The International Federation for Home Economics-United States

Join the IFHE and IFHE-US: Be a professional with global roots and a futuristic vision.


One of the biggest advantages of being a member of the IFHE is the networking and interactions possible with colleagues and friends from throughout the world. Pictured on the left are IFHE members and spouses from the UK, Canada, USA and Finland at a reception in Kyoto, Japan, site of the 2004 World Congress.


Pictured on the right is the IFHE-US Board of Directors and others at the combined IFHE-US and AAFCS Annual Meetings in San Diego, CA in 2004. Top row: Nancy Billings, Sharon McManus, Juanita Mendenhall, Mary Andrews; Seated: Ruth Norman, Mary Miller, Kitty Decker, and Alberta Hill.

The International Federation for Home Economics (IFHE) is the only international association of home economists. It traces its beginnings to an international conference that was held in Fribourg, Switzerland in 1908. Although beginning as a source of networking and resource sharing for home economics teachers, over the years a great variety of specializations have been created. Today the IFHE is designated as a Non-Governmental Organization with consultative status within the United Nations. Records suggest that the USA was a formal member from at least 1915 through the American Home Economics Association (AHEA).

In 1958 the Ninth IFHE World Congress was held in the USA. That was the first such meeting of the Congress in the U.S. It was hosted by the University of Maryland. In 1988 a second World Congress was hosted in the USA by the University of Minnesota. Pictured at the right are four past presidents of IFHE: Monica Tupay (Austria), Margaret Fitch (USA), Margaret (Patti) Dallaway (UK), and Doris Badir (Canada) standing in front of a U of MN building in 1988. Margaret Fitch (Oklahoma) was the first IFHE President from the USA serving from 1980-1984. Nancy Granovsky (Texas) was the second IFHE President from the USA serving from 1996-2000 (pictured on the left).

Formation of IFHE-US

The International Federation for Home Economics affiliate in the United States (IFHE-US) began in a structure meeting at Lake Jackson, Florida in January 1996. The formal creation of IFHE-US was with a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences (AAFCS), effective in 1999. The first meeting of the IFHE-US Board of Directors was held at the AAFCS Annual Meeting in Seattle, Washington, June 1999 with Juanita Mendenhall serving as the first President (pictured at right). At the left is a photo taken at the Seattle AAFCS Meetings in 1999 of the first IFHE-US Board of Directors (Rose Kastl, Nancy Leidenfrost, Ruth Norman, Mary Andrews, E. Joyce Richardson, (Front) Sharon Christie, Juanita Mendenhall, and Nancy Billings (missing: Alberta Hill).

For many years, within AHEA/AAFCS, an "International Division" served the international interests of members. Today that organizational format is a "community" of Global Perspectives. Membership in that group overlap the IFHE-US to a large degree, but both groups perform unique functions for their members. The leader of the AAFCS "community" serves as a member of the Board of Directors of IFHE-US to help coordinate activities.

International Historic Involvements

Members of IFHE from the United States have been involved in international work dating back to the Spanish American War, but especially accelerated during the period of "development" following the end of World War II and the Truman Doctrine (1948) that ushered in the era of U.S. Development Assistance. AHEA in 1953 held one of the first international conferences for home economists—The Home Economists in Expanding Programs of International Service at Columbia University in cooperation with the U.S. Foreign Operations Administration to help home economists be better prepared to serve those home economists who undertake work abroad in international programs. At the left is a Home Economist teaching nutrition in Nigeria in 1962. The System of Higher Education in the USA was instrumental in training many young home economics scholars from the "developing countries" of the world. AHEA helped to provide for graduate study of more than 200 students from more than 50 countries. The AHEA international scholarship program was initiated in 1930—an effort that was supported largely by member contributions to the various AHEA scholarship and fellowship programs. Today, still many scholars come to the USA for advanced degrees but they are mostly sponsored by their own governments or by personal resources. Many of these early professionals returned to their home countries to take up key teaching roles and established higher education degree programs in their Universities. They also played key professional service roles in their governments. On the right is a picture of Gwen Tonge, Director of the Ministry of Women's Affairs, Antigua and Penny Ralston, Dean, Florida State University.


