Exploring Change in a Local Sustainable Food System

Somerset County has the lowest rankings for county health behaviors (16th) in Maine. Thirty-four percent of adults are obese, which is also the highest rate in the state. The USDA defines food deserts for rural areas as having at least 33% of the census tracts population residing more than 10 miles from a large grocery store. Food deserts are often short on fresh fruits and vegetables. In this exploratory study, the co-principal investigators will conduct buyer outreach research in the Somerset County region that will explore local food consumption and expenditures and perceived factors that influence foods offered and consumer purchasing decisions (i.e., cost, perishability, distribution gaps, storage capacity) of 5 independent grocers in food deserts.  Based on grocers’ responses to our interview questions, an intervention will be designed and evaluated that would be used to increase fresh fruit and vegetable consumption (example posters about local food, table tents about local farms, menus/recipe cards, or other strategies recommended by the grocer).

Investigators: Kathryn Hopkins, Debra Kantor

Award period: 5/1/2016–9/1/2017