Rural Food Access



The Rural Food Access working group (RFAWG) convenes researchers to share resources and conduct collaborative research addressing environmental, policy, and economic issues related to rural food access. Rural food access focal areas include:

  • Key constructs and determinants
  • Needs and opportunities for research and policy recommendations
  • Research methods, metrics, and common indicators


RFAWG facilitates monthly calls for all interested participants, plans, and conducts collaborative research projects and provides a forum for members to solicit expertise and involvement in their research projects.

Key Activities and Findings

Activity 1: Building Partnerships

More than 20 RFAWG members from all regions of the country regularly join the monthly conference calls. Some time on each call is devoted to a brief presentation of the work of one member or other expert to promote greater understanding of current topics, research questions, and methods related to rural food access. Calls provide an opportunity for networking, sharing expertise, and pursuing common research interests.

Activity 2: Collaborative Research – Developing and Pursuing a Policy Research Agenda

RFAWG seeks opportunitites for the collaborative study of rural food access topics based on a framework of research priorities that emerged from an earlier concept mapping study. That study asked rural food access experts to identify and then rate rural food access issues based on their priority for further study and policy development (see resources section below for more information).

Activity 3: Collaborative Research – Joint Research Papers and Grant Proposals

RFAWG members have collaborated to identify key issues for future policy research from the researcher, practitioner, and community perspective. Several work group members have contributed to collaborative papers describing the RFAWG, next steps in rural food access research and policy, a literature review of rural food access innovations to improve economic and health outcomes, a study of psychometric properties of a farmers’ market audit tool, and submitted a joint USDA proposal to study the health and economic impact of cost-offset CSAs.

Activity 4: Supporting Investigators – COCOMO and Community Commons

RFAWG collaborated with PAPRN members to consider adaptations of CDC’s Common Community Measures for Obesity Prevention (COCOMO) to address rural needs, and developed a tool to facilitate use of Community Commons to visualize and evaluate environmental and policy changes to prevent obesity.


Download the Rural Access Overview for more information

Key Articles

Johnson, Quinn, Sitaker, et al., 2014 Developing an agenda for research about policies to improve access to healthy foods in rural communities: a concept mapping study. BMC Public Health, 14(1), 592.

Fleischhacker, S., Johnson, D., Quinn, E., Pitts, S. B. J., Byker, C., & Sharkey, J. R. (2013). Advancing rural food access policy research priorities: Process and potential of a transdisciplinary working group. J of Agriculture, Food Systems and Community Development, 3(5), 201-212.)

Sitaker, M., Kolodinsky, J., Pitts, S.B.J., & Segiun, R. (in press). Do Entrepreneurial Food Systems Innovations Impact Rural Economies and Health? American Journal of Entrepreneurship.


Click below to view Meeting Minutes and PPT slides from past monthly calls:


January 2015: The NC LOCAL Food Project: Can promoting local food purchasing in grocery stores increase local and healthful food purchasing in low-income and rural communities?’

March 2015:  ‘Farmers Market Metrics’

April 2015: MoGro Mobile Grocery Program

June 2015: Community Supported Agriculture Cost-Offset Intervention to Prevent Childhood Obesity and Strengthen Local Agricultural Economies

August 2015

September 2015

October 2015: The Appal-TREE Project: Community-Based Participatory Research to promote healthy eating in Appalachia

November 2015: Rural Child Food Security

December 2015: Rural Grocery Initiative


January 2016: Translating Research For Federal Food And Nutrition Policy: The Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act

February 2016: A participatory regional partnership approach to promote nutrition and physical activity in rural Missouri through environmental and policy change

March 2016: Health Impact Assessments

April 2016: School Nutrition in Montana

October 2016: Increasing Healthy Food Access in Communities of Low-Income and Low Access: Evaluating a Community-Initiated Food Hub (Patricia Sharpe)

December 2016: Growing Economies: Connecting Local Farmers and Large-Scale Food Buyers to Create Jobs and Revitalize America’s Heartland (Kranti Mulik)


February 2017: ‘Interviews with Rural Corner Store Owners in Maryland’ (Myra Shapiro)

May 2017: ‘SNAP Retailer Rule Study Update’

June 2017:  ‘Packaged Food and Beverage Purchases in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program’ (Anna Grummon)

December 2017: Healthy Food Financing Initiative: Program Overview & Performance Metrics (James Barham, USDA)


March 2018: Innovative USDA existing and upcoming programs in FNS

August 2018: Best Practices and Innovative Solutions to Overcome Barriers to Delivering Policy, Systems, and Environmental Changes in Rural Communities (Lindsey Haynes-Maslow, Stephanie Jilcott-Pitts)

September 2018: VeggieMeter: Use of skin carotenoids to measure fruit and vegetable intake (Stephanie Jilcott-Pitts)

October 2018:Social Entrepreneurship as an Approach to Healthy Food Access and Economic Opportunity(Alice Ammerman)

December 2018: PhotoVoice Project with low-income rural families about food access issues (Lauri Andress, West Virginia University)


January 2019:Mobile Markets – Are they the answer to food access? (Lucia Leone)

February 2019: Hungry Harvest: An Innovative Food Distribution Model (Bart Creasman)

May 2019: Examining Food Security Among Rural Low-Income Families (Lindsey Haynes-Maslow)

November 2019: Community Wide Efforts to Reduce Obesity

December 2019: The Borrowing Kitchen: Enhancing Food Pantry Nutrition (Alyssa Anderson)

January 2019: Health System Efforts to Improve Food Security and Food Access (Lisa Bailey-Davis)


March 2020: Rural Food Security and COVID-19 (No Kid Hungry NC + Group Discussion)

April 2020: Overview of the Healthy Food Policy Project’s Emerging  COVID-19 Local Government Food Access Policy Index (Amanda Karls, Public Health Law Center)

August 2020: Connecting Food, Farms, and Nutrition: A Text-Message Diabetes Prevention Program in rural NC

October 2020: The UnProcessed Pantry Project – Carmen Byker Shanks, Montana State University Access the PPT and Presentation Recording here


Alice S. Ammerman, DrPH, RD
Director, Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention
UNC – Chapel Hill

Stephanie Jilcott Pitts, PhD
Department of Public Health
East Carolina University

Lindsey Haynes-Maslow, PhD, MHA
Assistant Professor & Extension Specialist
Department of Agricultural and Human Sciences
North Carolina State University

Adjunct Assistant Professor
Department of Nutrition
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill