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Sue Foerster

Founder / Network for a Healthy California

Susan established the California 5 a Day—for Better Health! Campaign in 1987, and in 1996 created and led, the Network for a Healthy California (Network), a statewide social marketing campaign in the California Department of Public Health (CDPH). It was funded principally through matching funds from the USDA Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program for nutrition education (SNAP-Ed) for its first 14 years, becoming the largest effort in the country. Its audience is California’s estimated 9 million low-income parents and children. The Network uses empowerment, action and change as brand attributes to increase fruit and vegetable consumption, physical activity and food security. Susan worked with three federal agencies—the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly Food Stamps), the National Cancer Institute, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; with five State agencies; and with several hundred local, non-profit and business organizations. The partnership she fashioned includes the American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association, multiple faith organizations, school districts, local health departments, large supermarket chains, and agricultural marketing orders. She built the Network into a state-level leadership organization with over 140 skilled State and contract personnel, Regional Networks in the eleven largest media markets, and about 150 other local projects. Public health approaches, including award-winning mass media (bilingual TV, radio, outdoor, transit and web), are used to provide nutrition education and marketing/promotion services in an estimated 6,000 qualifying sites that directly touch at least 3 million persons each year. The Network SNAP-Ed team administers about $120M and, until statutes changed in 2011, oversaw an equal amount of State Share that qualified CDPH for the SNAP-Ed federal matching funds.

Evaluations of the Network’s component interventions show behavioral and organizational effectiveness. Surveys show that statewide fruit and vegetable intake has increased significantly in the low-income adults served by the Network, including SNAP participants, at the same time that national consumption has been essentially flat. Susan also worked on multiple leadership projects and the Network’s signature nutrition education materials, many of which can be found linked with or on consumer and professional websites, such as California is the only state where its nutrition network also initiated Food Stamp Outreach. With Susan's support, Outreach grew to qualify for nearly $9M in federal financial participation that seeks to raise California’s historically low rates of participation.

Since leaving the California Department of Public Health early in 2014, Susan has become a citizen advocate. Her passion for continued strong nutrition and physical activity programs in California and for demonstrating results at the national level in SNAP-Ed make up the majority of her leadership activities. She continues to work with a variety of state and national organizations.