Famous Black Dietitians Who’ve Impacted Nutrition

By: Crem F., Livea Centers

Meet 3 Famous African American Nutritionists Who’ve Shaped the field of Dietetics

As we Celebrate Diversity Month, we recognize the accomplishments of three famous African American female nutritionists whose life’s work has had a lasting impact on the field of nutrition and dietetics. These women not only took on the responsibility of promoting and improving the health of the community in which they worked, they also empowered people to make empowered dietary and lifestyle changes around the world.

Flemmie Pansy Kittrell

Flemmie Kittrell was born on December 25, 1904 in Henderson, North Carolina. Kittrell attended Hampton Institution in Virginia (which is now Hampton University) and received her bachelor’s of science in 1928. Kittrell’s undergraduate degree was in home economics and after encouragement from her professors, Kittrell enrolled in Cornell University in New York. There, she earned her master’s in 1930, followed by a Ph.D. in nutrition with honors in 1938. When she finished her Ph.D., Kittrell became the first African American woman to receive a doctorate in nutrition. As she began her academic career and became an increasingly famous Black dietitian, Kittrell used her foundation to change home economics and nutrition, shaping how the fields utilized scientific research and evidence to interact within a local and global context.

Lenora Moragne, PhD, MS, RD

Lenora Moragne, PhD, MS, RD, was a distinguished public servant and registered dietitian nutritionist. A leader in the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, she served on the Academy’s Board of Directors. With an illustrious career that spanned 60 years, Moragne held positions in hospitals, industry, nutrition publishing, academia and government. Her positions within the federal government include Head of Nutrition Education and Training for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service; Nutrition Coordinator at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; and a professional staff member for Senator Bob Dole, specializing in nutrition. She was the first professional female (of any race or ethnic group) to be employed by the Senate Agriculture Committee.

From 1970 until she was recruited by Dole, Moragne taught at Hunter College where she was the college’s first African American professor. During her years in Washington, D.C., she wrote nutrition legislation, improved school lunch programs and developed a pamphlet titled “Nutrition and Your Health…Dietary Guidelines for Americans 1990.” As a famous African American nutritionist, Moragne often traveled throughout the U.S. to promote nutrition and dietetics and delivered lectures to nutrition professionals.

Gladys Kidd Jennings

Famous African American nutritionist Gladys E. Kidd was also an educator, mentor, philanthropist, and granddaughter of slaves. She was born on October 11, 1925 in Columbus, Ohio, and growing up, she attended the all black elementary and middle schools. While in high school, Kidd developed an interest in hospital dietetics. In 1945 Kidd earned her B.S. from Ohio State University in Dietetics. The following year she continued her studies, enrolling in a graduate program in foods and nutrition at Washington State College (now Washington State University, WSU). In 1948 Kidd became the first African American woman and person of color to earn a master’s degree from WSU.

Thanks to the groundbreaking work of women like these, there are vastly more people of color working in the nutrition and dietetics fields today than there were 50 years ago. Although these numbers are encouraging, it is important to never forget the famous African American nutritionists and dieticians have made significant contributions to our nation’s health and wellness since the 1800s.