Internationalizing the Profession

In 1970, the President of AHEA, Lela O'Toole wrote: DIMENSIONS OF LONG-TIME CONCERN TO THE AHEA: The American Home Economics Association has a long history of international and intercultural commitment and involvement both through activities of its individual members and through the Association at large. The AHEA recognizes the challenges of intercultural and world affairs and the need for its membership to develop qualities which contribute to world citizenship and cultural understanding.

A major impetus to internationalize our home economics curriculum and to serve home economists abroad, came with the formation of a role within AHEA for International Programs. Helen Strow led that effort at AHEA and managed a major USAID funded project, The American Home Economics Association International Family Planning Project. This project, (1971-75) involved curricular improvements in home economics education programs in many countries to include issues of population education. Over 500 of the books and bulletins that Helen collected over the years were deposited into a special collection at Michigan State University in 1993: The Helen Strow International and Historic Home Economics Collection. This collection includes many of the resources created during that USAID project as well are early documents ushering in the era of Women in Development. Later, in 2006, Dr. Nancy Leidenfrost added to that collection by placing many of the international books and files that were left at AAFCS headquarters along with her own international files. These resources were collected over the decades while Nancy worked for the USDA.

A continuing goal of IFHE-US and the International Division/Community of AAFCS is to serve the educational needs of members to "internationalize" the profession. One strategy has been through workshops and educational sessions at AHEA/AAFCS Annual Conferences. Twenty years ago the IFHE/AHEA liaison committee and all eight of the AHEA sections organized the first of a number of pre/post-conference workshops, “Professional Practices with a Global Perspective”. That 1991 two-day post-conference workshop was held to showcase the international educational activities of members of AHEA and the overall theme of that Annual Meeting was “Linking Visions…Global Opportunities”. One outgrowth of that conference was a strong commitment to support the UN designated “International Year of the Family (IYF)” in 1994. One of the major contributions of the U.S. to that decade-long world-wide education and advocacy effort was the development of a set of papers in the form of a resource book, Families in Transition, edited by Nancy Leidenfrost. Pictured at the right is Nancy handing over the book to Henryk J.Sokalski, the UN Director of the Social Development Division and Coordinator of the International Year of the Family.

A more recent example of reaching out to encourage internationalization of the profession was the 2007 Summit session at AAFCS Annual Meeting in Reno, NV. At the left are panel members Sidiga Wahsi (Sudan), Janett Gibbs (GA), Deborah Tippett (NC) Mary Andrews (MI), Tahira Hira, Chair (IA) and Leah Kagima (IA).

Another format for member education has been a series of workshops held at the UN in New York. These sessions have been organized by Ruth Norman and other AAFCS Representatives to the United Nations (i.e. Mary Miller pictured). Here participants are talking at a reception held during a 2006 Workshop during the meetings of the Commission on the Status of Women.


In 1997 the International Division of AAFCS implemented a member inventory of international activities. Of the database of 321 names in the Division, 63 persons responded by providing information about their international involvements. A wide range of international affiliations, attendance at professional meetings, travel experiences, work assignments and outreach efforts were described by members. The most common avenue of involvement was through the International Federation for Home Economics, followed by individual discipline-based organizations (i.e. British Nutrition Society), the American Peace Corps and religious affiliated activities. Key honors were membership in Phi Beta Delta, the International Scholars Honor Society and the receipt of Fulbright Scholarships or Fellowships.

Humanitarian and Development Assistance

IFHE-US took the lead within IFHE to create a set of working guidelines to help individual countries and regions to establish "Development Funds". The IFHE-US Development Fund has built the largest endowment and has dispersed grant funds to five projects to improve home economics programming in developing countries. In the picture below, Duncan and Pamela from the Dago Dala project in Kenya received a Development Fund grant in 2008 to provide school benches for Aids orphans and to teach instructors nutrition to improve the health practices of the project. Other funded projects are located in the Caribbean, Virgin Islands, Kenya and South Africa.

Monies are solicited from members and friends in many ways to build the Fund resources. Here Carolyn Blount, former IFHE Development Fund Committee Chair, is pictured with the first of three quilts constructed by Carolyn from squares contributed by members. Two of these quilts were raffled-off during IFHE Congresses, and a third was donated to the IFHE Headquarter's office in Bonn.

