skip to main content


The NSF Public Access Repository (NSF-PAR) system and access will be unavailable from 10:00 PM ET on Friday, December 8 until 2:00 AM ET on Saturday, December 9 due to maintenance. We apologize for the inconvenience.

Title: Exploring rural food insecurity in North Carolina: Debunking an urban myth
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has utilized the term food desert to highlight regions within low-income communities located far from fresh and healthy sources of food such as supermarkets and farmers markets. Most research on food deserts has revolved around urban areas, which bring about other considerations such as sidewalks, pedestrian access, rideshares, and public transportation, typically not viable options in rural regions. Rural food insecurity is also a problem in North Carolina. Utilizing data provided by the United States Department of Agriculture’s Food Access Atlas, this paper explored if and to what extent rural food insecurity exists, with findings showing 1) a higher percentage of people living in rural areas live in food insecurity compared to non-rural areas 2) counties in the eastern part of the state are more prone to food insecurity and 3) racial, ethnic minorities, as well as the young (age under 17), are more subjected to food insecurity compared to the majority and older cohorts. This research highlights the need for a rigorous and comprehensive understanding of rural food security that transcends the economic, cultural, and sociological reasons of differential food access with long-term health outcomes that have multi-generational consequences.  more » « less
Award ID(s):
Author(s) / Creator(s):
; ;
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Sociation today
Page Range / eLocation ID:
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Food insecurity, an economic and social condition where households have limited access to nutritious food, is a long-standing and growing problem in both the rural and urban areas of the United States. Food deserts refer to areas that do not have adequate food access to affordable and nutritious food. Food deserts can be characterized by availability, accessibility, accommodation, affordability, and acceptability (5A’s). This research investigates food deserts in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, which includes the city of Charlotte. The food insecure population estimate in Mecklenburg County is about 15% which is higher than the national average of 11%. Using visual analytics, a combination of analytics and human factors, this study aims to examine how age, education, and income are related to food deserts in Mecklenburg County. Data gathered from US Census Bureau was used for analysis. Results indicated that education and food desert status, and age and food desert status in Mecklenburg County were related.

    more » « less
  2. Since the late 1970s, the term “colonias” (in English) has described low-income, peri-urban, and rural subdivisions north of the U.S.-Mexico border. These communities are in arid and semi-arid regions—now in a megadrought—and tend to have limited basic infrastructure, including community water service and sanitation. Recent scholarship has demonstrated how colonias residents experience unjust and inequitable dynamics that produce water insecurity in the Global North. In this review, we explain why U.S. colonias are an important example for theorizing water insecurity in the United States and beyond in the Global North. Tracing the history of water infrastructure development in U.S. colonias, we show how colonias are legally and socially defined by water insecurity. We draw on the published literature to discuss key factors that produce water insecurity in U.S. colonias: political exclusion, municipal underbounding, and failures in water quality monitoring. We show that water insecurity had led to negative outcomes—including poor water access, risks to physical health, and mental ill-health—in U.S. colonias. We present four possible approaches to improving water security in U.S. colonias: (1) soft paths & social infrastructure for water delivery, (2) decentralized water treatment approaches, such as point-of-use, point-of-entry, and fit-for-purpose systems; (3) informality, including infrastructural, economic, and socio-cultural innovations; and (4) political, policy, and law innovations and reforms. At the same time, we reflect seriously on how water security can be ethically achieved in partnership and aligning with the visions of U.S. colonias residents themselves. 
    more » « less
  3. Goller, Carlos C. (Ed.)
    ABSTRACT The global spread of the novel coronavirus first reported in December 2019 led to drastic changes in the social and economic dynamics of everyday life. Nationwide, racial, gender, and geographic disparities in symptom severity, mortality, and access to health care evolved, which impacted stress and anxiety surrounding COVID-19. On university campuses, drastic shifts in learning environments occurred as universities shifted to remote instruction, which further impacted student mental health and anxiety. Our study aimed to understand how students from diverse backgrounds differ in their worry and stress surrounding COVID-19 upon return to hybrid or in-person classes during the Fall of 2020. Specifically, we addressed the differences in COVID-19 worry, stress response, and COVID-19-related food insecurity related to race/ethnicity (Indigenous American, Asian/Asian American, black/African American, Latinx/Hispanic, white, or multiple races), gender (male, female, and gender expressive), and geographic origin (ranging from rural to large metropolitan areas) of undergraduate students attending a regional-serving R2 university, in the southeastern U.S. Overall, we found significance in worry, food insecurity, and stress responses with females and gender expressive individuals, along with Hispanic/Latinx, Asian/Asian American, and black/African American students. Additionally, students from large urban areas were more worried about contracting the virus compared to students from rural locations. However, we found fewer differences in self-reported COVID-related stress responses within these students. Our findings can highlight the disparities among students’ worry based on gender, racial differences, and geographic origins, with potential implications for mental health of university students from diverse backgrounds. Our results support the inclusion of diverse voices in university decisioning making around the transition through the COVID-19 pandemic. 
    more » « less
  4. Abstract

    Urban populations globally are expected to increase by approximately 2.5 billion by 2050. Much of this growth is taking place in African cities, where about 40% of Africans live in urban areas with populations of less than 250,000. In many of these cities, rapid urban growth has outpaced economic and social development, resulting in high levels of urban poverty and widespread food insecurity. As one response strategy, urban households may leverage their linkages with rural areas and other towns or cities to supplement their food consumption, for example through food remittances or food purchases from remote retailers. While this strategy has been found to occur among inhabitants of large cities where existing research on urban food systems and urban food linkages with other areas has focused, the dynamics in smaller cities are likely different. In this paper, we draw on data from 837 surveys collected in 2021 to investigate household food sourcing strategies across 14 urban areas in Zambia with populations less than 100,000. We find that rural-urban food linkages are dominated by grains while urban-urban food linkages are predominantly composed of higher value foods. Our data further suggest that urban area characteristics explain more of the variability in food sourcing behaviors than household level characteristics, and that urban food purchasing preferences in secondary urban areas are sensitive to the food retail landscape available to households. These relationships highlight the disparate role that rural and urban linkages play across cities of different sizes. They suggest a need for food-related policies to consider diverse urban food systems among smaller cities.

    more » « less
  5. Urbanization has caused environmental changes, such as urban heat islands (UHIs), that affect terrestrial ecosystems. However, how and to what extent urbanization affects plant phenology remains relatively unexplored. Here, we investigated the changes in the satellite-derived start of season (SOS) and the covariation between SOS and temperature ( R T ) in 85 large cities across the conterminous United States for the period 2001–2014. We found that 1) the SOS came significantly earlier (6.1 ± 6.3 d) in 74 cities and R T was significantly weaker (0.03 ± 0.07) in 43 cities when compared with their surrounding rural areas ( P < 0.05); 2) the decreased magnitude in R T mainly occurred in cities in relatively cold regions with an annual mean temperature <17.3 °C (e.g., Minnesota, Michigan, and Pennsylvania); and 3) the magnitude of urban−rural difference in both SOS and R T was primarily correlated with the intensity of UHI. Simulations of two phenology models further suggested that more and faster heat accumulation contributed to the earlier SOS, while a decrease in required chilling led to a decline in R T magnitude in urban areas. These findings provide observational evidence of a reduced covariation between temperature and SOS in major US cities, implying the response of spring phenology to warming conditions in nonurban environments may decline in the warming future. 
    more » « less