SEGS Lab Research Projects: COVID-19 / Food Insecurity

At SEGs Lab researchers are working on fundamental understanding of building stronger human-machine networks in agriculture through the development and testing of socially and ethically desirable precision agriculture technologies and workforce augmentation approaches. We are also focusing on Use of serious game technology, including augmented or virtual reality to increase willingness to use precision agriculture.

Rural experiences with food insecurity and health during COVID-19 and strategies for future resilience
Rural communities have faced historically higher levels of food insecurity and lower healthcare access than urban areas, while simultaneously having lower levels of overall health. The COVID-19 pandemic further impacted rural food security, health, and economic livelihoods in profound ways. Previous recessions demonstrate that rural regions recover from socio-economic disruptions more slowly than urban areas. However, improving food security and health outcomes can be achieved through economic development. This proposal will work in the two most rural US states- Maine and Vermont- to explore the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on rural food security and health and identify economic development and resilience opportunities for recovery and the future. Our interdisciplinary team builds this proposal off past work initiated at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. We will conduct representative statewide surveys in both states, and qualitative interviews with rural vulnerable populations. Then, we will use a multi-faceted approach to incorporate geospatial, regression, and statistical analysis, and agent-based models to explore changes in food security and health outcomes during and after the COVID-19 pandemic. We will use our results to model resilience and economic development opportunities for future health and food security outcomes. Our work is informed by a stakeholder advisory committee including representatives from state agencies, Food Banks, hunger relief organizations, and opioid and substance abuse centers. Collectively, our proposal will provide a comprehensive understanding of the impact of COVID-19 on rural food security and health outcomes, to identify economic and resilience strategies for future rural health and well-being.
Status: On-going
Project lead: Sarah Nowak
Team: Niles, M. T.
Funding provided by: National Institute of Food and Agriculture