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The Dannon Institute: Celebrating 10 Years of Nutrition Education

Binney, Gayle; Russo, Lori

doi: 10.1097/01.NT.0000303340.75605.a5
Nutrition Education

More than 10 years ago, the Dannon Company spoke to academicians in the field of nutrition about creating a new kind of nutrition education foundation. The Dannon Institute would be a nonprofit organization led by senior leaders in the field of nutrition and executives of the company. The organization planned to develop programs highlighting the links among nutrition, diet, and health and to disseminate this knowledge to the general public. In 1997, the institute was officially launched as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit private foundation. Key areas of focus were identified for the organization: fostering the professional development of tomorrow's leaders in nutrition and increasing nutrition knowledge among medical professionals, educators, and parents. These areas continue as the institute's focus today, although programs have been added or discontinued over time to reflect emerging issues in the field of nutrition. The year 2007 marked the Dannon Institute's 10th anniversary. This article provides a brief history of the institute and highlights its programs over its first 10 years.

A tenth anniversary of a key nutrition foundation

Gayle Binney, is the manager of the Dannon Institute and is responsible for promoting and executing the program initiatives established by the Dannon Institute Board of Directors. She is also the manager of Corporate Responsibility for the Dannon Company, Inc.

Lori Russo, is a freelance communications specialist who has worked exclusively for the Dannon Institute and the Dannon Company, Inc, for the past 9 years.

The Dannon Institute is a separately incorporated, 501(c)(3) nonprofit foundation dedicated to noncommercial activities. Launched in 1997, the Dannon Institute was established as an independent foundation to promote research, education, and communication about the link between nutrition and good health. The Dannon Institute in the United States is one of several Danone Institutes created worldwide by The Danone Group, the ultimate parent company of The Dannon Company, Inc.

Corresponding author: Gayle Binney, Dannon Institute, 100 Hillside Ave, White Plains, NY 10603 (

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The Beginning of the Dannon Institute

"Ten years ago, a group of us gathered with little idea of how a small foundation could make an impact on the field of nutrition, but we all agreed we were willing to try," says Cheryl Achterberg, PhD, dean, College of Education and The Ohio State University and a founding board member. "We decided to focus on areas in nutrition that were underserved or under established, a niche within the United States where we could make a marked difference. We knew we did not want to simply give away grant money-as a foundation, we wanted ownership of everything we undertook. We understood this would mean the board, particularly the scientists, would have to roll up their sleeves to accomplish this, but no one walked away. Ten years later, I believe that the Dannon Institute has successfully made an impact on the field of nutrition."



"I remember when we began planning for the institute-it was exciting to see the recognition of a need for the field of nutrition and that we had the resources and ability to make a unique contribution," adds Barbara O. Schneeman, PhD, director, Office of Nutritional Products, Labeling, and Dietary Supplements, Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, Food and Drug Administration. As a professor in the Department of Nutrition at University of California Davis, Dr Schneeman, served as the first president of the institute from 1997 to 2004. She and Dr Achterberg were joined on the founding board of directors by 2 other scientists: Cutberto Garza, MD, from Cornell University, now provost and dean of faculties, Boston College; and Richard Atkinson, MD, from University of Wisconsin, now director, Obetech Obesity Research Center.

Juan Carlos Dalto, president and chief executive officer of the Dannon Company, who currently serves on the board, is proud of the institute's accomplishments. "Established by Groupe Danone, Dannon's parent company, the institute is one of 18 around the world that share the goal of developing programs which address local public health nutrition issues. These institutes provide an opportunity for executives at the company to work with nutrition scientists toward programs that follow our shared interest in nutrition education today for a healthier tomorrow."

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Nutrition Leadership Institute

One of the first areas of focus for the institute was leadership development for people beginning their careers in the nutrition sciences. The board and scientific council members saw an inherent need to strengthen the field of nutrition science as a whole so that the best research would be conducted, universities would be motivated to support research, and nutrition could receive its share of research funding. The European nutrition community had recently launched a successful early-career nutrition leadership development program, and the Dannon Institute used this as a model to create a program that would specifically develop the next generation of leaders in the nutrition sciences in the United States.

