A long-time resident of the Flint community, Dr. Saxe-Custack is dedicated to the evaluation and expansion of nutrition programs that target children and families living in Flint, with a particular focus on improving access to fresh foods. Much of her work has been initiated in partnership with the Flint Farmers’ Market and Hurley Children’s Center to examine the impact of an innovative fruit and vegetable prescription program for pediatric patients. Through recent grant awards, Dr. Saxe-Custack is working with community partners to expand and evaluate both the fruit and vegetable prescription program as well as an experiential nutrition and cooking program for Flint children, Flint Kids Cook.
Dr. Saxe-Custack is a Registered Dietitian and Assistant Professor in the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition at Michigan State University. She received an MPH in Human Nutrition at the University of Michigan School of Public Health and, after an impressive career with Dole Food Company and USDA, Dr. Saxe-Custack completed a PhD in Human Nutrition at Michigan State University. She currently serves as the Nutrition Director for the Pediatric Public Health Initiative, a joint effort between Michigan State University and Hurley Children’s Hospital, to address the impact of Flint’s population-wide lead exposure on children.
Industry Expertise (1)
Areas of Expertise (3)
Michigan State University: PhD, Human Nutrition 2016
University of Michigan: MPH, Human Nutrition 1997
Michigan State University: BS, Nutritional Sciences 1994
Flint inspires national nutrition prescription program in US farm bill
“Early results indicate that most kids are not meeting dietary recommendations,” said Amy Saxe-Custack, assistant professor of food science and human nutrition at MSU and PPHI’s nutrition director. “The mean intake of vegetables is less than one serving per day before receiving a nutrition prescription.”
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Michigan State University professor Amy Saxe-Custack is the Nutrition Director of the Pediatric Public Health Initiative, a program at Flint’s Hurley Hospital Children’s Center where patients and parents leave with an unusual prescription — one that calls for more fruits and vegetables. She breaks down the mission of the initiative, how it encourages parents to go about filling their “prescription,” and the response her team is getting from families so far.
MSU scientists improve health for children and seniors through better nutrition
Michigan State University scientists Amy Saxe-Custack and Jean Kerver had two separate, but common, ideas that could improve the health of those they serve in their communities. Now, each have received a $500,000 grant from the Michigan Health Endowment Fund to further their work.
Journal Articles (3)
Saxe-Custack A, Lofton HC, Hanna-Attisha M, Tata Z, Ceja T, LaChance J
2019 An innovative farmers’ market incentive program designed specifically for children was implemented to address persistent challenges with accessing fresh, nutrient-rich foods in a food desert community. The current study sought to qualitatively examine caregiver perceptions of the incentive program. Following distribution of farmers’ market incentives to all children (ages 0 to 15 years) at 43 Flint-area early childcare facilities and elementary schools, researchers conducted semistructured interviews with 37 caregivers (mean age = 39.59 ± 11.73 years). The majority were female (87%) and African American (53%). Through these interviews, researchers explored family experiences with the farmers’ market incentive program, as well as changes in environmental factors that may have resulted from program participation. Interviews were audio recorded and transcribed verbatim for textual analysis. Thematic analysis was used to identify patterns across transcripts and formulate emerging themes. Four recurrent themes emerged during interviews: (1) fruit and vegetable access, (2) child influence, (3) autonomous grocery shopping, and (4) program expansion. Interview participants indicated that the farmers’ market incentive program was an effective tool to both encourage families to visit the farmers’ market and purchase fresh foods there. Program design, particularly distribution to children, was credited with introducing families to the local farmers’ market. The current study suggests that a farmers’ market incentive program targeting children who reside in a food desert community may have meaningful impacts on access to fresh, nutrient-rich foods.
Amy Saxe-Custack, Jean M. Kerver, Getrude Mphwanthe, Lorraine Weatherspoon
2019 Pediatric obesity is a serious and widespread medical condition that is increasing in the United States. Unfortunately, family-based programming to address the disorder fails to successfully reach and engage many children, particularly in low-income communities. To provide more affordable, accessible, and scalable programming options, researchers partnered with pediatricians and the Cooperative Extension Service (Extension) in a Midwestern state to develop a collaborative intervention. Partnering pediatricians referred children and families to a weight management program delivered by a trained Extension paraprofessional. The current study describes family experiences with the program.
Amy Saxe-Custack, Jenny LaChance, Mona Hanna-Attisha and Tiffany Ceja
2019 Though fruit and vegetable consumption is essential for disease prevention and health maintenance, intake among children fails to meet dietary recommendations. Limited access to and the affordability of fresh produce, particularly among low-income youth, are barriers to adequate intake. To address these challenges, researchers and pediatricians in Flint, Michigan, expanded a successful fruit and vegetable prescription program that provides one $15 prescription for fresh fruits and vegetables to every child at every office visit. Vendors include the downtown farmers’ market and a local mobile market. This study describes baseline characteristics, dietary patterns, food access, and food security among 261 caregiver–child dyads enrolled August 2018–March 2019. The child-reported mean daily intake of vegetables (0.72 cups ± 0.77), dairy products (1.33 cups ± 1.22), and whole grains (0.51 ounces ± 0.49) were well below recommendations. Furthermore, 53% of children and 49% of caregivers who completed the food security module indicated low or very low food security. However, there were no statistically significant differences in the child consumption of fruits and vegetables between households that reported high versus low food security (p > 0.05). Results validate and raise deep concerns about poor dietary patterns and food insecurity issues facing Flint children, many of whom continue to battle with an ongoing drinking water crisis. Additional poverty-mitigating efforts, such as fruit and vegetable prescription programs, are necessary to address these gaps.