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School & Program Updates

School & Program Updates

West Virginia: Partnering with Davis College to Identify Barriers to Food Access in the Mountain State

Dr. Lauri Andress, a professor in the West Virginia University School of Public Health, has been evaluating food access across the Mountain State since she arrived at WVU in 2013. 


In a new collaborative project with Dr. Paul Kinder of the Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design, and using funding from the U. S. Dept. of Agriculture, Andress is diving deeper to identify the issues creating the “upstream” barriers to food access in the first place.


Last fall, Drs. Andress and Kinder convened experts from across the food production system in West Virginia for a food desert strategic planning workshop. Participants were asked to think about the food desert issue in terms of availability, accessibility, affordability, accommodation and acceptability.


“In each community that is suffering from high rates of obesity or diabetes there are behavioral issues at play. But food insecurity calls upon us to examine personal, social and economic factors as well,” Dr. Andress said. “Structural factors at the macro level work upstream to determine access and opportunities to attain nutritious, affordable, and acceptable food, as well.”


Their workshop helped to generate a report outlining the factors that create “food deserts” or serve as barriers to food security in West Virginia. The workshop also resulted in a prioritized list of strategies that the state can consider to address its food security problems.


Now, Dr. Andress and her team are embarking on the second phase of the project to develop a food desert framework and conduct a gap assessment across the state to determine which of the factors are controlling and resulting in food deserts.


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