Elena Serrano, MS, PhD
- Extension Specialist
- Director, Virginia Family Nutrition Program
- Focus area(s): Effectiveness of food and nutrition programs and initiatives to promote nutrition security; examination of contributors to food and nutrition security
Ph.D., Food Science and Human Nutrition, Colorado State University, 2001
M.S., Food Science and Human Nutrition, Colorado State University, 1997
B.S., Development Studies, University of California, Berkeley, 1989
2014 – present: Professor, Extension Specialist, Director of the Virginia Cooperative Extension Family Nutrition Program, Department of Human Nutrition, Foods, and Exercise, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA
2008 – 2004: Associate Professor, Extension Specialist, Department of Human Nutrition, Foods, and Exercise, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA
2002 – 2008: Assistant Professor, Extension Specialist, Department of Human Nutrition, Foods, and Exercise, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA
1997 – 2002: Associate Extension Specialist, Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO
1991 – 1992: Project Coordinator, Land Tenure Center, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI
1989 – 1991: Project Assistant, EduSystems, International, Walworth, WI
Selected Major Awards
- 2022 – Virginia Tech Alumni Award, Extension Specialist
- 2010 – Outstanding Volunteer Award, Virginia Council, American Heart Association
- 2007 – Healthy Weights for Healthy Kids, National Extension Association for Family and Consumer Sciences (NEAFCS) Award for Excellence in Research
- 2007 – Virginia State Early Career Award, Epsilon Sigma Phi (The Extension Professional Organization)
I serve as the Director of Virginia Cooperative Extension’s Family Nutrition Program aimed at promoting nutrition security - food security, dietary quality, and food access - among limited resource families and participants of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly referred to as food stamps). The Family Nutrition Program utilizes different approaches to address individual, family, and community factors to maximize its impacts and achieve its goals across a variety of settings, including:
- Peer-led and trained volunteer-led nutrition education for SNAP-eligible families, adults, and youth to support food resource management, nutrition security, and healthy eating patterns.
- Policy, systems, and environmental change initiatives to support affordable, safe, culturally appropriate access to nutritious food and self-sufficiency, such as improving SNAP redemption at farmer’s markets, encouraging healthy selections at food pantries, supporting container gardening (“gardens-to-go”) and community gardening, and encouraging healthy classrooms.
- Comprehensive, multi-level initiatives to coordinate education with PSEs and social marketing, such as providing nutrition education to SNAP-eligible youth while promoting healthy school environments where healthy choices are the easy choices and healthy behaviors are modeled by teachers.
- Intentional strategies to promote access and equity among SNAP-eligible adults, youth and families to address nutrition insecurity and health disparities in Virginia.
I currently work on research involving the identification of potential contributors to nutrition security, particularly within Virginia, as well as the evaluation of effectiveness of food and nutrition promotion programs, policies, and initiatives to address nutrition security.
- Houghtaling, B., Englund, T., Chen, S., Bryant, D., Pradhananga, N., Kraak, V.I., Serrano, E., Harden, S.M., Davis, G.C., & Misyak, S. Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)-authorized retailers received a low score using the Business Impact Assessment–Obesity and Population Nutrition (BIA-Obesity) Tool to assess commitments to healthy food environments. (2022). BMC Public Health. 22(1):1225. doi: 10.1186/s12889-022-13624-9.
- Young, G.C., S. Misyak, M. Ledlie Johnson, N.E. Martin, E. Serrano (2023). Assessing the SNAP Consumer Environment at Farmers Markets. J of Extension 61(1) 20.
- DeNunzio, M., Miller, M., Chase, M., Kraak, V., Serrano, E., & Misyak, S. (2022). A Scoping Review of the Community Health Worker Model Used for Food Systems Interventions Within the United States. American Journal of Health Promotion. https://doi.org/10.1177/08901171221125451
- Liebe, R.A., Adams, L.M., Hedrick, V., Serrano, E.L., Porter, K.J., Cook, N.E., & Misyak, S.A. (2022). Understanding the Relationship Between Food Security and Mental Health for Food-Insecure Mothers in Virginia. Nutrients, 14(7):1491. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu14071491.