The Nutrition Leadership Institute is designed to equip outstanding postdoctoral graduates and medical professionals at an early stage of their careers with the leadership skills necessary to achieve their professional potential. Delivered as an intensive 5-day training program, the program provides participants with strategies for improving their ability to lead others both in their place of employment and in the field of nutrition. The training program includes speakers and customized elements from FranklinCovey of Salt Lake City, Utah, and the Center for Creative Leadership of Greensboro, North Carolina. It also includes the opportunity for these junior scientists to interact with and learn from senior leaders in the field of nutrition working in academia, industry, and government, who serve as dinner guests and speakers during the program. Held in alternating years since June 1998, the Nutrition Leadership Institute has trained more than 125 participants and hosted more than 40 national leaders in nutrition as dinner speakers. In 2007, 20 participants in various aspects of the field of nutrition attended the sixth Nutrition Leadership Institute.

Graduates of the program say that the skills learned during the Nutrition Leadership Institute continue to impact their careers. "It was a unique opportunity for me to think critically about my leadership style, build new skills, and interact with my peers and national leaders in nutrition," said Cheryl Anderson, PhD, MPH, assistant scientist, Department of Epidemiology, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and 2006-2007 president of the Nutrition Leadership Institute Alumni Association. "I used many of the skills learned at the Nutrition Leadership Institute to lead the newly formed Alumni Association. The tools I was given have been useful in communicating with-and generating participation and enthusiasm among-fellow alumni."

Past participants have gone on to have rewarding and exciting careers. Kelly A. Tappenden, PhD, RD, associate professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, an alumna of the 1998 program, is but one shining example. Dr Tappenden has achieved tenure at her university and recently began working as an associate dean of the Graduate College while still running her own laboratory. She is also serving as president-elect for the American Society for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition. Rebecca Stoltzfus, PhD, a participant in the 1999 program and a tenured professor at Cornell University, is also on a stellar trajectory. Dr Stoltzfus is a member of the National Academy of Sciences Food and Nutrition board, an associate editor of the Journal of Nutrition, past president of the Society for International Nutrition Research, and a member of the World Health Organization Expert Advisory Panel on General Parasitology. Many of the program's alumni are taking on important roles in leadership and mentoring at academic institutions, government offices, and industry, both in the United States and abroad. Application criteria for the Nutrition Leadership Institute are available online at



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Participants of the Nutrition Leadership Institute

Class of 1998: Britt M. Burton-Freeman, PhD, MS; Victoria Hammer Castellanos, PhD, MS, RD; Karen Weber Cullen, DrPH, MS, RD; Nikhil V. Dhurandhar, PhD, MS; Jennifer Orlet Fisher PhD, MA; Penny Gordon-Larsen, PhD; Terrance Horner Jr, PhD; Debbie L. Humphries, PhD, MPH; Jeanette Newton Keith, MD, MS; Catherine M. Kotz, PhD, MS; Grace S. Marquis, PhD, MS; Jennifer R. McDuffie, PhD; Carla K. Miller, PhD, MEd, RD; Catherine A. Peterson, PhD, RD; Barbara Polhamus, PhD, MPH; Elizabeth Ross, MD; Dirk G. Schroeder, ScD, MPH; Diane D. Stadler, PhD, MS, RD; Kelly A. Tappenden, PhD, RD; Stephanie A. Taylor-Davis, PhD, MS, RD.

Class of 1999: Perry E. Bickel, MD; Amy C. Boileau, PhD, RD; Peter L. Bordi, PhD; Shine Chang, PhD, MSPH; Ellen B. Fung, PhD, RD; Timothy A. Garrow, PhD, MS; Silvia Q. Giraudo, PhD, MS; David H. Holben, PhD, MS, MA, RD; Minnie Holmes-McNary, MT (ASCP), PhD; Lucia L. Kaiser, PhD, MS, RD; Tay Seacord Kennedy, PhD, MS, RD; Wlodek Lopaczynski, MD, PhD; Michelle K. McGuire, PhD, MS; Debra L. Miller, PhD; Deborah M. Muoio, PhD, MS; Lisa J. Samson-Fang, MD; Francene M. Steinberg, PhD, MS; Rebecca J. Stoltzfus, PhD, MS; Stephanie J. Weinstein, PhD, MS.

