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During the past 18 months, several Consumption Team members hosted events that shared some of the results of the EFSNE project to engage community members on food and agriculture issues in their particular locations. The events, funded by a separate NIFA conference grant, were as diverse as the communities themselves. In some cases they resulted in new on-the-ground efforts to promote food access. These activities sought to stimulate thinking around taking regional level data on food and agricultural sectors and applying it to the local context.
Although more than half of the food-producing farmland in the Northeast U.S. is devoted to producing animal feeds and forages, the region still relies on additional imports to meet the needs of its livestock operations, according to several members of the Production Team. Their findings build on earlier work to provide a more complete picture of how self-reliant the region is in meeting its population’s demand for animal-based foods like meat, dairy, and eggs.
Congratulations to Dr. John Eshleman, who received his doctoral degree from Penn State earlier this year. While conducting his dissertation research, Eshleman also was a student member of the EFSNE project’s Consumption team for more than three years and served as a member of its administrative team as well.
After five years co-leading this eCoP, Brian Raison handed over the reins to Kathleen Liang who moved from UVM to assume the Kellogg Endowed Professor for Agriculture and Environmental Sciences at NC A&T. With support from an AFRI grant, Katie Wright at the University of Arkansas, serves as part-time staff until mid-2017. This eCoP has over 400 members, making it the second largest community of practice of the 70 that eXtension hosts.
Congratulations to Dr. Nicole Tichenor, who received her doctoral degree from Tufts University earlier this year. While conducting her dissertation research, she also was a student member of the Production Team.
Interdisciplinarity is a hallmark of the EFSNE project, so it’s fitting that the project’s most recent interns—two Penn State students from very different majors—found learning from each other to be an important part of the internship experience.
Most of the presentations that were delivered during the project's December 2015 conference are now available online in PDF format.
A team of researchers including members of the Distribution Team published a paper last year that illustrates tradeoffs posed by initiatives that promote the purchase of foods grown and processed within certain geographic boundaries. They analyzed the existing Northeastern U.S. dairy supply chain, which served as their baseline scenario, and compared it to two possible localization scenarios in terms of greenhouse gas emissions, economic effects, and the distance that the milk or milk product travels between the dairy farms and the final consumption location.
The community-based work carried out by members of the Consumption Team has had an unintended ripple effect — it has spawned several local-level activities aimed at improving access to healthy and regionally produced foods.
One way to increase a region’s capacity to meet its food needs is to bring new land into production; another is to change the mix of crops produced on existing farmland. But what are the potential yields we could expect from new or converted land? That’s the question behind a new tool developed by the Production Team — a productivity index that will help quantify the production capacity of all the arable land in the Northeast.
In early June, the Scenarios and Modeling (SCEMO) and Production teams held a two-day in-person meeting in New York City to plan for the modeling work that will take place during the last year of the EFSNE project. The team also discussed their role in the cross-project writing that remains, and made preparations for the project conference slated for December. The group was hosted by team member Michael Conard at Columbia University.
On a five-year project, turnover is a fact of life. The best kind of turnover happens when students working on the project receive their degrees and advance in their careers. One of these “project alumni” is Elaine Hill. Now an assistant professor of public health sciences and health economist at the University of Rochester Medical Center, Hill worked with the EFSNE project from 2011-2014 as a graduate student at Cornell University. We caught up with Hill over the summer to reflect on her time with the project and to learn more about what she’s up to now.
Congratulations to Dr. Zach Conrad, who received his doctoral degree from the Tufts University Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy in August. While conducting his dissertation research, Conrad also was a student member of the EFSNE project’s Production Team for more than four years, serving as a research assistant to Drs. Tim Griffin and Christian Peters at Tufts University.
Next month, more than 100 people will gather for a conference in Greenbelt, MD, to mark the last phase of the EFSNE project. Attendees will learn about EFSNE project findings and engage in conversation and collaboration with other food system researchers, practitioners, advocates, and funders.
As the EFSNE project enters its fifth year, the Consumption Team is marking a major milestone: the completion of its shopper intercept survey effort. Over the course of three years, team members surveyed some 2,700 shoppers, paving the way for researchers to answer several questions about the food-shopping experiences of those surveyed.
Production of livestock feed is no small thing in the Northeast, accounting for the use of roughly half of the region’s land in farms, according to earlier work by the Production Team. Now team members have taken their analysis one step further, estimating how many animals this acreage can support, and whether it’s enough to satisfy the region’s demand for animal-based foods like meat, dairy, and eggs.
From undergraduate interns conducting intercept surveys to graduate students analyzing land-use data to postdoctoral scholars performing spatial analyses with crop models, the EFSNE project has engaged with dozens of students and trainees. Members of the Education Team are working to document some of this student engagement by administering a survey to all of the students who have been involved with the project to date.
There are more than a dozen food stores being studied by the EFSNE project team, an activity that would be impossible if not for the cooperation of the owners and managers who run those stores. Whether providing space for the Consumption Team to conduct intercept surveys or participating in interviews with the Distribution Team, these retailers are integral to the success of the project. And in November, several of them helped in an additional way, by traveling to Maryland to participate in a two-day workshop with EFSNE project researchers, graduate students, and community liaisons. Their participation proved to be beneficial both for the project team and for each other.
Members of the Distribution Team are conducting case studies to understand some of the factors affecting the ability of stores to serve their consumers in low-income neighborhoods. The team has conducted detailed interviews with each of our collaborating retailers, most but not all of whom are independent store operators. The information collected includes factors affecting their ability to sell healthy foods and regionally sourced foods as well as factors that influence their ability to stay in business. The team then collects information on two market basket foods per store, so that all eight foods in our market basket are represented randomly in the case studies. In this article, team member Kristen Park shares some of the lessons learned from one of these stores and its procurement of cabbage and potatoes.
Jillian Gordon and Shannon McCullough are two Penn State undergraduate students who were both drawn to a Pittsburgh-based EFSNE internship for the same reason: the chance to work in a city. But Pittsburgh beckoned them in different ways.