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Our Founder

Dr. Sarah E. Samuels
On March 29, 2012, Dr. Sarah E. Samuels, founder and President of Samuels & Associates, passed away from complications of lymphoma treatment. Sarah was a pioneer in the field of nutrition and physical activity research and evaluation, and a tireless and committed crusader for improving the public’s health. She influenced public health thought and practice through her mentorship, participation on advisory boards, and numerous presentations and publications. Sarah was a collaborator, visionary and original thinker. Read more to learn about Sarah’s background and her impact on public health nutrition.


Education & Early Career


Sarah received a bachelor’s degree from Antioch College (1973), Yellow  Springs, Ohio, two  masters degrees from Columbia University, one in Nutrition (1975) and the other in NutritionEducation (1977), and a doctorate in public health from the School of Public Health at the University of California, Berkeley (1982), where she later would teach courses and serve as an adjunct  faculty  member.

Sarah also completed a post-doctoral fellowship as a Pew Health Policy Scholar at the Philip R. Lee Institute for Health Policy Studies, at the University of California, San Francisco (1983-1985).

Sarah’s unique talents and skills, as well as her strong sense of social justice and equity enabled her to lead a number of instrumental and ground-breaking efforts to change America’s relationship to nutrition and thus, public health more broadly.

Early in her career, as a program officer at the Kaiser Family Foundation (1985-1994), Sarah was instrumental in creating the first national nutrition social marketing campaign, Project LEAN (Low-fat Eating for America Now). She conceived and directed Project LEAN, a national public-private partnership comprising 35 federal, voluntary, and philanthropic agencies using public service advertising, media, marketing, and community strategies to promote healthy eating. Sarah had an ability to mobilize a broad array of individuals and diverse public and private organizations to think strategically “outside the box.”


Samuels & Associates

In 1994, Sarah established Samuels & Associates, as a public health evaluation, research and policy consulting firm. Sarah and her staff pioneered a number of efforts to advance the science of evaluation and measurement in these fields, including ways to better plan programs and implementation strategies, as well as document changes in the food and physical activity environments.

With Sarah at the helm, Samuels & Associates was the lead evaluator for The California Endowment’s Healthy Eating Active Communities (HEAC) initiative and the Central California Obesity Prevention Program (CCROPP) and served as Co-Principal Investigator on several Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Healthy Eating Research (HER) awards, including studies of school nutrition standards, child nutrition commodity foods, child care food environments, and grocery stores in low-income communities. She was also the Principal Investigator of NIH Small Business Awards (SBIR) to develop FoodBEAMS™, an electronic tool to assess food environments.

flowerSarah’s studies had and will continue to have a major impact on state and national policy. These include the development of policies related to improving school meal programs; physical education policy to increase physical activity for school age children; after-school nutrition and physical activity standards; child care nutrition standards; and worksite vending and physical activity policies. She testified to the California State Legislature on a variety of nutrition bills, as well as briefing U.S. Congressional staff on school nutrition policies.  Sarah’s work has and will continue to influence the public health field through numerous reports, presentations, and peer-reviewed publications.

Picture by Jeremy Simon

Boards & Committees


Sarah served on many influential boards and committees. She joined the Board of the California Food Policy Advocates (CFPA) in its infancy in 1994. There, as in many other committees and groups where she made major contributions, Sarah played a formative role in guiding the organization. Sarah served on the Institute of Medicine Planning Committee on Community Perspectives on Obesity Prevention and the CDC Committee on Community Strategies and Measurements to Prevent Obesity in the US. She was also appointed to the Women’s Health Council for the State of California.

In January 2011, Sarah was a founding member of the Strategic Alliance to Promote Healthy Food and Physical Activity Environments, bringing together seven organizations to respond to the rising rates of childhood obesity. She firmly believed that improving community health and reducing the incidence of chronic disease required an approach that looked beyond personal choice and individual responsibility. Her conviction that a group of advocates could work together to “reframe the debate” around chronic disease toward an emphasis on government and corporate responsibility has become the central tenet of the Strategic Alliance.

Sarah touched many people through her mentorship and multiple networks of colleagues, researchers, and funders, and especially her friends. Sarah had a special gift for keeping us all focused on what is important through her gentle, but persuasive style. Sarah’s vision will continue to shape and motivate us all as part of her amazing legacy.


Honors & Awards

sarah4The 2003 Public Health Institute Pioneer Award in Healthy Eating and Active Living

The 2005 Catherine Cowell Award from the American Public Health Association, Food and Nutrition Section

The 2012 UC Berkeley School of Public Health Alumna of the Year Award

The California Endowment 2012 Health Happens Here Hero Award

Establishment of the annual Sarah Samuels Fellowship Award from California Food Policy Advocates

First recipient of the annual Sarah Samuels Memorial Award, Recognizing Outstanding Contributions for Policy, Advocacy, and Evaluation in Public Health Nutrition from the American Public Health Association, Food and Nutrition Section

UC Berkeley School of Public Health Fellowship Award.  Gifts in Sarah’s memory may be made to the “UC Berkeley Foundation” and sent to: UC Berkeley, School of Public Health, 417H University Hall, Berkeley, CA 94720-7360. Please note in the memo field “In honor of Sarah Samuels.”