Food Information Networks Grant Initiative

Author: Jenifer Eggleston


Individuals and families alike understand the importance of eating healthy meals but for many people living in food deserts, access to healthy food options is a challenge.  Economic challenges and transportation barriers can limit access to grocery stores with healthy foods.  Dr. Ron Metoyer, CCI Faculty Affiliate and Associate Professor in Notre Dame Computer Science & Engineering, received a grant from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture to pursue options for equitable access to healthy food for people living in food deserts, areas where the availability of affordable, healthy food is limited.

The Center for Civic Innovation’s internship program has had the opportunity to work with Dr. Metoyer, contributing to his research on food insecurity. 

“The groups of interns that we have worked with over the summer and winter session have been instrumental in helping our research team get a more firm grasp of the current  state of food access initiatives,” said Dr. Metoyer. 

“The teams have always been incredibly organized and professional, which is necessary for internships where time tends to fly by much more quickly than expected.  The CCI team does an excellent job preparing the teams, helping them engage with their project sponsors, and providing additional professional development in addition to the research opportunities.  It's a wonderful program that I plan to continue to participate in. 

“This summer, we hope to engage a team of CCI interns in our initial ethnographic work to better understand food access challenges in a specific neighborhood here in south bend and use the collected data to inform the first prototype of our FINs food access app.” 

During the Summer 2020 Internship, students  worked to create a Food Information Network, which involved compiling healthy recipe options combined with local food pantry data.  Building off the work from the summer, students in the CCI 2021 Winter Internship program worked to identify best practices and potential barriers to accessing healthy food.

The grant from NIFA will fund further research carried out by Dr. Metoyer and include Co-PIs and Senior Personnel from the Center for Civic Innovation, as well as, other university and community partners including Purdue University, University of Michigan, EnFocus, Beacon Community Impact and the St Joe County Health Department.  This team of experts will continue to work with CCI interns to develop further understanding of the needs of the food insecure, work toward building a network model of food resources, and explore local options for food distribution.