Researchers: Dr. Ed Brands (Associate Professor of Environmental Studies, Division of the Social Sciences, University of Minnesota Morris) and Dr. Cristina Ortiz (Associate Professor of Anthropology, Division of the Social Sciences, University of Minnesota Morris)

Although the majority of food is produced in sparsely populated rural areas, food insecurity in these same areas is pervasive, likely increasing, and understudied. We propose a five-county regional food systems assessment, coincident with the Horizon Public Health Service area in West-Central Minnesota. This assessment will employ a variety of quantitative (e.g. survey) and qualitative (e.g. participant observation) methods to provide valuable baseline information about community and household food security in the study area, better understand whether and how residents' dietary needs are being met, and construct a regional food profile (i.e. food origins, costs, availability). The main benefits of the study include providing information to improve study area service providers' ability to target populations in need, evaluate effectiveness of existing food assistance interventions, and highlight very recent developments in local food production and processing. The study may also serve as a model for subsequent regional food systems assessments.