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  • Cornell Atkinson
  • Department of Global Development
  • Environment
  • Food
  • Global Development
  • Health + Nutrition

Meet Ramya Ambikapathi, senior research associate for Cornell Global Development's new research group — Food Systems & Global Change. Formerly a Research Scientist in the Department of Public Health at Purdue University Ramya's research broadly focuses on how environmental and ecological factors translate to poor nutrition outcomes, and efforts to mitigate these negative impacts. This research has led her to explore gender equity, men’s engagement, family food choices, food environment, informal economy, food systems, and consequently, metrics and methods to measure these complex factors as they relate to nutrition outcomes.

Academic background:

  • Two post-docs at Harvard and Purdue on two RCTs
  • Ph.D in Human Nutrition, Johns Hopkins School of Public Health
  • MHS in Global Disease Epidemiology, Johns Hopkins School of Public Health
  • BS in Environmental Science, University of Maryland Baltimore County

What research are you currently working on?

Food systems are gendered. Right now, I am gathering evidence and conducting several reviews to show how food systems are gendered. I am also starting a research portfolio on informal food systems, trying to understand their contribution to food security and livelihoods.

What most excites you about this opportunity?

I have amazing colleagues, and the folks in the department are fantastic. It still feels surreal to be here in a place with so many world-renowned experts in the same building. What a time and place I live in!

What would you like people to know about your field?

The food systems field has a lot of momentum right now. People are thinking about environmental impact, nutrition outcomes, and equity outcomes (in terms of livelihood, fair wages, and poverty) related to food systems and want a big transformation.  Everyone says we need change, but no one knows how to operationalize it or push to make that change happen, especially regarding equity outcomes. These outcomes are not just about low- and middle-income countries. It’s also about here in the US, where we see a lot of unfair labor practices, extreme food waste, and food access challenges. So I am part of a multidisciplinary policy-research-action-oriented group thinking about making that change happen!

What does global development mean to you?

I am new to the “development” discipline, but it shares many dimensions with the global nutrition/health field, which is how I was trained. First, it is multidisciplinary, which means respecting and appreciating how different disciplines contribute to human societies' overall development. Second, it is both local and global. The US has one of the highest inequality for a “developed” country; we are having a housing affordability crisis and consistently have worse health outcomes, given high health expenditures. Third, it is fundamentally about everyone having a good quality of life or enabling access to a good quality of life.

What do you like to do when you aren’t working?

I like to read fantasy novels. Right now, I am in the middle of Robin Hobb’s Realm of the Elderlings series. Oh, I love poker.

Explore Ramya’s work

Three men stand around street food stand
food market

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