Karina Díaz Rios, PhD, RD

Cooperative Extension Specialist in Nutrition

Dr. Díaz Rios is a community nutrition researcher and Registered Dietitian, credentialed both in Mexico and in the US. She specializes in nutrition education and has broad experience assessing, diagnosing, treating, and monitoring diet-related conditions, both in clinical and research settings. Her work focuses on creating and evaluating interventions that apply behavior change theory and cross-cultural adaptation principles to promote healthy eating and feeding practices among populations vulnerable to malnutrition. As part of this work, she develops and validates tools to assess eating behaviors and related psychosocial mediators. In collaboration with the GFI Basic Needs Workgroup at UC Merced, she is currently supporting efforts to explore food access needs among college students to inform food security interventions. Dr. Díaz Rios enjoys outdoor activities and food adventures, and deeply treasures spending time with friends and family, especially her nieces and nephews in Mexico.

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Francisco Ortiz

Fransisco graduated from UC Merced with a B.A. in Political Science. He is currently pursuing a PhD in Public Health. He is originally from Aguascalientes, Mexico, and immigrated to Richmond, California when he was 3 years old. He has worked for the UC Merced Blum Center for 2 years, where he lead the Student Action Council for the Eradication of Poverty and Inequality. In this role, he utilized data to inform decisions and advocate for space to open an on-campus pantry; he also connected with the local homeless shelter and on-campus organizations to increase capacity to offer food services. During his final year as an undergraduate, he began working with Dr. Díaz Rios on a project that involved conducting micro focus groups to evaluate Basic Need’s services, and understand culture barriers to food access for students at UC Merced. He is interested in continuing his work of service evaluation to further understand barriers to food access and nutrition education, and better services at UC Merced.

Sigry Ortiz Flores

Sigry is a fourth-year student majoring in Biological Sciences, Human Biology emphasis. She was born in Guatemala and immigrated to Los Angeles, California when she was two years old. She is passionate about helping others and strives to become a physician to provide medical care to families in the Central Valley. In her role as USDA-HSI Scholar and more recently as UC Global Food Initiative Fellow, she works closely with Dr. Diaz Rios to help gather and analyze information related to basic, food, and educational needs to improve students’ nutrition outcomes and financial literacy at UC Merced.

Elizabeth Rodriguez Cruz

Elizabeth is a former undergraduate student at UC Merced where she completed a B.A. in Public Health. For three years she collaborated with the UC Global Food Initiative Basic Needs workgroup, specifically to establish the Bobcat Pantry on Campus and conduct nutrition education workshops. In addition, she collaborates with Dr. Díaz Rios to assess basic needs among underrepresented minority students at the UC Merced campus.  She is interested in continuing her work in nutrition and diet-related diseases among minority groups.

Samantha Patricia Navarro

Samantha is a first-generation Latina transfer student from Modesto Junior College majoring in Psychology. She is a native of the Central Valley and is interested in pursuing graduate school at UC Merced in Psychological Sciences. As a USDA-HSI Scholar she is analyzing data with Dr. Diaz Rios on a project focused on pedagogic strategies used in nutrition education interventions. In addition, she is working with Dr. Rudy Ortiz and his team in the USDA Hispanic Education Training Program which is geared towards enhancing post-secondary education for underrepresented groups. Some of her favorite hobbies include bike riding with her family and volunteering with local community organizations.

Edelis Diaz Machado

Edelis was born in Cuba and migrated to the United States when she was 10. She is currently majoring in Human Biology at UC Merced. She plans to pursue a career in the medical field once she graduates and return to the Central Valley to serve the community.  In her role as a UC Global Food Initiative Fellow, she worked with Health Promotion and Dr. Díaz Rios on a project to assess food-related needs of UC Merced students. In her spare time, she loves to hang out with friends, spend time with family, and go to the beach.