Julia Cohen

Juliana FW


Academic Title

Professor, Nutrition and Public Health

Research Interests
  • Community-Based Interventions
  • Health Disparities
  • Health Promotion
  • Maternal and Child Health
  • Nutrition
  • Public Health
Research Summary

My research centers on the identification, evaluation, and dissemination of effective school nutrition policies and initiatives to address diet-related disparities, reduce the risk of obesity, and improve academic outcomes. This research includes on innovative strategies to encourage the consumption of healthier school foods, the impact of school-based nutrition policies on children’s consumption of school meals and competitive foods (e.g., vending and à la carte snacks), and the impact on cognitive functioning.  My school-based research is currently cited on multiple USDA websites, has been used by the U.S. Community Preventive Services Task Force (CPSTF) to develop recommendations for school meal policies, and was cited as evidence in the United States Department of Agriculture’s proposed rules for school meal policies. I was previously an ORISE Policy and Science fellow at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the Division of Nutrition and Physical Activity.

 I founded the NOURISH lab, an interdisciplinary research lab in the School of Health Sciences at Merrimack College. We evaluate novel interventions and policies to address diet-related health disparities in children. Our research is supported by funding from the National Institutes of Health and several foundations.

Visit the NOURISH Lab


  • Sc.D., Nutrition, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
  • M.Sc., Human Development and Health, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
  • B.A., Italian Studies (summa cum laude), Emory University
Areas of Expertise
  • Behavioral Economics
  • Diet and Cognitive Functioning
  • Health Disparities
  • Nutrition Policy
  • Pediatric Nutrition
Recent Publications

Cohen JFW, Verguet S, Giyose B, Bundy D. Universal Free School Meals: The Future of School Meal Programs? The Lancet (Accepted).

Cohen JFW, Richardson S, March WW, Gosliner W, Hauser R. Phthalates, Adipates, BPA, and Pesticides in School Meals. Environ Res. (Accepted).

Tsai M, Olarte D, Hager E, Cohen JFW, Turner L. Prevalence of recess and supportive practices at a nationwide sample of public elementary schools in the United States. Journal of School Health. (Accepted)

Olarte DA, Tsai MM, Chapman L, Hager ER, Cohen JFW. Alternative school breakfast service models and associations with breakfast participation, diet quality, body mass index, attendance, behavior, and academic performance: A systematic review. Nutrients. (Accepted)

Wang L, Cohen JFW,  Schwartz C, Mozaffarian D. Evaluation of Health and Economic Effects of U.S. School Meal Standards Consistent with the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Am J Clin Nutr. (Accepted)

Bennett BL, Cohen JFW, Andreyevea A, Esposito J, Burkholder K, Chafouleas SM, Schwartz, M.B. Predictors of increased participation levels in the U.S. Department of Agriculture summer meal programs. American Journal of Preventative Medicine Focus. (Accepted)

Yan Z, Peacock J, Cohen JFW, Kurdziel L, Benes S, Oh S, Bowling A. An 8-week Peer Health Coaching Intervention Among College Students: A Pilot Study. Nutrients. 2023 Mar 4;15(5):1284

Hecht A, Olarte D, McLoughlin G, Cohen JFW. Strategies to Increase Student Participation in School Meals in the United States: A Systematic Review.  J Acad Nutr Diet. 2023 Feb 28

Olarte D, Petimar J, James P, Cooksey Stower K, Cash SB, Rimm EB, Economos CD, Blossom JC, Rohmann M, Chen Y, Deo R, Cohen JFW.  Trends in quick-service restaurants near public schools in the United States: Differences by community, school and student characteristics. J Acad Nutr Diet. Jun 1;123(6):923-32

Zafar Z, Cohen JFW, Zessom-Parks L, Lessard D, Cooper M, Hager E. Impacts of Covid-19 school closures on school food service revenue: Analysis of public local education agencies in Maryland. J Sch Health. 2023, May 93(5):386-94.

Cohen JFW, Cooksey Stower K, Odoms-Young A, Frankel R. A call for theory to guide equity-focused Federal Child Nutrition Program policy responses and recovery efforts in times of public health crisis. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2023, Jan 123(1):15-28

Chapman LE, Richardson S., Harb AA, Fear E, Daly TP, Olarte DA, Hawley M, Zukowski E, Schwartz C, Maroney M, and Cohen JFW. Nutrient Content and Compliance with Sodium Standards in Elementary School Meals in the United States Pre-and Post-COVID-19. Nutrients, 2022 Dec 14(24), p.5386.

