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Child Nutrition Policy Senior Researcher, Deputy Area DirectorJob ID 1754-7
Mathematica applies expertise at the intersection of data, methods, policy, and practice to improve well-being around the world. We collaborate closely with public- and private-sector partners to translate big questions into deep insights that improve programs, refine strategies, and enhance understanding. Our work yields actionable information to guide decisions in wide-ranging policy areas, from health, education, early childhood, and family support to nutrition, employment, disability, and international development. Mathematica offers our employees competitive salaries, and a comprehensive benefits package, as well as the advantages of being 100 percent employee owned. As an employee stock owner, you will experience financial benefits of ESOP holdings that have increased in tandem with the company’s growth and financial strength. You will also be part of an independent, employee-owned firm that is able to define and further our mission, enhance our quality and accountability, and steadily grow our financial strength.
Mathematica is seeking Senior Researchers to lead research and evaluation projects to support the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), as well as state and local agencies, school food authorities, and other organizations, that implement child nutrition programs. In particular, we are seeking candidates with expertise in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), School Breakfast Program (SBP), Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), or Child Adult Food Care Program (CACFP) and a range of methodological skills to lead evaluations of these programs. Some examples of recent projects include:
- Examining the nutritional quality and cost of school meals and associations with student participation, dietary intakes, and plate waste and describing the characteristics of school food environments and policies and practices
- Providing federal staff with support to conduct research and analysis of child nutrition program data, annual surveys of state agencies and school food authorities, and secondary analysis of state administrative data to monitor child nutrition programs
- Evaluating the impact of child nutrition programs on the diet quality and health outcomes of program participants and assessing the costs of meeting existing nutrition standards for schools participating in NSLP and SBP
- Leading a nationally representative study of providers and children that participate in the CACFP to examine outcomes measuring provider wellness policies and practices, nutritional quality, and cost of producing CACFP meals and snacks, plate waste, and children’s dietary intakes
- Describing WIC agency staff perspectives on why children discontinue participation in WIC and their recommendations for policies and practices that could improve child retention
- Overseeing the administration of qualitative interviews with state WIC, Medicaid, and vital record agencies to assess the impact of WIC on birth outcomes and healthcare utilization
- Working collaboratively with school food authorities to iteratively test implementation strategies and gather information on their success, using techniques such as rapid cycle evaluation
- Assessing how federal, state, and local child nutrition agencies collect, validate, and use data for program monitoring and program improvement and what technical assistance is needed
Senior researchers will join our large, interdisciplinary staff with backgrounds in public policy, sociology, economics, social work, psychology, and data science in the Children, Youth, and Families (CYF) division within the Human Services unit. The senior researchers will contribute to continuing growth in the CYF division by directing projects, identifying and obtaining new opportunities, designing and leading analyses and evaluation activities, and mentoring staff.
Responsibilities may include:
- Design studies, determine appropriate analytic methods, and conduct analyses to evaluate child nutrition policies, review and synthesize existing evidence, draft briefs and reports, and develop data visualizations to enhance the accessibility of findings
- Support child nutrition program administrators and policymakers in their decision-making by cleaning, organizing, analyzing, and presenting large amounts of data
- Coordinate the cleaning of large, complex data sets and lead quantitative analyses to estimate nutrition-related outcomes
- Lead coding work using USDA’s nutrient and food group databases
- Engage with FNS, state, and local staff to understand the challenges they face and develop, implement, or test strategies for improving program performance and services
- Design analyses of child nutrition data, policy, regulations, and operations
- Engage with groups of clients and community groups to build trust and rapport, gather input, and provide thoughtful recommendations
- Communicate with team members, clients, and external experts on design and technical issues, and in project reports and presentations
- Contribute to business development and proposals for new projects for FNS, other government agencies, and foundations
- Provide thought leadership in the area of children, youth, and families through communications, publications, and conferences in professional, practitioner, and research settings
- Present findings and develop innovative approaches to disseminating information to policy, practitioner, and researcher audiences
- Mentor other research staff working in the CYF division
- Conduct case studies of state-specific policies and practices related to child nutrition program administration, including conducting semi-structured interviews with agency staff, reviewing state documents describing policies and guidelines, and conducting focus groups with program staff to highlight best practices that can be shared with other states
