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Kawther Hasham

Alumna from Centre for Food Policy

Diary of a….Researcher, Nutritionist and Campaigner at Action on Sugar

Kawther Hashem is a Researcher, Nutritionist and Campaigner at Action on Sugar. She lives in London, studied her master’s in Food Policy at City University London, and describes what it’s like to be at the forefront of the debate on sugar consumption.

I start my day…

With a milky earl grey tea. People think it’s an odd combination but I like it that way. The dynamics of my tea are very important to me!

My working day…

is usually completely manic. There is so much interest sugar consumption at the moment, we’re incredibly busy. I consider myself very lucky to be involved with this campaign at this stage.

If it’s a day when we’re releasing a big piece of work to the press, then I start very early, finalising the survey, checking the products and figures and liaising with our PR Manager. We’ll then spend the day confirming interviews with Sky News, the BBC, Channel 4 and sending information to any companies implicated in the research.

On the day of interviews I’ll be up at 5am and might be doing interviews across London for 12 hours. It’s mad but usually very memorable. I used to be a bit nervous, but once you know the facts, you tend to enjoy it more and find it pretty exciting.

On a more normal day, we’ll be planning, reading academic papers, having meetings with various non-government organisations on how to align policies as well as liaising with the companies we are trying to influence.

I’ll usually have lunch at my desk, but of course there are some unspoken rules about what to eat in a team of nutritionists! Can you imagine if we all ate crisps every day? I’m bored of sandwiches so I try to be healthy and creative, making massive salads from quinoa or lentils.

I am responsible for…

a wide range of activities. From conducting initial research and doing all the data analysis, to working out how we need to communicate it. You have to be a bit of an all-rounder who is prepared to do a lot of the leg work and then stand up and talk about it.

The people I work with are…

massively passionate about nutrition and food. They have loads of ideas, and because we are a small team of nutritionists or academics we can bounce those ideas off each other.

My greatest work achievement...

was being interviewed by John Snow on Channel 4. I was terrified at first, and really had to be convinced to do it. He was lovely, and took the time to ensure he was pronouncing my name correctly. I even took a selfie with him.

How I made my career choice...

When I originally chose my A’ Levels I was unsure of what I really wanted to do. I thought maybe I wanted to be a teacher, but I was also interested in the two diverse topics of Economics and Nutrition.  After graduating with my BSc, the area of food and nutrition still interested me, but within the context of understanding how global food decisions are made. My first role out of university was for Unilever, which gave me a solid grounding, but I felt I had a pull towards public health and so moved onto to a role with Sustain: the alliance for better food and farming, campaigning on issues related to children’s food such as advertising to children and the reduction of salt, sugar and fat in those products.

It was while I was at Consensus Action on Salt and Health that I also studied for the MSc Food Policy at City University. It was so beneficial to work first and then realise what I was passionate about, so I could make the right choice about which, if any, master’s would help me take my career to the next step.

I had previously met Professor Tim Lang, the then Director of the Centre for Food Policy before and was struck by how knowledgeable he was, how well regarded in the sector and how so many people I met at CASH and other similar organisations had taken the MSc and attributed career success to it.

The course just joined everything together for me, gave me such a good understanding of global issues from agriculture, to supply chain to the marketing of products and the longer term impacts on the public’s health. The MSc Food Policy at City gave me the foundation for building my career and into my role at Action on Sugar. I’m now I’m going on to do my PhD.

At the end of the day...

After a day of media interviews, I just tend to crash out!

Outside of work...

It’s a bit of a cliché but I really do love to cook. It’s a bit of a competition for me to show how many different coloured vegetables I’ve managed to get into a veggie pasta. I like yoga, and wish I could socialise more, it’s just not easy when you’re so busy.