Examining Disparities in Food Access and Enhancing Food Security in Underserved Populations (2014)

Client Organization: 
Project Location : 
Michigan. This project can include other states depending on student interest.
Secondary Client Organization: 
United States Department of Agriculture
Summary of Project Idea: 

Michigan is a state in which food insecurity and lack of access to healthy foods are major concerns. Michigan is an important case study for what has become a global problem. In recent years there has been a rise in food insecurity globally and policymakers and practitioners alike are seeking solutions. The global trends are mirrored in the United States as millions of Americans are food insecure. Our research is aimed at understanding the disparities in access to healthy foods in the state of Michigan. Our goal is to promote strategies for enhancing food security of underserved populations in the state. This involves examining: school meals, farmers' markets, urban farms and community gardens, and small scale farms to improve access across the state to healthy, locally-grown foods. 

Skills/Expertise Needed: 
  • Good research skills (interviewing, conducting focus groups, administering surveys, familiarity with GIS techniques)
  • Good analytic skills (spatial and statistical analysis)
  • Good writing skills, publication (for popular and scholarly outlets)
  • Familiarity with spreadsheets and statistical packages (such as Excel, SPSS, and similar software)
  • Familiarity with communicating through the Web
  • Lobbying, policy analysis, and policymaking
  • Community organizing (working with community groups and low-income individuals)
  • Stakeholder identification and inclusion
  • Grant writing
  • Strategic planning
  • Agriculture, urban farming, or urban gardening
  • Nutrition and health
  • Business analysis
  • Curriculum development
  • Teaching and training
Secondary Client Confirmed: 
SEAS Program Areas: 
Environmental Policy and Planning
Environmental Informatics
Environmental Justice
Sustainable Systems
Professional Career Development Benefits: 
  • Research Methods - sampling, survey design and administration, interviewing, focus groups
  • Spatial analysis - data collection for GIS analysis, analytic techniques
  • Data analysis - qualitative and quantitative analytic techniques
  • Writing - producing publishable materials for scholarly outlets and lay audiences.  Findings from this project will be published on the Web as well as in scholarly journals, and the news media.
  • Curriculum design and development
  • Policy formulation
  • Lobbying
  • Students will make contacts with:  farmers, farmers' markets, food store owners/managers, food justice advocates, health professionals, state and county health departments, state and county agriculture departments, other relevant social justice advocates and policy makers
  • Findings of the project can be presented at local, regional and national meetings such as the Agriculture and Human Values Conference and the American Sociological Association.
Funding Sources: 

This is a USDA project that has already been funded for five years for $4,000,000.  Additional funding for the Master's Project can be sought from SNRE, Rackham, and sources funding food security issues.

Identify expected products/deliverables: 
  • Spatial analysis of the distribution of food outlets in Michigan - identify food oases and food deserts and relationship to demographic characteristics
  • Report detailing stakeholder perceptions of food access and food insecurity in Michigan
  • Policy analysis and recommendations regarding enhancing food access in Michigan
  • One graduate and one undergraduate food insecurity course
  • Food security briefings
  • Published articles disseminating the findings
  • A master's project report
  • News reports in the media
  • Increased access to raised bed gardens
Contact full name: 
Dorceta E. Taylor
Job title: 
Ann Arbor
State or Country: 
SEAS Faculty Advisor: 
Dorceta E. Taylor
Contact Phone: 
Advisor Confirmed: 
Contact e-mail: 
Contact information: 
Member of a SNRE/Erb advisory committee
Master Students Involved in Project: 
  • Stephen Ahn, MBA/MS Sustainable Systems
  • Kenneth Johnson, MBA/MS Environmental Justice/Sustainable Systems
  • Mary Lutton, MS Environmental Justice
  • Ima Otudor, MS Sustainable Systems
  • Juliana Pino, MS Environmental Policy and Planning
  • Mark Yoders, MS Environmental Informatics
  • Connie Yu, MBA/MS Sustainable Systems
Project Status: 
Past Project