- Houghtaling, B, Serrano, E, Chen, S, Kraak, VI, Harden, SM, Davis, GC, & Misyak, S. (2021). Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)-Authorized Retailers- Perceived Costs to Use Behavioral Economic Strategies to Encourage Healthy Product Sales. Ecology of Food and Nutrition,
- Houghtaling, B, Serrano, E, Dobson, L, Kraak, V, Harden, SM, Davis, GC, & Misyak, S. (2020). Perceptions of Rural SNAP-Authorized Food Store Owners and Managers About Healthy Product Availability. Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior 52(2), 171-179. doi:10.1016/j.jneb.2019.09.023
- Chen, S., Kraak, V., Price, T., Love, K., Shanks, C., & Serrano, E. (2020). Exploring Food Waste at a Residential Youth Summer Camp: A Mixed Method Approach. Journal of Hunger and Environmental Nutrition. https://doi.org/10.1080/19320248.2020.1806981
- Kraak, VI Englund, T, Misyak, S, & Serrano, EL. (2017). Progress Evaluation for the Restaurant Industry Assessed by a Voluntary Marketing-Mix and Choice-Architecture Framework That Offers Strategies to Nudge American Customers toward Healthy Food Environments, 2006-2017. Int J Environ Res Public Health, 14(7). pii: E760. doi: 10.3390/ijerph14070760.
- Serrano E, G Davis, M Marcenelle, C Byker. Food Waste in a School Nutrition Program After Implementation of New NSLP Guidelines. Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior 2014; 46: 406-11. doi: 10.1016/j.jneb.2014.03.009.
- Farris A, S Misyak, K Hosig, N Atzaba-Poria, K Duffey, G Davis, E Serrano. Nutritional Comparison of Packed and School Lunches following the Implementation of the 2012-2013 National School Lunch Program Standards. Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior 2014; 46: 406-411.
- Misyak, S., Liebe, R., Hedrick, V., Cook, N., & Serrano, E. (2022). The Relationship Between Food Insecurity and Mental Health Among Low Income, Virginia Mothers. In Center for Advanced Innovation in Agriculture Big Event. Blacksburg, Virginia.
- Serrano, E., Brooks, A., Ledlie, M., Misyak, S., & Young, G. (2022). Exploring Physical Activity and Perceived Barriers among Individuals at Risk of Food Insecurity. International Society for Behavioral Nutrition & Physical Activity (ISBNPA). Phoenix, Arizona.
- Serrano, E., Brooks, A., Ledlie, M., Misyak, S., & Young, G. (2022). Factors Influencing the Adoption of Physical Activity Interventions by Para-Professional Nutrition Educators. International Society for Behavioral Nutrition & Physical Activity (ISBNPA). Phoenix, Arizona.
- Serrano, E. (2022). Healthy Food Access (Panelist). Virginia Nutrition Security and Health Summit. Richmond, Virginia.
- Serrano, E., and S. Misyak (2022). Virginia Food Security Status During the COVID-19 Pandemic: An Assessment by the Virginia Family Nutrition Program, Virginia Department of Social Services, Department of Social Services Anti-Hunger Month Lunch and Learn Series.
- Serrano, E., S. Misyak, Liebe, R. (2023). Accessibility, Quality, and Selection of Nutritious Foods Differ by Food Security Status in Virginia. International Society for Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity (ISBNPA). Uppsala, Sweden.
- Serrano, E., S. Misyak, Liebe, R. (2023). Factors that Predict Interest in Participation in Nutrition Interventions among Audiences with Low Incomes during COVID-19. International Society for Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity (ISBNPA). Uppsala, Sweden.
- Serrano., E., S. Sathe, Misyak, S. (2022). Access to Fresh Produce among SNAP-Eligible Virginians during COVID-19. Society for Nutrition Education and Behavior. Atlanta, Georgia.
- Serrano., E., S. Sathe, Misyak, S. (2022). Current Food Resource Management Skills Predict Interest in SNAP-Ed Education during COVID-19. Society for Nutrition Education and Behavior. Atlanta, Georgia.