Home Volume 3, Issue 4 Advancing Rural Food Access Policy Research Priorities: Process and Potential of a Transdisciplinary Working Group


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Advancing Rural Food Access Policy Research Priorities: Process and Potential of a Transdisciplinary Working Group

by members of the Rural Food Access Working Group: Sheila Fleischhacker,a Donna Johnson,b Emilee Quinn,c Stephanie B. Jilcott Pitts,d Carmen Byker,e and Joseph R. Sharkey f

http://dx.doi.org/10.5304/jafscd.2013.034.027, pp. 201–212

Published online September 19, 2013

Comment on this research commentary below!



Residents of rural communities currently face disproportionately higher risk for nutrition-related chronic diseases compared to residents of urban communities. Rural residents also face disparities and unique barriers in accessing healthy, affordable foods. In 2011, participants of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)–funded Nutrition and Obesity Policy Research and Evaluation Network (NOPREN) formed the Rural Food Access Working Group (RFAWG). Since then, the RFAWG has been focusing on conducting collaborative transdisciplinary research that includes a concept mapping project that identified and prioritized policy research ideas perceived as important to improving access to healthy, affordable foods in rural communities. This commentary reflects on the process and potential of this emergent transdisciplinary RFAWG to advance rural food access policy research priorities, sharing how after nearly two years of convening, RFAWG has identified and started to address various rural food access policy research needs and opportunities that the group has deemed important for the near and long-term. The research priorities and process taken thus far by RFAWG reflect the participants' own work, institutional and geographic strengths, and negotiated approaches to collaborating with the transdisciplinary team using pooled but often limited resources. The group has benefited from the involvement of a variety of experts skilled in various disciplines and research methodologies touching the food system. RFAWG continues to strategize methods to advance rural food access policy research priorities through transdisciplinary team efforts, innovative partnerships, rigorously designed research processes, and contextually crafted dissemination and translation approaches.


Keywords: community development, food access, food systems, policy research, public health, rural


a *Corresponding author: Corresponding author: Sheila Fleischhacker, PhD, JD, Senior Public Health and Science Policy Advisor, NIH Division of Nutrition Research Coordination, National Institutes of Health, Department of Health and Human Services; Two Democracy Plaza, Room 635; 6707 Democracy Boulevard MSC 5461; Bethesda, Maryland 20892-5461 USA; +1-301-594-7440; This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

b Donna Johnson, PhD, RD, Associate Director, Center for Public Health Nutrition; Associate Professor, Nutrition Sciences; University of Washington School of Public Health; Interdisciplinary Program in Nutritional Sciences.

c Emilee Quinn, MPH, Research Coordinator, Center for Public Health Nutrition; University of Washington.

d Stephanie B. Jilcott Pitts, PhD, Assistant Professor, Public Health; East Carolina University; Brody School of Medicine; Department of Public Health.

e Carmen Byker, Assistant Professor, Food and Nutrition and Sustainable Food Systems; Montana State University.

f Joseph R. Sharkey, PhD, MPH, RD, Director, Program for Research and Outreach-Engagement on Nutrition and Health Disparities; Professor, Health Promotion and Community Health Sciences; School of Rural Public Health, Texas A&M University Health Science Center.

Note: This article was supported through NOPREN by Cooperative Agreement Number 5U48-DP001911 from the CDC. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the CDC, National Institutes of Health (NIH), or RWJF.



Banner photos include a Cape Cod cranberry bog; a cranberry “screen house” used to grade fresh cranberries; farmland near Lake Placid, NY, in the Adirondack Mountains; Montmorency cherry trees on the Mission Peninsula of northern Michigan; the historic Round Barn in the South Mountain Apple Belt of Adams County, Pennsylvania; the “Sea of Grapes” district of the Lake Erie Concord Grape Belt, near Erie, Penn; a field of cabbages near Shortsville, NY, home to one of the world’s largest sauerkraut factories. All photos copyright by Duncan Hilchey.


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