Institute for Food System Equity

The Institute for Food System Equity generates actionable scientific insights to help to build food systems that support human health, planetary health, and equity.


Open Access LA

Smart & Connected Community Food Systems

This project develops a new, community-engaged approach to monitor and understand food security and community food systems, and how these are impacted by crises like COVID-19. We are building a data dashboard called Food Base LA to share this timely information with stakeholders who are addressing food challenges, like policymakers and local organizations, so they can help residents access sufficient healthy food.

Funding:  National Science Foundation (Grant No. 2125616, PI: de la Haye), USC Dornsife Public Exchange, American Heart Association, Keck Medicine of USC, Keck School of Medicine, USC Dornsife Emergency Fund


Artificial Intelligence, Modeling, and Informatics for Nutrition Guidance and Systems (AIMINGS) Center

This is the artificial intelligence (AI) and data modeling center for the National Institutes of Health Nutrition for Precision Health Initiative. Precision Nutrition assumes that the best diet for one individual may look different than the best diet for another, because people have different responses to specific foods and nutrients. The AIMINGS Center uses new data science tools to develop algorithms that will predict individual responses to food and dietary patterns, in a way that accounts for the complex systems that impact nutrition, eating, and food access.

Funding: National Institutes of Health (Grant 1U54TR004279, PI: Lee)


Using Big Mobility Data to Map the Food Environments of Diverse Los Angeles Residents

This study uses big data on human mobility to understand how people move around a large city to access and acquire food, within and beyond the home neighborhood. We use new data science methods to understand access to mobile food environments for diverse populations, and how this is related to socio-demographics, diet, and health.

Funding: University of Southern California, Keck School of Medicine (PIs: K. de la Haye, E. Moro, S. Pentland)

Analyzing Digital Menu Data to Characterize Nutritional Quality of Food Environments

This project draws on digital menus and nutrition data, and applies language modeling and machine learning, to develop an algorithm that estimates the nutritional quality of restaurants. The goal is to develop tools that can generate more nuanced and useful information about the quality of food available within restaurants and neighborhood food environments, and disparities in access to nutritious foods. 

Funding: National Institute of Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD) under award P50MD017344 to the Southern California Center for Latino Health (PI: A. Horn).

A.I.-Driven Meal Recommendations To Meet Sociocultural and Nutritional Dietary Needs

This project is developing a mobile app that will support clinicians in implementing meal prescription interventions that are tailored to the needs of patients with diverse food preferences. Existing apps for meal planning tend to focus on Western diets. The algorithms we are developing will help to recommend meals that meet the multi-criteria objectives of clinical requirements, dietary restrictions, cost limits, and sociocultural dietary preferences.

Funding: Keston Exploratory Research Award to the Information Sciences Institute (PI: A. Horn)

Healthy and Sustainable Food Labels: The Food Basket Study

This study examines how labels on food can be used to promote healthy and sustainable food choices. In a nationally representative survey, we conduct experiments where people choose between two gourmet food gift baskets: one with meat and dairy, and one without. We find that few chose the food basket without meat and dairy when it was labelled “vegan” (20%) or “plant-based” (27%), while more than 40% chose this basket when it was labeled “healthy” and/or “sustainable”. 

Funding: USC Center for Economic and Social Research, USC Wrigley Institute for Environment and Sustainability, USC Schaeffer Center for Health Policy and Economics, and the National Science Foundation (Grant 2125616).


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Institute for Food System Equity

Center for Economic Research and Social Research (CESR)

University of Southern California

635 Downey Way, VPD, Los Angeles, CA 90089