The American Dietetic Association was co-founded by Lenna Frances Cooper in 1917, who specialized in vegetarian nutrition due to influence from John Harvey Kellogg. She was senior author of Nutrition in Health and Disease, used as a textbook for 30 years in dietetic and nursing programs throughout the world.
100th Anniversary of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
As we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetic Association), it is a good time to reflect on our Academy’s rich history.
It is a time to honor and recognize the visionary women who started our professional organization. One such woman was the Academy’s co-founder Lenna Frances Cooper. In describing her character and dedication to the dietetic profession, the July 1965 Journal of The American Dietetic Association states, “This woman who accomplished so much in the field of applied nutrition and dietetics was slight of stature, quiet in voice, and gentle in manner, but she had the true spirit and courage of the pioneers. She had vision, steadfastness of purpose, high integrity, and a thirst for knowledge which she shared freely with her students and staff. Her warm personality and deep understanding of others made her an ideal teacher and dietitian and won friends wherever she went.” (1).
Lenna achieved much in her nutrition and dietetics career. To give structure and professionalism to the field of dietetics, she was the first to propose the formation of the American Dietetic Association (now known as the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics), which she co-founded in 1917. She became the Academy’s first vice president and later served as the fourteenth president in 1937. During World War I, she was the first Supervising Dietitian for the U.S. Army (1918- 1919). Lenna saw the need to economize food during the war and in 1917 wrote the book, How to Cut Food Costs. In 1929, as a charter member, she became the first president of the Michigan Dietetic Association. Lenna served on the staff of the U.S. Surgeon General and created the Department of Dietetics at the National Institutes of Health. Her greatest renown came as senior author of Nutrition in Health and Disease, used as a textbook for 30 years in dietetic and nursing programs throughout the world.
Each year at the Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo™ (FNCE®), the Academy recognizes and honors Lenna’s legacy of leadership in nutrition and dietetics through the presentation of the Lenna Frances Cooper Memorial Lecture Award. This highly esteemed award is presented to a dedicated Academy member, notable and inspiring speaker, and a role model who has made significant contributions to the profession of nutrition and dietetics. Yet, few Academy members are aware of Lenna’s personal career background and history as a pioneer in the field of vegetarian nutrition and dietetics. Her study and career in food and nutrition began with a focus and specialization in vegetarian nutrition.