Growing up in a village in the northern part of Germany, my summers were characterised by strawberries from our garden which we shared with visitors who were astonished about the wonderful aroma and taste of these fruits only knowing tasteless strawberries from shops. In school we learned a lot about food consisting of carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals but nothing about taste.
As a result of the Cherrnobyl nuclear catastrophe, public awareness was raised regarding food safety, and then also organic food and finally the taste of these foods. That was the time where I decided to study nutrition and home economics at the Justus-Liebig University in Giessen, Germany. I wanted to learn everything about food systems and food quality and how these affect health.
Not knowing whether to focus in my studies on international nutrition or clinical nutrition, I went as a volunteer to Sri Lanka and lived some time in a children’s home. The children had lost the knowledge that would previously have been normal in Sri Lanka. They knew how to buy food in a market but did not know to grow healthy vegetables in the garden of the home or in paddy fields, or to identify edible plants in the wild.
The decision was made and I focused in my studies on international nutrition. For my graduation I wrote a thesis about the role of indigenous plants for nutrition security. Food and nutrition security in low income countries remained my favourite topic, and I looked at the potential roles of energy saving stoves for nutrition security in Africa.
After a longer break where I mainly took care of my three children I started again in Sri Lanka, this time as a consultant for nutrition and home economics. In 2005, I took over a study on breast cancer and nutrition in the Kilimanjaro region of Tanzania which allowed me to do a PhD finally linking international nutrition and clinical nutrition. Still at the Justus-Liebig University, I am currently combining the different experiences and interests while working on a project focusing on the possible impacts of nutrition education and food security activities on the nutritional status of infant and young children in Malawi and Cambodia.