For the IFHE-US Development Fund, an "International Cultural Event" is organized prior to each AAFCS Annual Meeting to raise monies. These evenings include dinner and speakers or folkloric presentations by local ethnic groups. Participants in the evening event highlighting the Hmong Culture are pictured at the left in 2005 in Minneapolis, MN. Events such as this have highlighted the Basque Culture in Reno, NV; Comparison of South Africa and Southern U.S. in Charlotte, NC; "a Mosaic of Cultures" in Milwaukee, WI; a talk from a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer to Lithuania in San Diego, CA; understanding the power of private sector contributions such as the Red Cross in Washington DC; a taste of colonial history in Providence, RI; etc. The first evening fund-raising event was set in Carolyn and Dick Blount's home during the Seattle Meetings in 1999--our first event for the newly established IFHE-US!

Our first IFHE-US project with funds received from outside the organization was the Monsanto Fund Project managed by Joanne Pearson (VA), The Improving Nutritional Health with School Gardens in Moldova Project (2006-2007). This 30 month project trained teachers and administrators of 50 auxiliary/boarding schools in Moldova to develop school gardens and to use the produce to improve the nutritional status of the school children. Along with a variety of vegetable seeds, the project distributed fruit trees, berry bushes, supplies to prepare several greenhouses, a variety of gardening tools, and juice-making equipment. Volunteers Caryl Johnson (NM)(pictured below far right) and Dee Collins (TN)(far left) joined Joanne Pearson (next to Dee) and several members of the IFHE Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) Outreach Committee, along with university, government and extension personnel from Moldova in leading the two-day training workshop. This project was jointly led by IFHE-US, the IFHE CEE Committee, and Partenaires, an NGO in Moldova.

Humanitarian Assistance has also been high on the priorities of members of IFHE-US. In response to the devastating hurricane that swept through the island of Grenada in September 2004, a call went out to all AAFCS and IFHE-US members to donate to a relief effort. The target of assistance was the Department of Education and resupplying the home economics classrooms across the country. Aid came in the form of money, to be used to ship donated items and generous contributions of supplies including sewing machines, food preparation equipment, canning equipment, patterns/thread/notions and a wide variety of teaching materials. Shipments continued from 2005 through 2006. On the left, the American Ambassador officially reopens schools in Grenada and thanks those who helped to refurbish the schools. Allison Parke, Grenada Supervisor of Home Economics came to the AAFCS Annual Meeting in Minneapolis (2005) to talk about the relief effort and the importance of our contributions. Eight middle school home economics classrooms were supplied with educational materials and equipment thanks to U.S. contributions. Members have also contributed to reestablishing home economics programs in Liberia after the civil war in the late 1990's and to assist home economists in Antigue after a major hurricane in 1989. Today a major initiative is underway to create a "Disaster Assistance" committee within the worldwide IFHE organization to combine efforts across countries and regions.

Recognizing Member International Efforts

A major effort within AAFCS and IFHE-US during the past decade has been "Project Identify" (2002-2008)--led by Janett Gibbs (GA) and Rita Wood (NJ). This project sought-out and identified home economist/family consumer scientists who were or had served in the military. Below is a picture of the presentations at the Navel Center in San Diego in 2004. Throughout the life of this project, persons identified as having home economics backgrounds and serving in the military were given a specially designed pin and a certificate of honor recognizing their service. The first recognition ceremony was held at the "American Memorial for Women in Military Service" at Arlington National Cemetery in 2003.

In celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the United States Peace Corps, a similar effort to "Project Identify" is underway. IFHE-US and AAFCS Global Perspectives Community are organizing a database of former and current Peace Corps Volunteers with home economics/FCS backgrounds or assignments. A special session was held at the AAFCS Annual Meetings in Phoenix, AZ, June 23-25, 2011 to highlight our HE/FCS contributions to international development. View a set of Case Studies of Home Economists/Family Consumer Scientists in the Peace Corps.

Miscellaneous Pictures of IFHE-US and AAFCS Community of Global Perspectives Members:

Jenny Schroeder(OH) talking with Marguerite Scruggs (OK)Nancy St. John and Kay  Wilder at Cultural Event, San Diego Sharon McManus with Guest Speakers at Reno NV International Guests MN, Kaija Turkki (Finland), Vinita Narula (India) Allison Parke (Granada) Carolyn Blount (WA) with First Fund Raiser Quilt AAFCS Global Perspectives Community Planning Meeting IFHE-US Board Members with Guests, MN 2005IFHE-US Board of Directors 2008IFHE Board of Directors 2009IFHE-US Leadership, 2006