One alumna helps bring healthy food choices to underserved communities

Alysa Moore '14

Alysa Moore ‘14 was in the midst of rigorous studies at Emory University when she learned that over 1.4 million people in Georgia are considered food insecure and receive federal nutrition assistance.

When she began volunteering at Wholesome Wave Georgia, a nonprofit organization in Atlanta that helps Georgians gain access to “fresh, wholesome and locally grown food,” her passion for the health of humanity, which first blossomed as a student in an Auburn University lab, found its niche in food access.

After graduating from Emory University in 2016 with a Master’s in Public Health, that passion for helping others got her a job with the Atlanta non-profit Captain Planet Foundation, where she managed a program that puts school gardens all over metro-Atlanta and the country.

“I was able to work with teachers to help them understand how to use the gardens as an outdoor learning laboratory in a really active way,” said the 28-year-old Atlanta resident. “It was a really cool gig.”

Practical and impactful, Moore could see the changes up close.

In Summer 2018, Moore returned to Wholesome Wave Georgia, this time as a full-time employee. In her current role, Moore works with a program called Georgia Fresh for Less that “promotes healthy and affordable eating habits” by matching SNAP/EBT dollars — dollar for dollar — at farmers markets around the state.

“It’s a dream job,” said Moore. Her work with both non-profits taught her how important the public health field is to society. “Public health is helping people at scale; if a doctor helps individuals, a public health practitioner helps entire populations [avoid having] to go to the doctor’s office. It encompasses so many different areas.”

While working for Wholesome Wave, she met her wife, bought a house in metro-Atlanta — a feat, nowadays — and built the life she knows now in the city. And her time at Auburn had a lot to do with that. “When I arrived at Auburn, I was a pretty straight-laced kid,” she said. “I was a square. I didn’t know how to cut loose, have fun, have conversations with strangers and be a part of a community. I learned how to do that at Auburn.”

She attributes the “fun lessons” to her freshman year, 2011, being a championship-winning year — a time for anyone and everyone to celebrate.

But, like for many Auburn students, her four years were also chock-full of studies and challenges. She worked in an Auburn lab studying water-borne diseases for three years and after graduation, she was ready to continue working in a lab. She thought she might want to work for the Center for Disease Control, specifically studying water-borne infectious diseases and illnesses, but life took her in another direction.

“I didn’t end up in infectious disease research like I had thought, and I landed in food access, but that’s the beauty of the field,” she said. “It’s everywhere. It’s more an approach to addressing health problems. That’s what I like about it.”

A Wholesome Wave Georgia School Event
One of Wholesome Wave Georgia’s in-school events

Once again, she’s landing in a new space in her field. In the fall, Moore will leave Wholesome Wave Georgia and head to Maxwell Air Force Base for Public Health Officer training in Montgomery.

“It’s a new way to serve in a way I have never tried,” she said.

Public Health officers are “responsible for preventing and controlling the spread of diseases,” and assist in “caring for the health of [US] Airmen,” according to the Airforce website. Moore had considered joining the service earlier in life, but revisited the idea recently. With the support of her wife, she decided it was time.

Working for the federal government will be different than anything Moore has known before, and she expects there to be some necessary acclimation. In her non-profit work, she was able to see immediate impact from her work — she could go out and speak with the people she was working to serve, she said. The work she’s moving into with government service will have a different shape and feel to it. It won’t be completely foreign though, as her father served in the US Air Force when she was growing up.

After a few months in training, she will move to her first duty station. Moore said she’s feeling the nerves of the switch, but the excitement is there too.

“I’m preparing mentally and physically to go to officer training,” she said. “I know it’s going to be difficult, but also really fun. As much as I love the work I’ve done, I see an opportunity for me to have a huge impact working with the Air Force,” she said.