Hi, I’m Clancy Harrison. I believe food is a basic right that can be met for all humans. My work is about fighting hunger one word, seed, and eye-opening moment at a time.
I’m a Registered Dietitian with two decades of experience in Nutrition and Food Insecurity. I’ve served as Food Service Director for Aramark and as President of Al Beech West Side Food Pantry; teach Nutrition at Penn State and the University of Scranton; and worked in several different roles at the PA Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, where I’m currently Chair of the Political Action Committee. I am also a TEDx Speaker and the author of the book Feeding Baby, on simple approaches to raising a healthy baby and creating a lifetime of nutritious eating.
I think of myself as an expert on both the personal and political sides of nutrition, as well as the deep and subtle ways the two are interwoven. I’ve come to this awareness through a variety of experiences—although there are two in particular that stand out.
I had a mind-opening experience five years ago, when I became President of Al Beech West Side Food Pantry. Although I was aware that hunger impacted many people in the United States, I’d never witnessed it personally. In my role at the Food Pantry, the faces of hunger (more aptly called food insecurity) were all around me, and I was shocked to see how inaccurate my previous assumptions had been.
I found that the majority of people coming to the Food Pantry were in temporary situations that could happen to anyone, like a sudden loss of a job or an unexpected medical expense. They were not lazy or uneducated. Many were hesitant to even come to the Pantry because they felt ashamed of needing assistance. We started a biweekly Farmer’s Market that’s open to the public, and witnessed a major shift in the level of dignity and hope for the future in our clients struggling with food insecurity. (This later became the subject of my TEDx talk—which you can watch here.)
I’m deeply passionate about educating the public on the real faces of hunger and poverty in the US. Friends and colleagues say my advocacy work is contagious—I make people want to fight for what they believe in!
My second experience happened with my own two children. When my daughter was born in 2009, I started making homemade baby food and blogging about it. This work eventually led to my book, Feeding Baby, which offers recipes for infants and toddlers that not only provide wholesome nutrition but also introduce kids to a wide variety of flavors. My daughter, who ate pretty much anything I offered, was a perfect partner for me in this experimentation.
However, my son, born two years later, was the opposite. He rejected most of the flavors and textures of food I presented him with. He was what might typically be called a “picky eater,” though I refused to use that label. His sensitivity gave me a new perspective on pediatric nutrition, namely that every child has a different learning curve, and it’s nothing to judge or to worry about.
My work with other families and kids over the years has validated this time and time again. I’ve come to call my strategy “teaching taste,” a process that encourages parents to let children connect with their food in ways other than putting in their mouths. They can use their hands, eyes, ears, noses, etc to get familiar with all the properties of a food—and eventually, on their own, they usually decided to eat it.
And in case you’re wondering… I do have a life outside of my work 🙂
I live with my family in Dallas, PA.
I’m a lifelong athlete with a competitive nature in my blood. I’ve run 5½ marathons in my life, including the NYC Marathon in 2015. I’m also a scuba diver and a swimmer—I even won a two-mile open water swim National Championship after the births of my two children. I love hiking too. Pike’s Peak in the Rocky Mountains is my greatest conquest so far!
I love hoppy beer, and I hate beets. Believe it or not, I’m not a huge fan of chocolate, unless it’s with vanilla ice cream or mixed with peanut butter. When it comes to food, my number one belief is that it should always be fun, and I strive to create that in my own life.
I’m deeply aware that my life has been privileged in many ways. I’ve never experienced food insecurity, and in fact I used to be a food elitist—my book promotes eating only organic and shames food with food coloring. Today, I work hard to teach clients and individuals about simple, affordable ways to eat healthily and with dignity.