OMAHA – This weekly program features educators from across the University of Nebraska system.
"Friday Faculty Focus with Brandon McDermott” airs each Friday at 7 a.m. and noon on all-classical 90.7 KVNO, a broadcast service of the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO).
On Friday, Jan. 13, KVNO aired McDermott's interview with A. Bryce Hoflund, associate professor of Public Administration at UNO. During their conversation, Hoflund discussed her Food Studies research, and how local initatives help address food insecurity.
Listen to their conversation here, or read the transcript below:
Brandon: Dr. A. Bryce Hoflund, thanks for joining me this week.
Dr. Hoflund: Thanks for having me.
Brandon: When it comes to research and food safety regulation and food policy - talk about the changing nature of food in the 21st century and how we can improve the dietary health of all people.
Dr. Hoflund: I think we're seeing a number of shifts occurring in this area. The first shift is we're really seeing an emphasis on the importance of food, both by policymakers and by public health officials and medical professionals. We're also seeing changing consumer desires around production methods and components of that of their food. We also are paying closer attention to injustices within the national food system. We're learning more and more every day about how the food system impacts the environment. We're also looking at how food is produced, distributed, and sold. I think there are a number of ways that we can improve dietary health. The first way is to increase access to fresh, affordable, and healthy food. Secondly, we need to give people the tools to cook food. A lot of people don't know how to cook and some people don't know where their food comes from. So, having an understanding of where your food is grown, how it's grown, and then how to cook with these raw materials - is incredibly important to improving dietary health.
Brandon: According to the CDC, more than 1/3 of adults in America are obese. What are some contributing factors to this perceived epidemic and what are ways we can help alleviate these rates going forward?
Dr. Hoflund: I think there are a number of factors - first of all poverty is a huge factor. People that live in poor areas often have a lot of food available to them - they live in food swamps. But that food is of low quality and it's highly processed. I think a second contributor to obesity is our society. We’ve changed – we’re more dependent on cars than ever before. We don't exercise or seem to emphasize the importance of exercise in our daily lives.
Brandon: As you noted, poverty is often the link between high urban and rural areas when it comes to food insecurity or food deserts. We have both highly urban and rural areas of Nebraska. How does Nebraska fare when it comes to food insecurity?
Dr. Hoflund: We have a lot of food insecurity in Nebraska, both in the urban areas and in the rural areas. We know a lot about what's going on in the urban areas. The USDA has mapped Nebraska as well as every other state and they they've identified areas that are food deserts both in the rural areas and in the urban areas. We know a lot about urban food deserts but we don't know a lot about the role food deserts - in particular how are communities handling these problems? Our grocery stores the only solution to addressing the question of food insecurity in rural areas. These are the types of things that we don't know the answers to at this point.
Brandon: That leads me to my next question here. You've also written that “the long distance food travel leads to energy consumption and pollution a mission that contributes to global warming and lower air quality.” What are some ways that we can help cut down the distances our food travels before it hits the dinner table?
Dr. Hoflund: I think we need to think about creating stronger, more sustainable and healthy food systems overall and particularly at the local level. Teaching people how to garden - giving them the means to grow their own food and then as I mentioned previously - cook with that food, share that food with their neighbors and other community members. These are ways to develop local food economies that are then responsive to the local needs. Which in in the end, then cuts down on the distances that the food travels.
Brandon: The Farmers' Market that happens both in Aksarben and Downtown Omaha. How does that help with food insecurity?
Dr. Hoflund: Well that's a great question. I think first of all, they now accept electronic benefits -food stamps - at farmers' markets. So, that incentivizes people to shop at farmers' markets. The other thing that it does is it connects people with the farmers and they can learn about where their food comes from and how it's grown. It also offers people a chance to try a wide variety of foods that they may not try otherwise - if that farmer's market wasn't available.
Brandon: Is there something else you'd like to add before we go?
Dr. Hoflund: Yes. I think there are a couple of things that we need to think about moving forward. The first is to recognize that this area of food studies - food regulation, food insecurity and food deserts - these are all growing areas. We need to spend more time getting a better picture of how these things look in the community. As well as delving into the communities themselves and asking them what they are doing to address these problems. In the end that can inform policy that's made. Again, it's learning more about the current picture of food insecurity and all these other food access issues and then using that to inform policy.
Brandon: Dr. A. Bryce Hoflund thanks again for coming on the show.
Dr. Hoflund: Thanks for having me.
Interested in more food-related research? On Friday, Jan. 20, listen for a conversation with UNO's Kiran Bastola, a professor in UNO's College of Information Science & Technology, who is using technology to learn more about how food grows.Want to be a future guest, or know someone who should be? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.