Founded in 2010, Food Directions LLC, is a boutique government relations firm specializing in agriculture, food safety, and nutrition policy, led by Beth K. Johnson. Below you will find our team’s biographies.
Beth Johnson, MS, RD, Principal & Founder
Elizabeth (Beth) Johnson, MS, RD, founded Food Directions LLC in February 2010. Johnson’s unique experience and skill set helps clients gain valuable insight into the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Capitol Hill. Johnson also has strong relationships with thought leaders at NGOs, food associations, and consumer groups, which help Food Directions gain a diverse perspective on food issues. Johnson is regularly tapped to speak at food related conferences and events.
Prior to starting Food Directions LLC, Johnson served as Executive Vice President for Public Affairs for the National Restaurant Association where she oversaw government affairs, public policy and communications for the organization. In 2008, Johnson was named Acting Under Secretary for Food Safety at USDA where she lead and oversaw the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), USDA’s public health agency that ensures the nation’s commercial meat, poultry, and certain egg products are safe, wholesome, and correctly labeled and packaged. In addition to her service as Acting Under Secretary for Food Safety, Johnson was deputy chief of staff and senior advisor for the Secretary of Agriculture at USDA, where she focused on agricultural trade, animal health, food safety and nutrition. She joined the department in 2002 after nearly four years at Fleishman-Hillard, Inc., where she was a vice president with clients in the food and agriculture arena. Her previous experiences include positions as a senior professional staff member at the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry; a nutritionist at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration; and a research dietitian at USDA. Johnson also worked at the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association as associate director for food policy.
Johnson is a member of the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT), serves on the National Food Policy Conference Advisory Committee, Food Research & Action Center (FRAC) host committee, and on Dunkin Brands’ Nutrition Advisory Board and is a Food Cowboy Advisor. Johnson has been quoted in numerous media outlets including USA Today, HealthDay, Supermarket News, Food Navigator USA, AdWeek, Washington Times, Politico, and The Hill, among others.
Johnson holds a BS in Dietetics from Ball State University and an MS in Nutrition from the University of Maryland. Johnson lives in Maryland with her husband Bill and daughters Hanah (10) and Sara (13).
Want to connect with Beth directly? E-mail her at: BethJohnson@FoodDirectionsDC.com
Maggie Sommers, MS, RD, Senior Director of Food & Nutrition Policy
Maggie Sommers joined Food Directions in 2011 as the Senior Director of Food and Nutrition. Maggie manages day to day client needs, executes client projects, participates in food industry coalitions, and monitors all activities in the food space. Until May 2011, she worked as a Senior Account Executive supporting Edelman’s growing nutrition and food policy and promotion activities. Prior to this role she worked alongside Beth Johnson at the National Restaurant Association (NRA) where she maintained issue expertise for their Food and Healthy Living program at Federal, state and regulatory levels and communicated the NRA’s position on emerging nutrition public policy issues to key stakeholders.
Sommers is a member of the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics and the Food & Culinary Professionals Dietetic Practice Group. Additionally, since 2012 Sommers has served as the Public Policy Coordinator for the D.C. Metro Area Dietetic Association (DCMADA) and participates as an Advisory Council member for Common Threads, a program focused on teaching low-income children to cook wholesome and affordable meals to prevent childhood obesity. Sommers serves as Common Threads dietitian where she is responsible for the nutrition quality of the Common Thread recipes and makes recommendations to improve their healthfulness as well as reviews program curriculum and key messages.
Sommers holds a BS in health and sports studies at Miami University (Ohio) and earned a MS in the Dietetic program at Loyola University Chicago. Sommers lives in the West End neighborhood of Washington, D.C.
Want to connect with Maggie directly? E-mail her at MaggieSommers@FoodDirectionsDC.com
Ashley Cook joined Food Directions in 2011 as Manager of Policy and Regulatory Research Analysis. Ashley specializes in policy and regulatory analysis. She manages weekly newsletters and monitoring reports as well as interns’ daily activities. From planning client visits to participating in local government and industry meetings she helps keep clients connected to DC. This experience at Food Directions lends Ashley an intricate understanding of the strategies necessary to create success for clients at multiple levels of government.
Prior to starting at Food Directions, Ashley worked as a Project Manager at an IT company in Atlanta, Georgia where she served as a liaison between clients and technical analysts. In 2009 she joined the government affairs team at the Technology Association of Georgia where she helped organize and prepare research for a Legislative Roundtable to be attended by Georgia State Representatives and Georgia businesses. Her previous experiences include working at the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta in the Supervision and Regulation Department as well as the Financial Management and Planning Department.
Ashley studied at the Georgia Institue of Technology and the Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Paris; graduating with a Bachelor of Science in International Affairs and a minor in economics. Currently she is working towards a Master’s Degree in Health and Medical Policy at George Mason University. Ashley lives in Alexandria, VA.
Want to connect with Ashley directly? E-mail her at AshleyCook@FoodDirectionsDC.com
Ellen Swary joined Food Directions in May 2013 as a summer intern. Ellen is a senior at Miami University where she is seeking a degree in Nutrition and Dietetics. After graduation, Ellen plans to accept a Dietetic Internship and sit for her exam to become a Registered Dietitian.
Ellen is a member of the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics (AND) and leads Miami University’s Student Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics as Treasurer and Student Academy Liaison. On-campus, Ellen facilitates nutrition programs for collegiate athletes as well as in local public schools and community resource centers. Ellen also has prior experience working for a sustainable and organic café in her hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio.
In 2014 Ellen was promoted to Policy and Regulatory Specialist where she assists the Food Directions team by incorporating her knowledge of nutrition science, environment, trends, and federal guidance into client counsel. She also manages the FD 50- the company’s state monitoring report. Ellen currently works remotely from her college campus located in Oxford, OH.
Want to connect with Ellen directly? E-mail her at: EllenSwary@FoodDirectionsDC.com.