potential policy approaches to reducing food insecurity will be addressed.

  • Relationships between structural and social adversity and food insecurity in families with young children
    Angela Odoms-Young, Associate Professor of Kinesiology and Nutrition; Institute for Health Research and Policy, University of Illinois at Chicago

  • Factors shaping rural residents’ experiences of food insecurity and coping strategies
    Sarah Bowen, Associate Professor of Sociology, North Carolina State University; Sinikka Elliott, Associate Professor of Sociology, University of British Columbia; and Annie Hardison-Moody, Assistant Professor, Department of Agricultural and Human Sciences, North Carolina State University

  • How SNAP Reduces Food Insecurity
    Craig Gundersen, Distinguished Professor, Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

12:00 noon - 1:30 pm Lunch on your own; Private lunch for speakers and graduate students (Signup required and will be announced via email)

1:30 - 4:30 pm

Session 2: Family ecologies of eating behaviors

Speakers will consider parenting practices and the development of eating behaviors in children, as well as the importance of mealtimes in healthful family functioning.

  • The power of family mealtimes in promoting health and well-being
    Barbara Fiese, Director, Family Resiliency Center; Professor of Human Development & Family Studies, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

  • Feeding styles and child eating behaviors: An observational and questionnaire approach to childhood obesity
    Sheryl O. Hughes, Associate Professor of Pediatrics and Nutrition, Children's Nutrition Research Center, Baylor College of Medicine; Thomas G. Power, Professor of Human Development, Washington State University

  • Mixed-methods assessment of parental and familial factors and associations with child weight and weight-related behaviors
    Jerica M. Berge, Professor and Vice Chair for Research, Department of Family Medicine and Community Health, University of Minnesota

4:30 - 5:45 pm Reception for all attendees in Alumni Lounge (first floor)


Tuesday, October 22

8:30 am Coffee and lite breakfast

9:00 am – 12 noon

Session 3: Family ecologies of overweight and obesity in youth

The final session provides an overview of changes in the U.S. food environment that may explain increases in obesity over the past several decades. This session concludes with a review of findings on important targets for obesity prevention, including a focus on fathers as change agents, and an overview of efforts to prevent or reduce obesity in minority populations.

  • Disparities in obesity
    Cynthia Ogden, National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) Analysis Branch Chief, Centers for Disease Control

  • Culturally-relevant interventions with overweight and obese African American children and adolescents
    Monica Baskin, Professor, Department of Medicine, Division of Preventive Medicine, University of Alabama at Birmingham; Molly Richardson, Scientist and Meghan Tipre, Scientist, Department of Medicine, Division of Preventive Medicine, University of Alabama at Birmingham

  • Fathers and food parenting: Status of current research and future opportunities
    Kirsten Davison, Donahue and DeFelice Endowed Chair and Associate Dean for Research, School of Social Work, Boston College; Jess Haines, Associate Professor of Applied Nutrition, University of Guelph; and Brent A. McBride, Professor of Human Development & Family Studies, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign


This year’s Family Symposium meeting and the associated volume to be published by Springer will be dedicated to our late colleague, Leann Birch (1946-2019) in honor of her seminal contributions on child feeding and eating behaviors and health.


Registration is required

* Attendance is Free for Penn State students and employees
* Registration for students and post-docs from other universities is $50
* Registration for all others is $90

We are not able to accept credit cards. Please make checks payable to "Penn State".

Mail check to: Barbara Rigg, Social Science Research Institute, Penn State, 114 Henderson, University Park PA 16802

Symposium Sponsors

The Symposium on Family Issues is sponsored annually by The Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (R13 HD048150).

Thank you to our Penn State sponsors: Social Science Research Institute; Population Research Institute; Department of Sociology & Criminology; Child Study Center; Department of Human Development & Family Studies; Department of Psychology; Department of Agricultural Economics, Sociology, & Education; Prevention Research Center; Department of Kinesiology; Department of Biobehavioral Health; Department of Nutritional Sciences; and Clinical and Translational Science Institute.

Continuing Education Units for Certified Family Life Educators

Approved for 6 hours of Continuing Education Credits for the Certified Family Life Educator program through the National Council on Family Relations. Please notify Carolyn Scott (css7@psu.edu) that you are interested in credit.

Continuing Education Units for Clinical Psychologists

Approved for 5.5 APA Continuing Education Units. Please notify Carolyn Scott (css7@psu.edu) that you are interested in credit.


A block of rooms is being held at the Nittany Lion Inn, where the Symposium will be held. Single occupancy rooms are $139 plus tax. The rate is not guaranteed after Sept. 19, 2019 or after the block is filled. Use reservation code FAMI19A. Contact the Inn at (800) 233-7505 or (814) 865-8500 or at www.pennstatehotels.com

For other lodging options visit statecollege.com and choose the Lodging tab.


Parking is available in the Nittany Parking Deck near the Nittany Lion Inn. Validation for free parking is available at the front desk. Note that Penn State students are not allowed to park in the Nittany Parking Deck.

Family Care

If you need suggestions for family care, contact Carolyn Scott at css7@psu.edu

Also see:
Family Symposium Homepage
Family Symposium Book Series

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