Melissa Fuster, PhD

Associate Professor

Melissa Fuster, smiling, red, white, black background

Education & Affiliations

PhD, Food Policy and Applied Nutrition, Tufts University
MS, Food Policy and Applied Nutrition, Tufts University
BA, Sociology and Anthropology, Florida International University


Dr. Fuster’s research examines the contextual factors influencing food practices and the policies and interventions implemented to improve them. This work applies a multidisciplinary and intersectional approach to examine underlying social determinants of diet-related health inequities, with a focus on Latin American communities and its diaspora communities. Her community-based research experience has sought to address diet-related disparities, aiming to shift emphasis to upstream approaches that engage the structural factors that underlie access to healthy food and high-quality healthcare. This was the subject of her first book, Caribeños at the Table: How Migration, Health, and Race Intersect in New York City. Building on this work, Dr. Fuster’s is currently tackling food access issues via the Latin American Restaurants in Action (LARiA) Project, supported by an NIH/NHLBI Career Development (K01) Award. The LARiA Project applies systems science, design thinking, and implementation sciences to engage Latin restaurants in designing and implementing innovations to facilitate healthier eating. Additionally, she also engages in research examining nutrition expert perceptions and practice, and food policy implementation. She completed her Ph.D. in Food Policy and Applied Nutrition at the Tufts University Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, and a post-doctoral fellowship in food studies at New York University. Before joining the faculty at Tulane, she was an Assistant Professor at the City University of New York Brooklyn College.

Research Areas

  • Diet-related health disparities
  • Food security
  • Food environments
  • Social determinants of health
  • Latin America and the Caribbean

Honors & Awards

  • 2020-2022: NIH-NHLBI Loan Repayment Award
  • 2019-2024: Career Development Award (K01)
  • 2017-2018: Mellon Foundation Fellowship, CUNY Faculty Diversity Initiative
  • 2017-2018: Fellow/Trainee, NHLBI Program to Increase Diversity among Individuals Engaged in Health-Related Research (NHLBI-PRIDE), Research in Implementation Science for Equity (RISE)
  • 2017: CUNY Faculty Fellowship Program
  • 2015: NYU Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies Travel Award
  • 2013-2015: NYU Provost Postdoctoral Fellowship
  • 2013: Latin American Studies Association Travel Grant
  • 2012: American Society for Nutrition Maximising Access to Research Careers (MARC) Travel Award
  • 2009-2011: Tufts University Provost Fellowship


Please see Dr. Fuster's publications at the NCBI Publications Page and Google Scholar.