Food Justice in L.A.

Sep. 21, 2021 | Cristine Hall for Public Exchange

A woman and a man holding a child shop for groceries. The child is pointing at an item in the refrigerated area.The food environment in Los Angeles County changed tremendously during the COVID-19 pandemic. Through a project convened by Public Exchange at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, USC researchers are working across disciplines to develop a new approach to understanding food systems, food access and food security across L.A. County. They’re mapping the landscape of where food is located and connecting that with individuals’ food habits and behaviors to determine how these issues can be addressed through policy changes.

Researcher Kayla de la Haye is working with faculty members John Wilson and Wändi Bruine de Bruin, staff from Public Exchange, and community, civic and private partners. Together, they’re building a conceptual model of food insecurity and using it to gain insights about the system, especially when a crisis interrupts the flow of food to people. A data portal will help other cities and counties across the U.S. optimize food system resilience and support food equity.

De la Haye is associate professor in the Department of Population and Public Health Sciences at Keck School of Medicine; Wilson is professor of sociology, civil and environmental engineering, computer science, architecture and preventive medicine and the founding director of USC Dornsife’s Spatial Sciences Institute; and Wändi Bruine de Bruin is Provost Professor of Public Policy, Psychology and Behavioral Science at USC Sol Price School of Public Policy and USC Dornsife.

The project is being funded by a $2,054,156 grant from the National Science Foundation (Award No. 21256160). The grant is the result of 16 months of work on a pilot project with L.A. County’s Emergency Food Security Branch, convened by Public Exchange.