Fellow Story

Niles finds growing and harvesting food can improve food security

Fellow(s): Meredith Niles

Editor’s note: the following is an excerpt from a story by Vermont Public by Elodie Reed, published on February 15, 2024. Read the full story here.

New research from the University of Vermont and University of Maine shows residents who grow and harvest their own food can become more food secure.

The paper, published in Scientific Reports earlier this month, surveyed nearly 1,000 residents in Maine and Vermont — the two most rural states in the country according to the U.S. Census Bureau — about their food security during the COVID-19 pandemic.

And while a large percentage of residents in northern New England already gardened, fished, hunted, foraged and raised backyard animals before the COVID-19 pandemic, more people, especially those experiencing food insecurity, picked up those activities during the pandemic.

As a result, some of those people improved their food security 9 to 12 months later.

That's according to the new paper's lead researcher and author, Meredith Niles, who is an associate professor in nutrition and food systems at UVM.

"I think this is a hugely overlooked area that contributes to people's food security and nutrition, potentially, but we don't actually talk about very much in the U.S.," Niles said. "And for Vermont, in particular, a very rural state where a lot of people are doing these activities, I think it's a great potential solution set, or an opportunity for us to look at home-involved food production a little bit closer."

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