Office of Undergraduate Research Undergraduate research will set you apart.

Recently in Research: Hallie Nelson


Hallie Nelson

Many low-income neighborhoods are food deserts leaving people without equitable access to healthy food products. Hallie Nelson, a senior majoring in Biosystems Engineering, worked to figure out why Montgomery County, Alabama, has a high level of chronic food insecurity.

To analyze the strengths and weaknesses of the food system, Nelson interviewed a dozen professionals in the food system, specifically the nutrition, production, distribution and waste sectors. She also researched socio-demographic data, agricultural census data and collected inventory data for two grocery stores to determine what foods were available to neighborhoods with varying demographics.

Nelson discovered a disconnect of professionals in the field. She said professionals recognized the need to improve communication between government agencies, so the production and nutrition sectors could work together to supply healthy foods to low-income areas. Also, the reduced funding for agriculture and food assistance programs proved to be a major contributor to people being unable to access healthy food products. Lastly, Nelson found that locally grown foods are unable to get to local markets, because farmers lack access to refrigeration and trucking due to large investments needed.

Nelson said she hopes community stakeholders will benefit from her findings. Nelson said through her undergraduate research experience she has developed ideas for innovative solutions that she plans to work on after graduation.

“Research helped me understand the problems in reality, not just theory,” Nelson said.

Nelson worked alongside her mentor, Dr. Michelle R. Worosz, during her Undergraduate Research Fellowship.

Last modified: February 12, 2018