Food Security Projects
2021 Program Dates
June 13 - August 5, 2020
Approximately 15.8 million US households can be characterized as food insecure (USDA 2016), which is associated with a variety of negative health outcomes. “Food deserts” have been characterized broadly as areas that lack access to food, either in terms of the presence of food stores or the availability of healthy foods such as fresh fruits, vegetables, and meat, including some areas in Charlotte. Studies suggest that availability of food might be improved through work with area stores, providing alternative points of access or infrastructural changes, or empowering citizens to demand more availability. The goal of this set of projects is to assess how various programs intended to improve access to nutritious food can address either recurring or periodic needs, and how these needs are related to transportation, employment, housing, or other city planning or economic development issues.
• Collaborate with Loaves and Fishes’ food pantry on Beatties Ford Road to examine how emergency food provision intersects with longer-term food needs and related services, including the kinds of needs can emergency food programs address, and how can this or similar services help clients with recurring or periodic needs, including those related to transportation, employment, housing, or other city planning or economic development issues.
• Working with the director of the Mecklenburg County Health Department’s Healthy Corner Stores Project and convenience store owners on Beatties’ Ford Road, students could ask similar questions, and also examine interest in and responses to the project, potential incentive structures, and consumer preferences and related needs through interviews or surveys.
• At the Rosa Parks farmers’ market on Beatties Ford Road, students could examine the value of the farmers market for addressing food insecurity through observations, interviews, or surveys, assess needs of the market, and solicit strategies for addressing these. Again, students can assess how the market or similar services can help clients with recurring or periodic needs, including those related to transportation, employment, housing, or other city planning or economic development issues.
Access to healthy housing and access to healthy food are intertwining and overlapping social issues, often rooted in the same social iniquities, co-occurring in the same populations, and invoking the same questions of what factors constitute access.
A wealth of research has documented causal relationships between housing quality and negative health outcomes including (but not limited to) childhood asthma (Breysse et al. 2004; Arbes et al. 2003), child developmental issues related to heavy metal exposures (Hanna-Attisha et al. 2016), increased disability-adjusted life-years (Logue et al. 2012); self-reported overall health (Adamkiewicz et al. 2014), and MRSA colonization and infection risks (Davis et al. 2012). Characteristics of housing are also related to a wide variety of mental health outcomes, such as childhood neurological development, as well as childhood and adolescent behavior and cognitive skills (Brito and Noble, 2014).
Housing as a neighborhood-level factor predicts many outcomes related to social status, health and wellbeing, including lower levels of childhood literacy and educational attainment (Froiland et al. 2013), job security (Desmond and Gershenson, 2016), healthy food access (Hilmers et al. 2012). Neighborhoods as a function of housing also predict childhood exposure to violence (Hardaway et al. 2012) and risks of intimate partner violence (Pinchevsky and Wright, 2012), exposure to crime (Cui and Walsh, 2015) as well as a host of environmental justice issues (Wolch et al. 2014).
Goal: The goal of this project is to develop a neighborhood-level assessment of the relationships between housing characteristics and the health, wellbeing, and social status of communities in the Beatties Ford Road region.
In Mecklenburg County, historical and contemporary housing policies have created officially sanctioned as well as de facto racially and socio-economically segregated neighborhoods. Housing is a critical factor in health issues related to a host of chronic and infectious diseases as well as physical health risks. Housing predicts exposures to interior biological and chemical agents, external exposures such as drinking water and air pollution, structural deficiencies which can increase risk of injury. Housing also intersects with neighborhoods and communities to predict community-level access to education, jobs, mass transit, healthy food options and green space, as well as community-level risks of violence, crime and exposure to environmental pollutants and hazards.
A significant majority of individuals who suffer disproportionately from health disparities and who experience lower rates of access to quality healthcare and lower health insurance coverage rates are lower income, non-white residents of densely populated urban neighborhoods (Alicia-Alvarez et al. 2016). In Mecklenburg County (home to Charlotte and surrounding areas), racial disparities in healthcare access are well-documented: compared to Whites, African-Americans were 2.1 times and Hispanics were 5.8 times more likely to have no health insurance coverage in Mecklenburg County. These disparities in health insurance coverage are recapitulated in healthcare usage where cost of care is a primary barrier to access: compared to Whites, African-Americans were 2.3 times and Hispanics were 3.3 times more likely to delay seeing a doctor due to cost (Mecklenburg County Public Health Epidemiology Department, 2015). Many socioeconomic drivers and factors related to healthcare access disparities are extensively described in social science, public policy and public health research. Lower household income, employment status, marital status, and other socially-derived factors are all demonstrated to affect rates of healthcare access and health insurance coverage. Neighborhood level factors, particularly primary care infrastructure, have been shown to inform primary care usage among urban populations, including a basis for racial health disparities in health care usage and access (Ryvicker et al. 2012).
Goal: The goal of this project is to develop a neighborhood-level assessment of the relationships between socio-demographic factors such as SES, age and race/ethnicity and environmental factors such as proximity to different kinds of healthcare infrastructure and mass transit affect quantitative outcomes measuring usage of healthcare (i.e.: incidence of and reasons for ER visits, prevalence of households with primary care) as well as prevalence of different kinds of health insurance coverage and enrollment.