Caree Cotwright, an associate professor in the University of Georgia’s College of Family and Consumer Sciences, has been named director of nutrition security and health equity for the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
In this role, Cotwright will lead the Food and Nutrition Service’s strategic focus on nutrition security, including raising public awareness of USDA’s actions to advance food and nutrition security and building partnerships with key stakeholders to advance food and nutrition security programs.
“I am honored to serve as USDA’s director of nutrition security and health equity,” Cotwright said. “I have the privilege of doing impactful work to enhance nutrition security and achieve health equity for all Americans. My education at Howard University and the University of Georgia, as well as my tenure on the FACS faculty, have prepared me well for this new role.”
Cotwright, an Atlanta native, received her undergraduate degree in biology from Howard University before moving on to UGA, where she completed her master’s and doctorate degrees in nutrition within FACS.
She joined the FACS department of nutritional sciences faculty in 2013, where she has conducted early childhood obesity prevention research efforts focusing on youth ages 0-5 using innovative and multidisciplinary methods.
In addition to teaching both undergraduate service-learning and graduate level food and nutrition education courses, she is the principal investigator of the Childhood Obesity Prevention Laboratory and has extensive experience in developing community-based participatory research.
Cotwright also has served as a fellow with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, where she was highly engaged in First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign to address childhood obesity.
“I am greatly appreciative of the excellent mentoring I received throughout my graduate studies, as a Kellogg postdoctoral scholar at Morgan State University, as a fellow at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and as an early career researcher,” Cotwright said. “I am grateful to my family, friends, students and community partners for their support and encouragement. I’m excited to lead with USDA to improve the health outcomes of millions of Americans by working for and within communities.”
Cotwright said her passion for advancing equity began early in life, shaped by her parents. Her mother, an elementary school principal, and her father, who served as executive director of the Atlanta Housing Authority, taught her the importance of solving community issues collectively, she said.
“My past, present, and future are steeped in the advancement of equity,” Cotwright said. “I grew up in southwest Atlanta in a tight-knit community where everybody knew my name. Our network personified unity, as each member showed care and concern for their neighbors. Because of the exposure my parents gifted me with, an understanding of equity came to me at an early age.”
Cotwright will begin her duties with the USDA on April 10.
“We are extremely proud of Dr. Cotwright and grateful for her many contributions to nutritional sciences, FACS and UGA,” said Connie Rogers, head of the FACS department of nutritional sciences. “She is perfect for this new role. I know she will bring the same energy and passion to this important role as she does to her teaching, research, service and outreach at UGA.”