Cohen JFW, Polacsek M, Hecht CE, Hecht K, Read M, Olarte DA, Patel AI, Schwartz MB, Turner L, Zuercher M, Gosliner W. Implementation of Universal School Meals during COVID-19 and beyond: Challenges and Benefits for School Meals Programs in Maine. Nutrients. 2022 Sep 28;14(19):4031

Slotnick MJ, Falbe J, Cohen JFW, Gearhardt AN, Wolfson JA, Leung CW. Environmental and climate impact perceptions in university students: Sustainability motivations and perceptions correspond with lower red meat intake.  J Acad Nutr Diet. 2022 Sep 20;S2212-2672(22)01020-6

Zuercher MD, Cohen JFW, Hecht CE, Hecht K, Ritchie LD, Gosliner W. Providing School Meals to All Students Free of Charge during the COVID-19 Pandemic and Beyond: Challenges and Benefits Reported by School Foodservice Professionals in California. Nutrients, 2022 14(18), 3855.

Cohen JFW, Posluszny H, Falbe J, Mueller MP, Gearhardt AN, Leung CW, Wolfson JA. Restaurant dining during the COVID-19 pandemic among adults with low-income in the United States.  Appetite. 2022 Jun; 1 (173):105976

Olarte DA, Stock M, Sutton M, Scott M, Koch PA, Gustus S, Cohen JFW. Teachers’ Experiences Implementing a School Wellness Initiative in Anchorage, Alaska: A Qualitative Study. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2022 Jun;122(6):1174-1181

Cohen JFW, Hecht AA, Hager E, Turner L, Schwartz MB. Strategies to Improve School Meal Consumption: A Systematic Review. Nutrients. 2021 Oct; 13(10): 3520

Cohen JFW, Cooksey Stower K, Rohmann M, LaPierre N, Rimm EB, Cash SB, Davison KK, McInnis K, Economos CD. Marketing to Children inside Quick-Service Restaurants: Differences by Community Demographics. Am J Prev Med. 2021 Jul;61(1):96-104

Cohen JFW, Scott M, Sutton M, Cueva K, Shonkoff ET, Goldman RE, Margolis DN, Potempa AE, Fink K, Gustus S, Stock M. A Mixed Methods Evaluation of a School Wellness Initiative: An Examination of Longer Lunch Periods and More Physical Activity Opportunities. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2021 Oct;121(10):1961-1974

Connolly K, Babbin MI, McKee SL, McGinn K, Cohen JFW, Chafouleas SM, Schwartz MB. Dedication, Innovation, and Collaboration: A Mixed-Methods Analysis of School Meals in Connecticut During COVID-19. J Agric Food Syst Community Dev. 2021.

Cohen JFW, Hecht AA, McLoughlin GM, Turner L, Schwartz MB. Universal School Meals and Associations with Student Participation, Attendance, Academic Performance, Diet Quality, Food Security, and Body Mass Index: A Systematic Review. Nutrients. 2021 Mar;13(3):911 (Special Issue on School Nutrition: Guest Editor Mary Story)

Schwartz MB, Leider J, Cohen JFW, Turner L, Chriqui JF. Association Between Nutrition Policies and Student Body Mass Index. Nutrients. 2021 Jan;13(1):13 (Special Issue on School Nutrition: Guest Editor Mary Story)

Chriqui JF, Leider J, Cohen JFW, Schwartz M, Turner L. Are Nutrition Standards for Beverages in Schools Associated with Healthier Beverage Intakes among Adolescents in the US?  Nutrients. 2021 Jan;13(1):75 (Special Issue on School Nutrition: Guest Editor Mary Story)

Cohen JFW, Schwartz MB, Leider J, Turner L, Chriqui JF. Meal Quality of Entrées That Can Be Sold as Competitive Foods in Schools and Potential Impact of the Proposed USDA Rollbacks. Nutrients. 2020 Oct;12(10):3003 (Special Issue on School Nutrition: Guest Editor Mary Story)

Cohen JFW, Sagar K, Dahlgren MK, Kurdziel LB, Gruber SA. The Impact of Micronutrient Fortified Foods on Cognitive Functioning among Low-Income Children: A Pilot and Feasibility Study. Nutrients. 2020 Nov;12(11):3351 (Special Issue on Policies and Interventions for the Prevention of Diet Related Diseases: Guest Editor Julia Wolfson)

Cohen JFW, Rimm EB, Davison KK, Cash SB, McInnis K, Economos CD. The Role of Parents and Children in Meal Selection and Consumption in Quick Service Restaurants. Nutrients. 2020 Mar;12(3):735

Cohen JFW, Richardson S, Roberto CA, Rimm EB. Availability of Lower Sodium School Lunches and the Association with Selection and Consumption among Elementary and Middle School Students. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2020 Oct 21;121(1):105-11

Cohen JFW, Schwartz MB. Documented Success and Future Potential of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2020 Mar 1;120(3):359-62

Gervis JE, Hennessy E, Shonkoff ET, Bakun P, Cohen JFW, Mueller MP, Roberts SB, Economos CD. Weighed Plate Waste Can Accurately Measure Children’s Energy Consumption from Food in Quick-Service Restaurants. J Nutr. 2020 Feb 1;150(2):404-10

Cohen JFW, Richardson S, Rimm EB. Impact of the Updated USDA School Meal Standards, Chef-Enhanced Meals, and the Removal of Flavored Milk on School Meal Selection and Consumption. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2019 Sep;119(9):1511-1515

Cohen JFW, Gorski Findling MT, Rosenfeld L, Smith L, Rimm EB, Hoffman JA. The Impact of 1 Year of Healthier School Food Policies on Students’ Diets During and Outside of the School Day. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2018 Dec;118(12):2296-2301.

