Purdue researcher earns top international prize

Heather Eicher-Miller

Heather Eicher-Miller

Heather Eicher-Miller, professor in the Purdue University Department of Nutrition Science, is the winner of the 2023 Danone International Prize for Alimentation (DIPA).

DIPA is a 100,000-euro award set up to recognize outstanding, innovative and multidisciplinary scientific research that represents a major advance in alimentation — the umbrella term for sustainable eating and drinking practices that contribute to the health of individuals, including food choice, purchase, preparation, cooking and meal organization, and their determinants.

The work in fighting food insecurity with a nutrition science research lens is a career-long passion for Eicher-Miller.

“Nearly 14 million U.S. households face food insecurity where they struggle to consistently access adequate amounts and quality of food,” she said. “Food insecurity is linked to inadequate nutrient intake, poor health and a shortened life span.”

Eicher-Miller’s research has documented immediate and chronic adverse dietary and health outcomes associated with food insecurity among diverse populations. Her efforts to evaluate and create evidence-based interventions, programs and policies has reduced food insecurity and improved access to resources that enhance health. Solving food insecurity is possible, according to Eicher-Miller’s findings.

Open to mid-career emerging leaders, the DIPA is awarded every two years by the Paris-based Danone Institute International in collaboration with the French Fondation pour la Recherche Médicale.

“I am humbled to join the prior recipients of this award and also excited to have this chance to elevate the work that we have been doing on food insecurity,” Eicher-Miller said. “The award provides me new opportunities to share our research and bring attention to the topic of food insecurity. The funds also will support our ongoing efforts to discover how policies and environments impact households with low resources and to create new interventions to address food insecurity, diet and health.”

While 10% of American households suffer from food insecurity, Eicher-Miller is focusing on the 4% experiencing “very low” food security, where one or more people in a household do not have enough to eat. These families often rely on community food pantries to obtain food. Eicher-Miller and her team analyze the diets, nutritional status, and places and policies that impact where and how these households get food. This data serves as a roadmap to make improvements in existing programs and to inform the creation of additional outreach programs where needed.

Marion K. Underwood, Purdue College of Health and Human Sciences dean, described Eicher-Miller’s work as a shining example of the diversity and importance of the research within the Department of Nutrition Science.

“This honor brings well-deserved recognition to the wonderful work of Dr. Eicher-Miller and her team,” Underwood said. “Her career-long fight against food insecurity is making a difference here in Indiana, and now, it is deservedly being recognized on an international scale. The work of Dr. Eicher-Miller and her colleagues is indeed making lives better.”

The Danone Institute International is a not-for-profit organization that aims to promote human health through developing and disseminating knowledge about the links between food and health and to highlight the importance of nutrition in health.

The DIPA ceremony and Eicher-Miller’s lecture will take place online at 10 a.m. ET on June 20.

Register online to attend: https://forms.gle/tR3zvsgdopUqE1YMA