Class of 2001: Elizabeth M. Barden, PhD, MA; Elizabeth Anne Bell, PhD, MS; Parul Christian, DrPH; Juliet Collins, MD; Michele L. Dreyfuss, PhD, MPH; Nancy J. Emenaker, PhD, MEd, RD; Jeffrey S. Hampl, PhD, MS, RD; Tracy S. Herrmann, PhD, RD, MS; Norman G. Hord, PhD, MPH, RD; Martha Kaufer-Horwitz, DSc, LC; Kristie Joy Lancaster, PhD, MS, RD; Elise A. Malecki, MD, PhD, MS; Maria R. Mascarenhas, MBBS; Michelle A. Mendez, PhD, MSPH; Elizabeth J. Parks, PhD; Lisa M. Rogers, PhD, MS, RD; Jessie A. Satia, PhD, MPH; Nicolas Stettler, MD, MSCF; Sherry A. Tanumihardjo, PhD, MS; Wendy E. Ward, PhD, MSc; Robert A. Waterland, PhD; Leah D. Whigham, PhD.

Class of 2003: Cheryl Anderson, PhD, MS, MPH; Sarah E. Barlow, MD, MPH; Darlene E. Berryman, PhD, RD, LD; Brenda M. Davy, PhD, RD; Amy T. Galloway, PhD; Toshinao Goda, PhD; Andrea M. Haqq, MD; Kathleen A. Hoag, PhD, CLS (NCA); Catherine J. Klein, PhD, RD, CNSD; Ruth E. Litchfield, PhD, RD, LD; Keith R. Martin, PhD, MTox; Melissa F. Miller, PhD; Dianne Neumark-Sztainer, PhD, MPH, RD; Joshua A. Nyambose, PhD, MALD; Irene E. Olsen Shingara, PhD, RD; Alison J. Rigby, PhD, MPH, RD; Heidi J. Silver, PhD, RD, CNSD; Marie-Pierre St-Onge, PhD, MSc; Susan Steck, PhD, MPH, RD; Philippe Thuillier, PhD; Marilyn S. Townsend, PhD, RD.

Class of 2005: Jamy D. Ard, MD; Jennifer Lyn Baker, PhD; Jamie I. Baum, PhD; Lisa M. Bodnar, PhD, MPH, RD; Kimberly K. Buhman, PhD; Sarah Eastman Cusick, PhD; Steven R. Davis, PhD; Katherine L. Dickin, PhD, MS; Shirley H. Huang, MD; Kasia Kordas, PhD; Cristina Lara-Castro, MD, PhD; Ann Yelmokas McDermott, PhD, LN; Amy E. Millen, PhD; Melissa C. Nelson, PhD, RD; P. Kirstin Newby, ScD, MPH, MS; Jill Reedy, PhD, MPH, RD; Lisa M. Sanders, PhD, RD; Kelly S. Swanson, PhD, RD; Christopher Taylor, PhD, RD, LD; Youfa Wang, MD, PhD, MS.

Class of 2007: Andrea Bersamin, PhD; Lynda Marie Brown, PhD; Scott Butsch, MD, MS; Sahar Ghassemi, MD; Dena R. Herman, PhD, MPH, MS, RD; Penni Davila Hicks, PhD, RD, LD; Lisa Jahns, PhD, RD; Robert D. Karch, MD, MPH, FAAP; Douglas G. Mashek, PhD; James P. McClung, PhD, MS; Purnima Menon, PhD; Laura Elaine Murray-Kolb, PhD, MS; Celeste M. Philip, MD, MPH; Hollie A. Raynor, PhD, RD; Timothy Andrew Sentongo, MD; Andrea J. Sharma, PhD, MPH; Parmi Singh Suchdev, MD, MPH; Alison T. Tumilowicz, PhD, MPH, RD; Sonia Vega-Lopez, PhD; Brian H. Wrotniak, PhD, PT.



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American Society for Nutrition Awards

To promote the development of the next generation of nutrition leaders, the institute also sponsors 2 awards through the American Society for Nutrition. Awarded annually at the Experimental Biology meeting, the 2 awards, supported by the institute and administered by the American Society for Nutrition, recognize today's nutrition educators for their role in developing the nutrition professionals of tomorrow. Recipients receive a cash award and an engraved plaque. Application criteria for the 2 awards are available online at

The institute also provided funding to the American Society for Nutrition from 1998 to 2006 in support of the American Society for Nutrition Medical Student Clinical Internship Program. The American Society for Nutrition established this program in 1995 in conjunction with the American Medical Student Association to provide experience in clinical nutrition and research activities in medical centers across the country.

