Improving Health and Economies


It is well known that health, nutrition, and economics have a complex relationship and that improving health in North Carolina and beyond will require a better understanding of these complexities. Alice Ammerman, director of the Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, UNC School of Public Health, recently received a Gillings Award to lead a team looking at these complex issues. In particular, the team studies whether a shift to local, sustainable agriculture will have a positive impact on both health and economics in North Carolina. It is hypothesized that such a shift will lead to better nutrition by promoting locally produced foods that are both lower in calories and more nutrient rich. It is also hypothesized that such a shift will have an economic benefit to North Carolina, which currently imports food despite the availability of agricultural capabilities and the potential economic benefits of agricultural production.

As part of this collaboration, RENCI is working with Ammerman’s team to develop tools and capabilities to identify market opportunities for farmers. This will be done initially by identifying sites for farmer’s markets based on conditions such as site locations relative to consumers, farmers, competing grocers, population demographics, and travel times. The development of these tools is expected to lead to a greater understanding of market potential, and thus the feasibility of a shift to agricultural production. The tools also should provide researchers and the state with a tool for economic development and research.


UNC School of Public Health Gillings Award


  • Alice Ammerman, UNC School of Public Health
  • Numerous UNC system and North Carolina schools, departments and centers
  • NC State University’s Center for Environmental Farming Systems, Center for Sustainable Community Design and Office of Economic and Business Development
  • NC A&T faculty
  • Duke University Center for Documentary Studies

Project Team

  • Jeff Heard
  • Scott Madry
  • Charles Schmitt
  • Lisa Stillwell