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 Meeting Minutes: ‘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 Meeting Minutes:  ‘Farmers Market Metrics’

April 2015 Meeting Minutes: MoGro Mobile Grocery Program

June 2015 Meeting Minutes + PPT slides: Community Supported Agriculture Cost-Offset Intervention to Prevent Childhood Obesity and Strengthen Local Agricultural Economies

August 2015

September 2015 Meeting Minutes

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

November 2015 Meeting Minutes + PPT slides: Rural Child Food Security

December 2015 Meeting Minutes+ PPT slides: Rural Grocery Initiative

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

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

March 2016 Meeting Minutes + PPT slides: Health Impact Assessments

April 2016 Meeting Minutes + PPT slides: School Nutrition in Montana



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