Ellen W. Harris, DrPH
Dr. Ellen W. Harris is the Executive Director for the Institute for Food and Development Policy, better known as ‘Food First”. She will be responsible for strengthening the organization’s focus on food policy, partnerships with grassroots and front-line food justice/sovereignty and food system change advocates, improvements in agricultural/farming strategies, identification of and advocacy for new BIPOC-informed approaches for most effectively addressing hunger and poverty, while emphasizing the challenges facing farmers, farmworkers, food production workers, front-line food justice/sovereignty activists, and residents in marginalized communities. Dr. Harris began her tenure with Food First on January 10, 2022.
Dr. Harris earned a BS in Biology from Antioch College, MS in Nutrition Sciences from Texas Woman’s University at Houston, and a DrPH with an emphasis in public health nutrition and epidemiology from the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, School of Public Health at Houston. She taught Community Nutrition at Drexel University for 6 years. For two years, she was a Congressional Fellow with the Select Committee on Hunger, US House of Representatives through the Congressional Black Caucus. That experience led her to USDA where in 1990 she started as a Program Analyst at the Food and Nutrition Service, Office of Analysis and Evaluation. She later became the Branch Chief, Food Consumption Research Branch, Nutrition Monitoring Division (NMD), Human Nutrition Information Service (HNIS), and then the NMD Director where she managed Food Consumption Research, Survey Systems, and Nutrient Data Branches. Dr. Harris joined the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) as the Assistant Director for the Beltsville Human Nutrition Research Center (BHNRC) in 1995 when the NMD, HNIS was merged into the agency during the Reinventing Government Initiative. During her tenure at BHNRC, she established the Community Nutrition Research Group and served as its Research Leader and later served as Associate Center Director and Acting Center Director.
Always one to multi-task, Dr. Harris was a Fulbright Senior Scholar and taught nutrition at the University of Zimbabwe in 2001 and a Fulbright Senior Specialist in 2009 advising on nutrition curriculum and research at the School of Nutrition, University of Antioquia, Medellin, Columbia. Dr. Harris created, coordinated, and convened the USDA Food and Nutrition Summer Institute between 1999-2006 wherewith partners throughout USDA, NIH, CDC, USAID, and FDA worked with nutrition students and faculty at the 1890s Historically Black Colleges and Universities for all 8 years and Tribal Colleges with nutrition and/or nursing programs for 2 of those years. Dr. Harris graduated from the USDA Senior Executive Service Candidate Development Program and was certified in SES in 2009. From 2010 to 2011, she served as a Senior Nutrition Advisor for the Collaborative Research Support Program, Bureau for Food Security, USAID (through ARS PASA Program) and was responsible for scientific program management of a portfolio with 4 university partners and one for-profit nongovernment organization conducting research in Uganda and Nepal. Upon her return to ARS, she served a 5-month detail as Acting Associate Area Director for the former South Atlantic Area. After her detail, she became the Associate Center Director for the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center and then its Center Director. Dr. Harris retired as the Associate Area Director for the Southeast Area, ARS, USDA, having served in that capacity for 5 years where she helped support and direct agricultural research programs in 8 states (AL, AR, FL, GA, LA, MS, NC, SC) and Puerto Rico. She served a total of 32 years and 8 months of federal service with USDA.
Dr. Harris was born and raised in Houston, Texas. She resides in Greenville, MS. She is a mother and grandmother. In her spare time, Ellen is a certified 500-hour experienced yoga instructor and Thai Yoga massage practitioner, who aspires to grow much of her food year-round at her Three Blessings Yoga Farm and Wellness Center.