The Roland L. Weinsier Award for Excellence in Medical/Dental Nutrition Education was established in 1998 and recognizes a faculty member with outstanding contributions to promoting nutrition as part of the training of physicians and/or dentists. Past recipients of this award include the following:

  • Daniel Bessesen, MD
  • Sachiko St. Jeor, PhD, RD
  • W. Allan Walker, MD
  • Lisa A. Hark, PhD, RD
  • Linda Verner Van Horn, PhD, RD
  • Riva Touger-Decker, PhD, FADA
  • Robert Kushner, MD
  • Steven Zeisel, MD, PhD
  • Douglas Heimburger, MD
  • Kathryn M. Kolasa, PhD
  • Virginia A. Stallings, MD

The American Society for Nutrition/Dannon Institute Mentorship Award was created in 2002 to recognize a nutrition faculty member who has demonstrated outstanding mentoring qualities especially in developing the scientific career of graduate and postgraduate investigators in the nutritional sciences. Past recipients of this award include the following:

  • Dale E. Bauman, PhD
  • Mark L. Failla, PhD
  • R. Lee Baldwin, PhD
  • Donald C. Beitz, PhD
  • Joanne R. Lupton, PhD
  • David H. Baker, PhD, MS
  • Dale Romsos, PhD
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Awards for Excellence in Community Nutrition

Implemented by the institute from 1998 to 2003, the Awards for Excellence in Community Nutrition recognized more than 30 community-based nutrition programs that were diverse in scope, focus, and budget. Topics ranged from food safety to community gardens, whereas audiences ranged from seniors to children. All of the programs demonstrated innovation, creativity, and impact in nutrition behavior change at the community level. These awards were presented during the annual American Dietetic Association's Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo as a breakfast event in conjunction with the Public Health and Community Nutrition Practice Group. Organizations received a cash award for their programs to continue their efforts. The award-winning programs were also profiled by the Dannon Institute in Community Nutritionary, a semiannual insert provided with the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.

Community Nutritionary offered ideas and insights for nutrition educators and program planners nationwide to consider for their own communities. The publication has been used in nutrition courses at several universities, and many are featured as case studies in the 2003 textbook, Community Nutrition in Action: An Entrepreneurial Approach, written by Marie E. Boyle. In 2002, the Dannon Institute's Community Nutritionary received the Council on Foundations' Wilmer Shields Rich Gold Medal, an award recognizing excellence in communications by foundation and corporate giving programs.



California's California Adolescent Nutrition and Fitness Program (CANFit) applied for and received 2 of the awards for their programs Promoting Healthy Activities Together (P.H.A.T.), which uses hip-hop culture to promote healthy eating and physical activity, and The 100 Way Project, which worked with the 100 Black Men of America organization to develop a nutrition and activity component for their existing mentoring programs. "The Dannon Institute's recognition was a real boost to our position in the nutrition community, and this recognition has, in turn, helped us to improve youth health around the country," notes Arnell Hinkle, MPH, RD, executive director, California Adolescent Nutrition and Fitness Program (

In 2003, the board created an online database of the programs featured in the Community Nutritionary to allow educators and public health practitioners to continue to access this information. The online tool allows users to view and download the articles from an easy-to-use searchable database. By reviewing selected articles that focus on schools and answering the postreview test items, School Nutrition Association members receive continuing education credit. The database of award-winning Community Nutritionary programs can be found online at

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Celebrate Healthy Eating

With the success of its first 2 large-scale program initiatives, the institute decided to focus more closely on children's nutrition, especially preschool nutrition education. Celebrate Healthy Eating, a nutrition education curriculum specifically designed for preschool children in day care settings, was developed for the institute by the Pennsylvania State University Nutrition Center. Celebrate Healthy Eating provides educators with lesson plans about the food groups and classroom activities, including posters and handouts. The original 4 program modules were distributed as a supplement to Scholastic's Early Childhood Today magazine, with a distribution of 40,000 teachers, directors, and early-childhood coordinators and administrators. In a survey conducted by the magazine after the distribution of the first module, 98% of the respondents indicated that they planned to use the materials in their classroom.



Today, the program has expanded to 9 modules available at no cost on the Web site, There are online coloring books, handouts and posters, recipes, and activities that tie nutrition into lessons. The Celebrate Healthy Eating curriculum is available in both English and Spanish as an online resource for both preschool educators and the families of preschoolers. This section of the institute's Web site has been one of the most frequently accessed sections, with as many as 250,000 hits per month.

"The Celebrate Healthy Eating Web site has been very successful. We were able to take a program that, in its own right, was well designed and written and moved it to an electronic forum so that it could continue to be used," noted Virginia Stallings, MD, director, Nutrition Center, the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and current president of the Dannon Institute.



