Laying the Groundwork for Addressing Food Insecurity Among School Children in Vermont and New Hampshire
A culminating highlight of The Institute's on-campus Master of Public Health program is the opportunity for students to take what they've learned out into the field. Our internship profile series looks at how they've applied what they learned to their own interests in improving health and healthcare.
Bryan Gustafson MPH ’19 signed on to the Public Health Council (PHC) of the Upper Valley, which serves several dozen communities across Vermont and New Hampshire, to help improve access to healthy and adequate food options for school-aged children. Gustafson found the issue of food insecurity in the Upper Valley area, a largely rural region which includes the communities surrounding Dartmouth, to represent an important public health challenge to address.
"Pockets of higher socioeconomic status exist within regions of high need, which can distort the issue of food insecurity,” Gustafson says. "Some school districts thrive while others may face a remarkably high burden of insecurity."
Gustafson built the groundwork – a data collection plan – that PHC can now use to assess how area schools are providing food support to children, what barriers they face, and identify best practices for establishing school-centric food programs. As part of his work he interviewed representatives from local schools, the New Hampshire Department of Education, and a number of regional community organizations, as well as analyzed information surrounding free/reduced lunch eligibility in the Upper Valley.
“I’ve always had a fascination with the power of strong research to drive policy decisions, and how scientifically-literate policymakers hold the keys to a healthier public,” Gustafson says.
“My internship has emphasized the importance of out-of-the-box research methods to answer tricky questions, and I hope I can take what I’ve learned with the Council and meld it with the robust research training I gained at Dartmouth to inform some of those difficult policy decisions.”
"I’m proud to have been able to engage in the community that hosts Dartmouth, and to get the ball rolling on a project that may really aid Upper Valley children and their families in the long-term."
- Bryan Gustafson MPH '19
POSTED 7/16/2019 AT 04:31 PM IN #internship
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