Meet Gary Foster, Chief Scientific Officer at Weight Watchers International
25 years, 25 stories
For more than 20 years, Gary Foster has researched the issue of obesity, first as a faculty member at the University of Pennsylvania’s Weight and Eating Disorders Program and later as founder and director of the Temple University Center for Obesity Research and Education. As an academic, he was charged with developing potential approaches for the prevention and treatment of obesity, testing them and evaluating the outcomes.
“The Food Trust was doing something different,” Gary says of his first introduction to the organization’s community-based healthy food access efforts in the early 2000s. “They had a lot of expertise on the ground and knew how to make things happen, both politically and practically. They could galvanize people around this issue.”
Gary first evaluated The Food Trust’s School Nutrition Policy Initiative, finding that the organization’s combination of nutrition education and healthy food access in schools reduced the incidence of children becoming overweight by a dramatic 50 percent.
Identifying successful efforts is essential for a community-based organization like The Food Trust, explains Gary, now Chief Scientific Officer at Weight Watchers International. “Because of their practical knowledge, they knew whether a teacher could support an intervention in the school environment, or what a corner store owner's perspective would be on making changes.” That knowledge, paired with an understanding of their programs’ effectiveness, has allowed The Food Trust’s most successful programs to be scaled—across the city, across the state and across the country.
Learn more about The Food Trust’s work to make healthy food available through our comprehensive approach.