A research project involving four Iowa counties is trying to identify changes and trends in the way residents get their food. Clare Hinrichs, a sociology professor at Iowa State University, is leading the study of Audubon, Benton, Johnson and Marshall counties. Hinrichs says part of the study involved the production of the food.They’re looking at changes in conventional production and the rise of new “direct marketing” ventures in which farmers sell directly to the public. She says they’re also studying the consumption side. That involves patterns of food retailing, food pantries, nutrition and food education for youth. The study includes workshops to talk with the residents about their food gathering habits. The first discussion’s already been held. She says a lot of the discussion has centered on the change from a local food system to a global system. Hinrich says the four counties give a good picture of some of the things faced statewide. She says Audubon County has lost population but has developed a good local food system. Marshall County has faced an influx of Latinos. She says the other two feature increased populations.There’s development going on in the rural areas of Benton and Johnson counties, which she says puts some pressure on the land, but also offers some opportunities for direct marketing. Hinrich hopes they can use the information to plan for the future.She says there isn’t one solution for every county, but this study should help develop some models. The three-year project is slated to end this year.
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