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.
Paige Smoyer, Food Safety Intern
Paige Smoyer is a rising senior at Penn State University-University Park, pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Food Science and a minor in International Agriculture. Paige has developed a strong interest in food safety and agricultural issues and is seeking a role in these areas after graduation. As a local, Paige is living at home in Northern Virginia for the summer.
As part of the requirements for her minor, she traveled to Paris, France in the summer of 2012 for two weeks after taking a spring semester course comparing U.S. and French agricultural systems. Through this course, she learned about issues regarding product labeling, GMO’s, animal welfare, and international trade.
During that summer, Paige also worked at Food Marketing Institute (FMI) as an intern in the Food Safety department. She focused primarily on FMI’s SafeMark food safety training program for employees in the food retail industry. At Penn State, Paige has had leadership experience as treasurer for Sigma Alpha Professional Agricultural Sorority during the 2014 calendar year, as well as a Learning Edge Academic Program (LEAP) mentor for incoming PSU freshman students during the summer of 2013. She is also an active member of the Penn State Food Science club.
Paige hopes to gain more knowledge and experience regarding food policy issues at the state, federal and international level.
Want to contact Paige directly? Email her at PaigeSmoyer@FoodDirectionsDC.com
Morgan Deihs, Nutrition Intern
Morgan Deihs is a senior at Miami University (Ohio) where she is pursuing a Nutrition and Dietetics degree. Morgan plans to seek Dietetic Internship after graduating, and eventually become a Registered Dietitian. A Chicago native, she is currently living at George Washington University.
Morgan is a member of the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics. She currently serves as co-president for Miami University’s Student Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (SAND). In addition to her duties as co-president, Morgan coordinates hands-on nutrition education programs and cooking workshops for collegiate athletes on campus. Along with her time spent at Food Directions, Morgan works as a social media/ recipe development intern for The Nutrition Twins. Prior to interning with Food Directions, Morgan had the opportunity to intern in the Nutrition Marketing Department of The Kellogg Company as well as work as work as med-staff for the Chicago Bulls Slam Dunk for Diabetes Camp.
This summer Morgan is looking forward to working with the Food Directions team to incorporate knowledge of nutrition science, environment, trends, and federal policies and guidance into client counsel. She will represent Food Directions at industry coalition meetings and legislative hearings as well as monitor state legislation related to agriculture, nutrition, and food safety. Morgan is also looking forward to organizing a Nutrition/Food Safety Meeting for other interns in the DC area at the end of July.
Want to connect with Morgan directly? Email her at: MorganDeihs@FoodFirectionsDC.com