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. 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 is a member of the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics (AND) and the Chicago Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (CAND).
In May of 2014 Ellen graduated from Miami University (Ohio) with a Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology and Health. Currently, she is pursuing a Master of Science in Dietetics at Loyola University Chicago in combination with her Dietetic Internship. Ellen currently works remotely form her residence of Chicago, Illinois.
Want to connect with Ellen directly? E-mail her at: EllenSwary@FoodDirectionsDC.com.
Registered Dietitian and Certified Athletic Trainer Lindsay Yarabek joined Food Directions in September 2014. She is a recent graduate of the Virginia Tech (Northern VA) Dietetic Internship Program. During her internship, she completed clinical and food service rotations at Washington Hospital Center as well as policy-focused rotations at the American Association for Cancer Research and two offices within the Department of Health and Human Services, The Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion and The President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition. She also completed a research study on the protein catabolic loss of hospitalized patients and presented her findings at two regional conferences.
Prior to beginning her dietetic internship, Lindsay completed her Bachelor of Science degree in Sports Medicine at the University of South Florida and her Master of Science degree in Nutrition at Drexel University. During graduate school, Lindsay balanced schoolwork with multiple part-time jobs to gain a variety of experience in the nutrition field. She worked at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia as a formula technician, Eat.Right.Now as an assistant nutrition educator, the University of Pennsylvania Center for Weight and Eating Disorders as a nutrition interventionist & research assistant on multiple studies, and as a substitute site supervisor in the GlaxoSmithKline corporate fitness center.
In addition to her work at Food Directions, Lindsay is an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Health and Human Performance at Marymount University. She is also currently serving as the Volunteer Coordinator on the Board of Directors of the DC Metro Area Dietetic Association. Lindsay currently resides in Northern Virginia.
Want to connect with Lindsay directly? E-mail her at: LindsayYarabek@FoodDirectionsDC.com