Recent Swetland Center Research Findings

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A team from the Swetland Center asked the question – If you build a food hub in a neighborhood, will it improve community health outcomes? Results of this study, funded by the National Institutes of Diabetes, Digestive, and Kidney Diseases, found the short answer is No. The study, published in the Journal of Community Health, found small changes in the availability of healthy foods in the study neighborhood following food hub implementation. Yet, no changes in diet among residents living in the study neighborhood in Cleveland (i.e., neighborhood with a food hub) compared to residents living in a socio-demographically matched neighborhood in Columbus, Ohio that did not have a food hub. However, findings reveal the true answer to the question is much more complex. Food hub implementation did not occur as planned during the study timeframe. Therefore, results do not provide evidence about the impact of a fully implemented food hub within a neighborhood. A key lesson from this work is the importance of attending to the complexity of food systems change. Each action – such as the opening of a food hub – is tied to an array of other factors (i.e., did wages change at the same time to improve financial capacity for purchasing foods at the food hub?). These complexities and interacting dynamics are the focus of the Swetland Center’s Modeling the Future of Food in Your Neighborhood Study. Taken together, these insights will be critical to realize community health benefits from efforts designed to improve neighborhood food environments.