- Work collaboratively to improve programs using rapid cycle learning to iteratively test implementation strategies and gather information on their success
- Ph.D. or equivalent in public policy, social work, economics, sociology, psychology, or a related field; a combination of equivalent education and work experience is acceptable
- Strong quantitative and/or qualitative analytical skills
- Excellent written and oral communication skills, including an ability to translate complex research methods and findings into non-technical language suitable for program practitioners, policymakers, state and federal agency staff, and program funders
- Extensive knowledge of NSLP, SBP, WIC, CACFP, SFSP, and other child nutrition programs
- Experience working with or evaluating programs/interventions designed to support children, youth, and families through improving child nutrition program operations
- Evidence of successful business development activities with FNS and/or non-profit or public agencies
- Strong interpersonal skills, including a demonstrated ability to deal tactfully and diplomatically with clients
- Five or more years of experience working on projects focused on estimating nutrition-related outcomes (such as the Healthy Eating Index and usual nutrient intakes) is desirable
- Direct experience working with FNS or other USDA agencies at the state, regional, and national levels is desirable
Senior researchers are expected to devote most of their time to leading projects and engaging in business development. However, Mathematica is also seeking a Deputy Area Director of nutrition research who will contribute to strategic development of the nutrition area under the guidance of the Director. Responsibilities of the Deputy Area Director of the Nutrition Area include:
- Collaborate with the Nutrition Area Director to develop and execute the strategy, emphasize growth consistent with strategic priorities (such as data analytics, equity, providing technical assistance to program staff, and expanding our advisory services work at FNS)
- Learn about the nutrition projects and type of work conducted by partners and potential partners
- Engage with current and potential FNS federal clients to better understand their needs and raise their awareness of our capabilities. Develop an empathetic understanding of these clients
- Engage with partners and potential partners to develop opportunities for joint proposals and projects
- Help identify needs for recruiting, staff capacity, and training to support growth
- Identify thought leadership activities to inform the field and raise our profile with clients
- Help lead staff meetings to improve client-centered approaches including understanding client needs and developing empathy for clients
- Foster staff relationships with area clients
- Contribute to change initiatives and drive adoption of changes that improve our ability to meet existing and emerging client needs
- Serve in proposal leadership roles on key proposals and provide guidance to proposal teams across FNS program areas, particularly related to insights on client needs and expectations
- Promote innovation on proposals. Share insights, innovations, and lessons learned across proposal teams
Please submit a cover letter; CV, and a writing sample or presentation on a policy-related topic for a relevant area that demonstrates analysis skills (published report or brief, a meeting design or summary, or a tool or resource for practitioners). Candidates who wish to be considered for the Deputy Area Director position in addition to the Senior Child Nutrition Researcher position should state their interest and describe their experience leading business development and proposals for FNS in the cover letter.
Mathematica offers a strong benefits package, which includes a profit-sharing 401(k) plan, health, dental, disability, and life insurance plans, comprehensive paid time off, and tuition benefits. Training and professional development are also provided.
We take pride in our employees and in their commitment to excellence. We encourage staff to collaborate in developing creative solutions to difficult problems and to share the responsibility and enjoyment of carrying out complex projects. This collegial spirit has helped us earn our reputation for innovative and high quality work. As a winner of the "Excellence in Diversity Award," we know that building an inclusive culture based on the diverse strengths of employees from different backgrounds is key to our success.
One of Mathematica’s core values is a deep commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. Our research is more robust because it is informed by a variety of diverse perspectives, and our mission to improve societal well-being is strengthened by a greater understanding of issues and challenges facing the populations we serve. Mathematica’s ongoing commitment to diversity and inclusion is woven into our everyday actions, policies, and practices—including decisions regarding recruitment, training, compensation, and promotion. We are dedicated to maintaining a work environment in which everyone is treated with respect and dignity. We offer Employee Resources Groups on a variety of topics, local diversity and inclusion activities in each office, and a Diversity council.
This position offers an anticipated annual base salary of $115,000 - $155,000. This position may be eligible for a discretionary bonus based on company and individual performance.
Available locations: Princeton, NJ; Washington, DC; Chicago, IL; Oakland, CA; Cambridge, MA; Seattle, WA; Ann Arbor, MI; Remote
We are an Equal Opportunity Employer and do not discriminate against any employee or applicant for employment because of race, color, sex, age, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, status as a veteran, and basis of disability or any other federal, state or local protected class.