Penn State-led team launches newsletter focused on Northeast food security

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- A research team led by a faculty member in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences has launched a quarterly newsletter that will provide updates on the research and outreach activities of the $5 million, U.S. Department of Agriculture-funded project called Enhancing Food Security in the Northeast through Regional Food Systems. The project seeks to determine whether greater reliance on regionally produced food could improve food access and affordability in disadvantaged communities, while also benefiting farmers, food supply chain firms and others in the food system.

“The project is a one-of-a-kind initiative that brings together researchers, educators, students, entrepreneurs and community leaders from a 12-state region in the Northeast,” said project director Stephan Goetz, professor of agricultural and regional economics and director of the Northeast Regional Center for Rural Development. “Because our project engages the entire food chain -- from production to consumption -- we think our research findings will be of great interest to consumers, producers, business owners, researchers and educators alike, and we’re glad to be able to share our work through the newsletter.”

In the first edition of the newsletter, team members report on:
-- how they’re measuring community-level constraints that may be limiting people’s access to healthy food;
-- a new tool developed to help assess the Northeast region’s production capacity;
-- a mathematical model constructed to identify the optimal locations of wholesale food-distribution centers; and
-- the creation of a new research team whose goal is to formulate different food-system scenarios and to begin integrating the multiple models being developed across the project.

The newsletter also reports on some of the numerous education and outreach efforts of the project, which engages several graduate students and also supports Penn State undergraduate interns.

"This project is unique in the way it consciously links teaching and learning innovations at very different universities to the project's research teams,” said Clare Hinrichs, professor of rural sociology and a member of the project’s education team. “Students and faculty have become co-learners in the humbling, eye-opening and exciting experience of interdisciplinary research with a strong orientation to public engagement." 

In addition to Goetz and Hinrichs, other Penn State members of the research team include Alessandro Bonanno, adjunct assistant professor of agricultural economics; Deno De Ciantis, director of the Pittsburgh-based Penn State Center; Hamideh Etamadnia, postdoctoral scholar; Maureen Hogan, assistant director of The Penn State Center; Heather Mikulas, program manager of Penn State Extension’s community based agriculture program; and Lauren Chenarides and John Eshleman, graduate students in the Department of Agricultural Economics, Sociology, and Education.

Enhancing Food Security in the Northeast through Regional Food Systems is a USDA-funded Agriculture and Food Research Initiative project that engages more than 40 individuals at multiple universities, nonprofits and government agencies. For more information about the project, or to subscribe to the project’s quarterly electronic newsletter, visit

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Last Updated January 16, 2014