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Baltimore Highlands, MD, United States

Matts C.,Michigan State University | Conner D.S.,University of Vermont | Fisher C.,Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future | Tyler S.,Michigan State University | Hamm M.W.,Michigan State University
Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems | Year: 2016

Local food purchasing programs at institutions such as K-12 schools, colleges and hospitals offer benefits including supporting farms and local economies, encouraging more healthful eating habits of patrons and fostering closer connections between farmers and consumers. Increasing in number and expanding in breadth, Farm to Institution (FTI) markets are promising outlets that may fulfill social and economic motivations for farmers. However, significant challenges and barriers have kept many from participating; farmers interested in this market will incur transaction costs, with high negotiation costs in particular due to product differentiation (in this case, by provenance) and less established markets and terms. Researchers have just begun to study farmers' perspectives on FTI and, to date, have primarily done so through convenience sampling. By utilizing a representative farmer sample, this study provides a major contribution to FTI research. This survey study was designed to better understand Michigan vegetable farmers' interest and willingness to participate in institutional markets and to identify perceived barriers and opportunities. Michigan is an ideal location for this research as it boasts one of the most diverse sets of agricultural crops in the US, has an economy highly reliant on the food and agriculture industry and has thriving FTI activity with extensive, ongoing outreach, education and research. Results of this survey study showed that half (50%) of the respondents (n = 311) reported interest in selling to at least one institution type (of K-12 schools, colleges and hospitals), but only a small percentage (7%) had yet sold produce to institutions. The most frequently reported motivators to sell to institutions were supplying healthy foods to customers (77%), fair, steady prices (77%) and supplying local food to consumers (76%), indicating that farmers' motivations are largely based in social values. Smaller scale farmers (less than 25 acres) were significantly less likely to rate economic factors and help in meeting logistical challenges as important, which suggests that they see more potential social value in FTI markets while larger farmers will seek to minimize their transaction costs related to this market. This research can inform the development of scale-appropriate farmer education to foster this market opportunity and its contribution to regional food system development. As demand for local food increases, it is critical to further examine the viability of FTI markets and continue to understand the opportunities and challenges to farmers of different types and scales to participate. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2015.

Neff R.A.,Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future | Merrigan K.,George Washington University | Wallinga D.,Natural Resources Defense Council
Health Affairs | Year: 2015

Food has become a prominent focus of US public health policy. The emphasis has been almost exclusively on what Americans eat, not what is grown or how it is grown. A field of research, policy, and practice activities addresses the food-health-agriculture nexus, yet the work is still often considered "alternative" to the mainstream. This article outlines the diverse ways in which agriculture affects public health. It then describes three policy issues: farm-to-school programming, sustainability recommendations in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, and antibiotic use in animal agriculture. These issues illustrate the progress, challenges, and public health benefits of taking a food systems approach that brings together the food, agriculture, and public health fields. © 2015 Project HOPE.

Poulsen M.N.,Social and Behavioral Interventions Program | McNab P.R.,Behavior and Society | Clayton M.L.,Behavior and Society | Neff R.A.,Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future
Food Policy | Year: 2015

With increasing global urbanization and environmental threats, ensuring food security for poor city residents is a critical challenge. An ongoing debate is whether urban agriculture (UA) may serve as a pathway to food security for poor urban households. To assess this potential within low-income countries, we used standard systematic review procedures to synthesize findings from 35 peer-reviewed journal articles from 1980 to 2013 that presented data on UA and food security indicators. Though data quality was often lacking, several key findings emerged. Many of the reviewed studies found subsistence to be the primary motivation for practicing UA, followed by financial benefit, with UA substantially contributing to farming households' food availability in some settings. Results regarding UA's impact on dietary diversity reveal that in some farming systems UA may provide households with greater access to specific foods. Evidence also indicates that UA can be a key source of household income, though actual returns were low. Furthermore, results show that UA can facilitate women's contribution to household food availability amid other household responsibilities, and can provide distinct benefits such as economic and social advancement. Although UA participation does not appear to fully eliminate pressure urban households face in obtaining food, a lack of supportive policies may constrain its potential. Municipal planning and agricultural policies that more effectively incorporate UA-and that integrate gender-may diminish barriers to productive UA practice. More rigorous research on UA's contribution to food security in settings where supportive policies have been enacted would more clearly elucidate these linkages. © 2015 Elsevier Ltd.