The Dannon Institute board and scientific council streamlined its program focus in 2000 and again in 2003. "We took a hard look at what we'd accomplished to date and realized that we would have a greater impact if we concentrated our energies primarily in 1 or 2 areas," commented Stallings. "We chose to focus on programs promoting children's nutrition education or fostering the growth of tomorrow's leaders in nutrition and believe this clear focus will allow us to expand our impact," continued Stallings.

With this sense of direction, the institute created another children's nutrition education program designed to reach parents through medical providers. "The incidence of obesity in children is growing at an astonishing rate in this country," notes Christopher Duggan, MD, MPH, director, Clinical Nutrition Service, Children's Hospital, Boston, and a member of the Dannon Institute's scientific council. "We quickly realized that most of the information parents receive on infant and toddler feeding comes from their pediatricians. Yet, most medical schools and residency programs provide only a minimal amount of nutrition education as a part of their training."

The program created to fulfill this void is Growing Leaps and Bounds, a series of 12 brochures about healthy feeding, eating, and physical activity for children from 1 month to 5 years of age. These brochures were designed to serve as a tool for pediatricians to provide to parents of their patients to promote a healthy lifestyle as early as possible in life. "The brochures were written and developed by some of the top scientists in the field of infant/toddler nutrition and behavior using the latest research. They are designed to provide age-appropriate nutrition, feeding, and physical activity components that correspond to a child's development and also to their scheduled visits to their pediatrician," notes Myles Faith, PhD, assistant professor of psychology in psychiatry, Center for Weight and Eating Disorders, University of Pennsylvania, and a member of the scientific council, who, along with Duggan, spearheads this program. The Growing Leaps and Bounds program is currently being evaluated for efficacy at a leading university to determine whether nutrition information and the medical/family education setting for infancy and toddler years will affect the child's eating and physical activity behavior. The program is not yet available for distribution beyond the study site.



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2007 and Beyond

After 10 years, the institute continues to grow and evolve, with a commitment to contribute to the field of nutrition in the United States. For example, in 2007, the institute hosted a training session to support superintendents as they implement federally mandated school wellness policies. Ten years after its founding, the Dannon Institute board and scientific council continue to create programs that will make an impact in the field of nutrition and ultimately improve the health of children and adults throughout the United States.

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Dannon Institute Summary

The Dannon Institute in the United States is 1 of 18 institutes worldwide that receives funding from Groupe Danone, a global producer of packaged foods and beverages, including yogurt, sold under the names Dannon and Danone. There are institutes in countries such as China and Russia, with the newest located in Turkey and Indonesia. The first Danone Institute was created in France in 1991.

The institutes develop educational programs in their individual countries that address local public health nutrition issues. This international network involves more than 220 well-known scientists who are experts from various disciplines such as clinical nutrition, pediatric and internal medicine, microbiology, gastroenterology, psychology, and exercise physiology. In 2004, Danone Institute International was established to develop large-scale international programs, facilitate the sharing of knowledge and experiences between local institutes, and encourage cooperation and collaboration with the international scientific community through international scientific conferences, publications, and the international Web site,

In 1997, the Dannon Institute was established in the United States as an independent 501(c)(3) foundation, dedicated to noncommercial activities to promote research, education, and communication about the link between nutrition and good health. Like all of the institutes worldwide, the US institute is composed of a board of directors and a scientific council. The board is composed of 8 members, with a balance maintained between nutrition scientists and company representatives. Board members are responsible for setting the strategic direction and budget for the organization. The scientific council is composed of between 6 and 10 members who provide insight for present and future institute programmatic decisions. All scientific council members are strongly committed to the objectives of the institute, are selected from the scientific community, and can serve up to 2 consecutive 2-year terms. For more information about the institute, visit

The Dannon Institute Board in 2007

The Dannon Institute Board in 2007

During the past 10 years, the Dannon Institute has undertaken the following initiatives to support nutrition for health:

aAward support was previously provided to the American Society for Clinical Nutrition, Inc, before its merger with the American Society for Nutritional Sciences to create the American Society for Nutrition.
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bThe Dannon Institute is not responsible for the content or materials on this Web site.
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cAward support was previously provided to the American Society for Nutritional Sciences before its merger with the American Society for Clinical Nutrition, Inc, to create the American Society for Nutrition.
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