Food Security and Dietary Preferences

What are the economic, agricultural, and ecological constraints that inform our dietary consumption and preferences? What types of agricultural practices and economic changes contribute to improved diet and, in turn, better health? Although I am particularly interested in investigating the diets and anthropometric measures of children in international regions of high food insecurity (e.g. northern Mozambique), my research interests also extend to domestic populations and the early investments we make in our children in the form of breast milk, fresh produce, and other forms of dietary diversity.

Household Investments in Children

When an impoverished community undergoes rapid economic growth, to what degree--if at all--do we see comparably rapid improvements in children's outcomes? What are household-level determinants of investments in children's human capital? Can other household members be expected to mitigate the oft-observed negative association between father absence and low-level investments in children? I am currently investigating the potential for other (non-paternal) adult males in the household to moderate the negative association between father absence and school participation on Ibo Island, Mozambique.

Population-Agriculture-Environment Interactions

How are our land-use practices shaping and shaped by the environment? What is the potential of a major agricultural industry to voluntarily adopt management practices that will limit water contamination and greenhouse gas emissions, and do growers have access to the information that would allow them to do so? At the interface of a populated and natural environment, what is the potential of ex-post intervention to mitigate the effect of urban runoff on the ecosystem? To what degree does the abundance of and local culture surrounding fisheries influence a Mozambican community's attitudes regarding the importance of fruit and vegetable production, which could potentially reduce rates of stunting due to micronutrient malnutrition?

Quantitative and Qualitative Methodology

I have approached many of the above topics by collecting and analyzing primary data domestically and internationally. In 2012, I designed a data collection instrument compatible with questions asked by Ibo Foundation researchers three years prior on Mozambique's remote Ibo Island. Overseeing a team of local enumerators, I performed a second-round complete census of the population (approximately 1000 households and 4000 individuals). I retroactively linked individuals and households to their 2009 data, enabling me to ask longitudinal questions regarding characteristics and outcomes over time. My work was funded by an IIE Graduate Fellowship as well as National Institutes of Health NIA and NICHD training grants.

In 2007, I conducted a mail and internet survey of nearly 3000 Californian almond and pistachio growers. The survey questions were informed by focus groups I organized in order to gather the opinions of growers, plant nutrition consultants, UCCE Farm Advisors, and representatives from the California EPA, the California Air Resources Board, and the Almond Board of California. The project was supported by the Almond Board of California, the California Pistachio Board, and the California Department of Food and Agriculture.