IMPORTANCE: Nearly 80% of antibiotics in the United States are sold for use in livestock feeds. The manure produced by these animals contains antibiotic-resistant bacteria, resistance genes, and antibiotics and is subsequently applied to crop fields, where it may put community members at risk for antibiotic-resistant infections. OBJECTIVE: To assess the association between individual exposure to swine and dairy/veal industrial agriculture and risk of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infection. DESIGN, SETTING, AND PARTICIPANTS: A population-based, nested case-control study of primary care patients from a single health care system in Pennsylvania from 2005 to 2010. Incident MRSA cases were identified using electronic health records, classified as community-associated MRSA or health care-associated MRSA, and frequency matched to randomly selected controls and patients with skin and soft-tissue infection. Nutrient management plans were used to create 2 exposure variables: seasonal crop field manure application and number of livestock animals at the operation. In a substudy, we collected 200 isolates from patients stratified by location of diagnosis and proximity to livestock operations. MAIN OUTCOMES AND MEASURES: Community-associated MRSA, health care-associated MRSA, and skin and soft-tissue infection status (with no history of MRSA) compared with controls. RESULTS: From a total population of 446 480 patients, 1539 community-associated MRSA, 1335 health care-associated MRSA, 2895 skin and soft-tissue infection cases, and 2914 controls were included. After adjustment for MRSA risk factors, the highest quartile of swine crop field exposure was significantly associated with community-associated MRSA, health care-associated MRSA, and skin and soft-tissue infection case status (adjusted odds ratios, 1.38 [95% CI, 1.13-1.69], 1.30 [95% CI, 1.05-1.61], and 1.37 [95% CI, 1.18-1.60], respectively); and there was a trend of increasing odds across quartiles for each outcome (P <.01 for trend in all comparisons). There were similar but weaker associations of swine operations with community-associated MRSA and skin and soft-tissue infection. Molecular testing of 200 isolates identified 31 unique spa types, none of which corresponded to CC398 (clonal complex 398), but some have been previously found in swine. CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE: Proximity to swine manure application to crop fields and livestock operations each was associated with MRSA and skin and soft-tissue infection. These findings contribute to the growing concern about the potential public health impacts of high-density livestock production. © 2013 American Medical Association. All rights reserved.

Kim B.F.,Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future | Poulsen M.N.,Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future | Margulies J.D.,Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future | Margulies J.D.,University of Maryland, Baltimore | And 3 more authors.
PLoS ONE | Year: 2014

Although urban community gardening can offer health, social, environmental, and economic benefits, these benefits must be weighed against the potential health risks stemming from exposure to contaminants such as heavy metals and organic chemicals that may be present in urban soils. Individuals who garden at or eat food grown in contaminated urban garden sites may be at risk of exposure to such contaminants. Gardeners may be unaware of these risks and how to manage them. We used a mixed quantitative/qualitative research approach to characterize urban community gardeners' knowledge and perceptions of risks related to soil contaminant exposure. We conducted surveys with 70 gardeners from 15 community gardens in Baltimore, Maryland, and semi-structured interviews with 18 key informants knowledgeable about community gardening and soil contamination in Baltimore. We identified a range of factors, challenges, and needs related to Baltimore community gardeners' perceptions of risk related to soil contamination, including low levels of concern and inconsistent levels of knowledge about heavy metal and organic chemical contaminants, barriers to investigating a garden site's history and conducting soil tests, limited knowledge of best practices for reducing exposure, and a need for clear and concise information on how best to prevent and manage soil contamination. Key informants discussed various strategies for developing and disseminating educational materials to gardeners. For some challenges, such as barriers to conducting site history and soil tests, some informants recommended city-wide interventions that bypass the need for gardener knowledge altogether. © 2014 Kim et al.

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