Melissa Laska, PhD, RD

Associate Professor, Division of Epidemiology and Community Health

Melissa Laska

Contact Info

Office Phone 612-624-8832

Office Address:
300 West Bank Office Building

Mailing Address:
1300 S 2nd St
Room 300 West Bank Office Building
Minneapolis, MN 55454

PhD, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

RD, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Vanderbilt University Medical Center

BS with Honors, Cornell Unviersity


I am a nutrition specialist with a broad background in obesity prevention and behavioral epidemiology. My research investigates nutrition- and obesity-related issues among young people and their families, with particular interest in the critical transition from adolescence to young adulthood, as well as in nutrition and food environments in under-served communities. 


Equity, food & nutrition, public health nutrition, obesity prevention, food environment, food access, healthy food retail, nutrition policy, food security


Research Funding Grants

  • 12/14–11/18, NIH, "Impact of a Local Staple Food Ordinance on Food Choice and Calories Purchased," Principal Investigator
  • 7/16–6/17, NIH National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, "Project EAT-IV: Eating and Activity in Adolescents and Young Adults," Co-Investigator
  • 4/16–3/19, US Department of Health and Human Services HRSA, "Exercise Intervention for Preventing Perinatal Depression among Low Income Women," Co-Investigator
  • 2/16–1/20, NIH, "Impacts of Later High School Start Times on Adolescent Weight and Weight-Related Behavior," Co-Investigator
  • 1/16–12/19, NIH National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, "EAT 2010-2018: A Longitudinal, Multi-Contextual Study of Weight-related Problems," Co-Investigator
  • 7/15–6/18, HRSA Maternal and Child Health, "Public Health Nutrition Training Grant," Co-Investigator


See a full list of my publications on PubMed

Select Recent Publications

  • Laska MN, Caspi CE, Pelletier JE, Friebur R, Harnack LJ. Lack of healthy food in small-size to mid-size retailers participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Minneapolis–St. Paul, Minnesota, 2014. Preventing Chronic Disease. 2015; 12:E135.
  • Laska MN, VanKim NA, Erickson DJ, Lust K, Eisenberg ME, Rosser BRS. Disparities in weight and weight behaviors by sexual orientation in college students. American Journal of Public Health. 2015; 105(1):111-21.
  • Laska MN, Lytle LA, Nanney MS, Moe SG, Linde JA, Hannan PJ. Results of a 2-year randomized, controlled obesity prevention trial: Effects on diet, activity and sleep behaviors in an at-risk young adult populations. Preventive Medicine. 2016; 89:230-6.
  • Laska MN, Pelletier JE. Minimum Stocking Levels and Marketing Strategies of Healthful Foods for Small Retail Food Stores. Durham, NC: Healthy Eating Research; 2016. Available online:
  • Pelletier JE, Schreiber LRN, Laska MN. Minimum Stocking Requirements for Retailers in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children: Disparities across US States. American Journal of Public Health. In Press.


Teaching Areas

I am the director of the Public Health Nutrition program and teach courses and advise students within the program.


  • PubH 3955/6955, Using Policy to Address Child & Adolescent Obesity Prevention

Community Engagement

I serve as the co-director for the Obesity Prevention Center at the University of Minnesota, which aims to prevent obesity through interdisciplinary research, preparing the next generation of researchers, and connect the community to research on obesity prevention. 

I also serve as a Senior Research Adviser to Healthy Eating Research (HER), a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation focusing on policy strategies to promote healthy eating to prevent obesity among children and adolescents, and through this role I have developed and led several national scientific working groups and expert panels of leading scholars across the US who are conducting research on environment and policy change in US communities.



In The News

SPH News

  • Convenience Stores Promote Unhealthy Food Purchases (Read more)