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Expert presents Department of Agriculture funded research on food security

Courtesy of SU Photo & Imaging Center

Kate Clancy delivered her lecture on food security on Thursday in Falk College.

Kate Clancy defines food security in two scopes: nationally and community-based.

Clancy gave a lecture on food security in the northeast region and discussed how she deals with the issue as a food systems consultant in Falk Room 100 on Thursday night. The lecture was hosted by the public health, food studies and nutrition department at the David B. Falk College of Sport and Human Dynamics in Syracuse University.

Clancy previously taught at SU’s food studies department for graduate students. Now working as a food systems consultant, she served as a nutrition and policy adviser for the Federal Trade Commission, the Henry A. Wallace Institute for Alternative Agriculture and the Union of Concerned Scientists.

In national food security, the main focus is on the country or region producing enough food to feed the citizens in the event of crop failure or import shortfalls, she said. As far as the food security of a community, Clancy said the emphasis is on the ability for the residents of the community to obtain a safe, culturally acceptable and nutritionally adequate diet locally.

The lecture focused on presenting her recent work with the Enhancing Food Security in the Northeast Project. Funded by the United States Department of Agriculture, the project started in 2011 as an Agriculture and Food Research Initiative project, with the goal being to improve access to regional food systems in low-income communities.

Now in its fifth year, the EFNSE Project has an established system for conducting research and improving the food system in the northeast. The project covers 12 states, but focuses on eight locations, three rural and five urban, to conduct focus group research projects, Clancy said.

The project’s focus on the northeast region is a new approach to food systems research, Clancy said, adding they hope to gain a better understanding of the food landscape with this approach.

Jane Mulcahy, a geography graduate student who attended the lecture, said it’s “unique” that the project is taking a regional approach.

“It’s interesting to see how they organize this approach because it does seem really massive and complex,” Mulcahy said. “It’ll be interesting to see what comes out of it in tackling food systems issues.”

There are three main elements that the EFNSE Project focuses on in its research and community engagement: food security, regional focus and a systems approach.

One research project the EFNSE started was the Market Basket, in which researchers gathered a shopping basket with eight food items to reflect the diet of the northeast region, to study the accessibility to these foods throughout the region, Clancy said.

The items in the market basket include apples, bread, cabbage, canned peaches, frozen broccoli, ground beef, milk and potatoes. Together, these items are supposed to reflect a full diet in the northeast.

“For the majority of basket items, low-income consumers spend more on an annual basis for food at home,” Clancy said. “Urban consumers pay higher prices per unit for all market basket items.”

Those results are only the beginning of what the EFNSE Project hopes to uncover in its next research projects, Clancy said.

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