This study explored the existence and role of food networks in food access in Maryland, the significantly higher food insecurity rates in Allegany, Baltimore City, Dorchester, and Somerset Counties, and the relationship between food security rates and network structure. Despite significant literature on food security and equity, research on social networks addressing gaps in formal food systems is limited. Phase one of this study was in-person semi-structured interviews with staff from regional offices of the Maryland Food Bank and a representative of a nonprofit food pantry. Phase two was a snowball sample survey to identify relevant organizations in Maryland. Phase three was a social network analysis (SNA) survey of identified organizations to collect quantitative and qualitative data about networks. Phase four was semi-structured interviews with key hubs quantitatively identified by SNA survey data.
Five serendipitous regional networks and a centralized statewide network were identified. Qualitative data indicated the role of networks is vital for food security efforts in Maryland, yet quantitative data indicated that regional disparities are reflected in network structures. Quantitatively, network structure varied by region. Regions with greater inequities and disparities had simple and less connected. Those regional networks arguably reflected the inequities they served. There were concerning patterns between regional networks, food security rates, and regional inequities and disparities for the most insecure Maryland counties. Identifying these networks was a first step toward moral and ethical public administration obligations: using this information to address food security and social inequities to increase affordable and sustainable access to healthy food for low-income populations. Social networks represent an untapped resource addressing inequities for vulnerable populations.
|Advisor:||Wachhaus, Theodore A.|
|Commitee:||Gourrier, Al, Shenoy, Amrita|
|School:||University of Baltimore|
|Department:||School of Public Affairs|
|School Location:||United States -- Maryland|
|Source:||DAI-A 82/9(E), Dissertation Abstracts International|
|Subjects:||Public administration, Public policy, Social research|
|Keywords:||Food security, Regional disparities, rural and urban, Social equity, Social Network Analysis, Food banks, Maryland|
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