Doctoral student Acadia Webber presents at national nutrition conference

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USF College of Public Health doctoral student Acadia Webber says that her public health practice is nutrition education among children and her passion is obesity prevention.

It’s that passion that drove her to pursue a career in nutrition and her drive is not going unnoticed.

In July, she attended the Society for Nutrition Education and Behavior (SNEB) 51st Annual Conference in Minneapolis, Minn., a national conference drawing more than 600 nutrition professionals to discuss the latest in food systems, behaviors and healthy communities.

Webber, who is earning her PhD in community and family health, earned a $500 scholarship to attend the event and also presented her latest research.

Acadia Webber, MS. (Photo by Anna Mayor)

“SNEB is a conference where nutrition education professionals from all over can share their work,” she said. “I always look forward to the newest issue of the society’s journal, the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior (JNEB), and have written two book/media reviews for the journal. I was eager to present my work and to connect with other individuals who are passionate about the same issues that I am and to learn from their expertise.”

She presented two posters on diet quality in children with autism spectrum disorder and also on associations between diet varieties, diet quality and mealtime behaviors in children with autism spectrum disorder.

“I have been interested in helping this population since I worked as an applied behavior analysis therapist trainee during my undergraduate studies at the Ideal School in Paris. After learning about the increased likelihood of problematic mealtime behaviors and risk of obesity and certain micronutrient deficiencies in children with autism spectrum disorder, I became interested in studying diet quality in this population,” Webber said.

Webber earned her master’s degree in human nutrition from Columbia University in New York in 2014, where she also worked as a research assistant at the New York Obesity Nutrition Research Center.

The research she presented indicated a need for dietary improvement among children ages 3 to 17 living with autism spectrum disorder in Florida.

Working with the USF Center for Autism and Related Disabilities (CARD) and other community and research organizations, she conducted interviews with parents of the children to collect data on food intake.

Webber at the SNEB Conference in Minneapolis, Minn. (Photo courtesy of Acadia Webber)

“Diet quality component scores were low for grains and vegetables and high, which is good, for added sugar compared to typically developing children,” she said. “Associations with diet variety and mealtime behaviors suggest that nutrition interventions in this population should prioritize vegetables and all USDA-recommended healthy food groups.”

Both of her research papers are published in a supplement of JNEB and manuscript submissions will be submitted soon, according to Webber.

“Moving forward, I hope to conduct nutrition interventions in children with autism spectrum disorder,” she said. “The next step for me is to conduct interviews with teachers and adolescent/caregiver dyads to better understand what they perceive to be important in a nutrition intervention and whether a school-based intervention would be feasible in this population.”


Webber, A., Sinha, S., Robinson, C., & Gray, H. L. (2018, July). Associations among diet variety, mealtime behaviors, and diet quality in children with autism spectrum disorder. Society for Nutrition Education and Behavior (Accepted).

Webber, A., Robinson, C., & Gray, H. L. (2018, July). Diet quality in children with autism spectrum disorder. Society for Nutrition Education and Behavior (Accepted).

Story by Anna Mayor, USF College of Public Health