School of Public Health Faculty Receive Funding to Study Food Access and COVID-19 

Associate professor Beth Feingold (left) and assistant professor Xiaobo X. Romeiko are leading a team studying how the fresh produce recovery and redistribution arm of the Capital Region food system is absorbing the shock caused by COVID-19.

ALBANY, N.Y. (Aug. 27, 2020) — A School of Public Health team evaluating the food system in New York State has been awarded nearly $100,000 to study how COVID-19 is impacting food access in the Capital Region.

Many people are encountering empty grocery shelves while simultaneously, producers are struggling to reach consumers due to concerns with processing, distribution and demand.

A team led by environmental health science associate professor Beth Feingold and assistant professor Xiaobo X. Romeiko will use the $99,987 from the Foundation for Food and Agricultural Research (FFAR) to study how the fresh produce recovery and redistribution arm of the Capital Region food system is absorbing the shock caused by the pandemic. The team anticipates that their findings will reveal the benefits and tradeoffs associated with policy and program interventions in response to COVID-19.

This is an expansion of previous funding provided by FFAR to Feingold and Romeiko for their work to determine how food that would otherwise go to waste can effectively get into the hands of residents who need it.

Over the past two years, Feingold and Romeiko have worked to identify inefficiencies, barriers and opportunities for growth in the produce recovery and redistribution system in the region. They are assessing the impacts of policies and interventions on greenhouse gas emissions, access to fresh produce and subsequent health benefits.

Additional team members include Christine Bozlak of the Department of Health Policy, Management and Behavior, Akiko Hosler of the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatatics, two PhD students and Roni Neff of John Hopkins University.

The additional funding enables the team to evaluate the joint impacts of COVID-19 on environmental and human health. They will utilize routine data collected by community partners, administer a food access and availability survey and a short survey to retail and emergency food operators to build innovative life cycle and system dynamic models for assessing the intervention strategies for increasing food access while maximizing environmental and health benefits.

The project engages multiple community partners, including the Northeast Regional Food Bank, Capital Roots, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, the Radix Center for Environmental Sustainability, and the Food Pantries of the Capital District.

More information about the food access project can be found at albany.edu/fresh.


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