Linking local, sustainable farming and health

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The Challenge

The local food movement has increased momentum in recent years, motivated in part by the growing dependence on fossil fuel and the beliefs that: 1) eating locally will reduce the amount of total fuel consumed in the transportation of goods to marketplace; and 2) environmental benefits will also result through a reduction of emissions and pollution.

We seek to understand the potential public health impact of moving toward a local, sustainable food system in North Carolina.
The Solution
Using innovative approaches as farms transition from tobacco to larger and more industrialized agriculture:
  • Case studies
  • Documentary photography
  • Quantitative data analysis
Addressing environmental benefits of smaller-scale sustainable farming practices by:
  • Determining nutrition and health-related benefits
  • Conducting an economic analysis of opportunities and barriers for developing integrated local and sustainable food systems.
  • Collecting data to identify market opportunities for farmers and to conduct a policy analysis related to local food systems and sustainable agriculture.
Results & Impact
  • Secured $11 million in additional funding
  • Produced 13 spin-off projects that expanded into research and outreach programs
  • Developed a new course, “Apples Service Learning Course”
  • Conducted 7 case studies to identify successful agricultural transition adaptation strategies and innovations for community economic development
  • Performed research in 19 counties in North Carolina
  • Worked with over 30 students

Alice Ammerman, DrPH, UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health professor of nutrition and director of the Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, leads a large collaborative team gathering health, environmental and economic data within North Carolina that can guide policy related to local, sustainable food systems and inform future research efforts.

Partners included: Numerous UNC system schools, departments and centers including NCSU’s Center for Environmental Farming Systems, the Renaissance Computing Institute, the Center for Sustainable Community Design, the Office of Economic and Business Development, N.C. A&T faculty, the documentary studies department at Duke and others.