The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) awarded North Carolina Central University a $150,000 research grant to pinpoint “food deserts” and “food swamps” throughout the state using geographic information systems.

The award is part of a three-year, $417,942 grant funding research by the Department of Environmental, Earth and Geospatial Sciences (EEGS) to identify communities where residents have inadequate access to healthy food. NCCU Associate Professor Chris McGinn and Assistant Professor Timothy Mulrooney lead the project.

Researchers at North Carolina State University will also work on the initiative, titled “Geospatial Tools and Analyses to Assess, Educate and Inform Spatial Dimensions of Rural Food Insecurity.”

“We will examine areas of rural southeast North Carolina in the vicinity of Fayetteville, where a lot of people don’t have convenient access to healthy food or transportation to shop outside the area,” Mulrooney said. “We hope to identify communities that may benefit from a mobile food pantry or farmer’s market.”

Food deserts are areas where residents lack adequate healthy-food options, while food swamps have an abundance of unhealthy foods, such as from convenience stores and fast-food outlets. 

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