Regional food security in south-central Appalachia: Connecting diet, land requirement, and agricultural carrying capacity

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Virginia Tech

Local communities and regional networks are currently exploring the strategy of developing local and regional food systems in order to enhance food security. The relationship between food consumption and production must be tested at various scales and across geographies in order to describe how place-based diets influence agricultural land use and the degree to which a discrete agricultural land base can feed a population. This thesis used two models to integrate data from across the agricultural and nutritional sciences to test the capacity of regional food systems to meet complete diet food need in the south-central Appalachian foodshed. First, a complete diet approach was applied to the entire foodshed to test the influence of animal product and fat consumption on the land requirements of food production. The quantity of specific regionally-adapted food commodities for six diet patterns were estimated following USDA recommendations and compared to county-based Census of Agriculture land use data to determine agricultural carrying capacity. Second, a sub-regional geospatial foodshed model used site-specific soil and current land cover datasets to estimate the spatial distribution of food production capacity relative to the per capita food needs determined by the complete diet model. Together, these studies contribute information from a data-user perspective for stakeholders and planners interested in quantifying the capacity of regional food systems to meet total food needs.

Appalachia, Complete diet, Food security, Geographic Information Systems (GIS), Regional agriculture