Cohen JFW, Rifas-Shiman SL, Young J, Oken E. Associations of Prenatal and Child Sugar Intake with Child Cognition; Am J Prev Med. 2018 Jun;54(6):727-735

Jahn JL, Cohen JFW, Gorski MT, Hoffman JA, Rosenfeld L, Chaffee R, Smith L, Rimm EB.. Product Reformulation and Nutrition Improvements after New Competitive Food Standards in Schools; Public Health Nutrition. 2018 Apr;21(5):1011-1018

Cohen JFW, Richardson S, Rimm EB. Selection Does Not Equate Consumption. JAMA Internal Medicine. 2017 Dec 1;177(12):1875

Cohen JFW, Lehnerd ME, Hauser RF, Rimm EB. Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension Diet, Weight Status, and Blood Pressure among Children and Adolescents: National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys 2003-2012. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2017 Sep;117(9):1437-1444

Chapman LE, Cohen J, Canterberry M, Carton TW. Factors Associated with School Lunch Consumption: Reverse Recess and School “Brunch”. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2017 Sep;117(9):1413-1418.

Cohen JFW, Roberts SB, Anzman-Frasca S, Gamache MM, Lynskey VM, Matthews E, Mueller MP, Sharma S, Economos CD. A pilot and feasibility study to assess children’s consumption in quick-service restaurants using plate waste methodology. BMC Public Health. 2017 Mar 15;17(1):259

Cohen JF, Jahn JL, Richardson S, Cluggish A. S, Parker E, Catalano P, Rimm EB. Amount of Time to Eat Lunch Is Associated with Children’s Selection and Consumption of School Meal Entrée, Fruits, Vegetables, and Milk. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2016 Jan; 116(1):123-128

Cohen JF, Gorski MT, Hoffman JA, Rosenfeld L, Chaffee R, Smith L, Catalano PJ, Rimm EB. Healthier Standards for School Meals and Snacks: Impact on School Food Revenues and Lunch Participation Rates. Am J Prev Med. 2016 Oct;51(4):485-92

Cohen JFW, Gorski MT, Gruber SA, Rimm EB. The effect of healthy dietary consumption on executive cognitive functioning in children and adolescents: a systematic review. Br J Nutr. 2016 Sep;116(6):989-1000

Rosenfeld L, Cohen JFW, Gorski MT, Andres Lessing, Smith L, Rimm EB, Hoffman JA. How Do We Actually Put Smarter Snacks in Schools?: NOURISH Conversations with Food Service Directors. Public Health Nutr. 2016 Aug 30:1-9

Kenney EL, Gortmaker SL, Cohen JF, Rimm EB, Cradock AL. Limited School Drinking Water Access for Youth. J Adolesc Health. 2016 Jul;59(1):24-9.

Gorski MT, Cohen JF, Hoffman JA, Rosenfeld L, Chaffee R, Smith L, Rimm EB. Impact of Nutrition Standards on Competitive Food Quality in Massachusetts Middle and High Schools. Am J Public Health. 2016 Jun;106(6):1101-8.

Cohen JF, Jahn JL, Richardson S, Cluggish A. S, Parker E, Catalano P, Rimm EB. Amount of Time to Eat Lunch Is Associated with Children’s Selection and Consumption of School Meal Entrée, Fruits, Vegetables, and Milk. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2016 Jan; 116(1):123-128

Hoffman J, Rosenfeld L, Schmidt N, Cohen JF, Gorski M, Chaffee R, Smith L, Rimm EB. Implementation of Competitive Food and Beverage Standards in a Sample of Massachusetts Schools: The NOURISH Study (Nutrition Opportunities to Understand Reforms Involving Student Health). J Acad Nutr Diet. 2015 Aug; 115(8): 1299-1307.

Cohen JF, Richardson S, Cluggish SA, Parker E, Catalano P, Rimm EB. Effects of choice architecture and chef-enhanced meals on the selection and consumption of healthier school foods: a randomized clinical trial; JAMA Pediatr. 2015 May;169(5):431-7.

Cohen JF, Richardson S, Parker E, Catalano P, Rimm EB. Impact of the new USDA school meal standards on food selection, consumption, and waste. Am J Prev Med. 2014 Apr;46(4):388-94

Honors and Awards
  • K01 Mentored Research Scientist 2016-21 Development Award, National Institutes of Health, 2016.
  • Obesity Society Fellow, The Obesity Society, 2016.
  • Nutritional Epidemiology of Cancer Education and Career Development Program Fellow, Harvard School of Public Health, 2012-15.
  • Donald and Sue Pritzker Nutrition and Fitness Fellow, Harvard School of Public Health, 2012.
  • Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) Policy and Science Fellow, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 2004