Optimizing Food Distribution to Rural Communities Facing Food Insecurity
Title: Optimizing Food Distribution to Rural Communities Facing Food Insecurity
Mentor: Walter Bialkowski, PhD, MS
Approach: Thirteen million U.S. households face food insecurity (>10% of all households nationwide)1 representing uncertainty in having, or inability to acquire, enough food to meet the needs of household members due to insufficient money or other resources. Whereas the prevalence of food insecurity has decreased in metropolitan areas, food insecurity is increasing in non-metropolitan and rural areas2. In part due to the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, it is estimated that food insecurity will affect 1-in-7 Wisconsinites in rural counties during 20213. Unique dietary needs of rural populations, as well as underlying disparities by Race, Ethnicity, age, and socioeconomic status, exacerbate challenges associated with providing quality food to those in need in these rural communities. Foremost among the barriers to feeding food-insecure members of rural communities is a paucity of information about the unique needs and infrastructures of these communities.
Student Research Activities: - conduct thorough market research and identify existing data sets to inform strategies to treat food insecurity in rural places, supplementing with data collection as needed; - utilize statistical modelling, supervised and unsupervised data mining, and forecasting techniques to reveal new insights into the determinants of successful food provision in rural communities; and - design and implement natural experiments within FAEW’s broad network of food distribution to test hypotheses that will inform best practices in food distribution across all rural communities.
Student Background: Students need to have basic computing skills and introductory programming skills in R.