Rural Food Access Working Group

The Rural Food Access working group aims to address research gaps and promote the role of research in policy identification, development and evaluation related to understanding and increasing access to healthy foods in rural areas. Specifically, our group focuses on collaborative ways to understand how policy and programs can be utilized to increase access to healthy foods in rural areas. Participants include funded NOPREN sites, NOPREN affiliates, and others with expertise in the topic from around the country. We welcome additional members with interest in rural food access.

Key Focus Areas

The anticipated focus areas of this new working group include:

  • Discussing, identifying and building consensus around key constructs and determinants related to rural food access;
  • Discussing and identifying needs and opportunities for rural food access research; and
  • Sharing methods and metrics, and contributing to the field’s understanding of common indicators for food access research in rural settings and among rural populations.

Specifically, the group hopes to add to the field’s understanding of the NOPREN policy continuum by:

  • Contributing to the identification of policies that address key determinants of rural food access;
  • Improving understanding of policy development and implementation processes that address rural food settings and populations; and
  • Evaluating policy strategies that aim to address healthy food access in rural areas.


Journal Articles:

Posters & Presentations:

  • Johnson DB, Quinn E, Ammerman A, Byker C, Dean W, Fleischhacker S, Jillcott Pitts S, Kolodinsky J, Pinard C, Sharkey J, Stitaker M (2013, March 20).  Developing a Policy Research Agenda to Improve Healthy Food Access in Rural Areas. Presentation given at the Northwest Regional Rural Health Conference, Spokane, Washington.  


Rural Food Access working group members are listed below along with their contact information and topics of expertise.


Donna Johnson, PhD, RD
Associate Director, Center for Public Health Nutrition
Professor, Nutrition Sciences
University of Washington
(206) 685-1068
Topic of Expertise: policy implementation processes

Joe Sharkey, PhD, MPH, RD
Director, Program for Research in Nutrition and Health Disparities
Professor, Social and Behavior Health
School of Rural Public Health, Texas A&M University
(979) 458-4268
Topic of Expertise: environmental and behavior influences on food security and food access in rural and underserved areas


Ellen Barnidge, PhD, MPH
Assistant Professor, Behavioral Science and Health Education
Saint Louis University School of Public Health
(314) 977-3246
Topic of Expertise: rural food security, social determinants of health, community-based participatory research

Carmen Byker, PhD
Assistant Professor, Food and Nutrition and Sustainable Food Systems
Montana State University
(406) 994-1952
Topic of Expertise: public health outcomes of policies, programs, and practices that impact nutrition and diet

Wesley R. Dean, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, Program for Research in Nutrition and Health Disparities
School of Rural Public Health Texas A&M
(979) 862-1229
Topic of Expertise: social and cultural determinants of food access, food security, and food choice

Sheila Fleischhacker, PhD, JD
Senior Public Health & Science Policy Advisor, NIH Division of Nutrition Research Coordination
National Institutes of Health, Department of Health and Human Services
Topic of Expertise: qualitative, spatial, and policy analyses to examine rural food access among American Indian communities; tribally-led ways to improve access to healthy, affordable foods within American Indian communities in North Carolina

Stephanie Jilcott, PhD
Assistant Professor
East Carolina University
(252) 744-5572
Topic of Expertise: obesity prevention policy, policy change to facilitate healthier food and physical activity environments, associations between health and food and physical activity environments

Jane Kolodinsky, MBA, Ph.D.
Professor and Chair, Community Development and Applied Economics
University of Vermont
Topic of Expertise: food choice, lifestyle factors and obesity, food system enterprise (e.g., farm to school), food policy (SSB taxes, menu labeling, food labeling)

Courtney Pinard, Ph.D.
Research Scientist
Gretchen Swanson Center for Nutrition
(402) 559-5575
Topic of Expertise: policy and environmental approaches for health promotion to address health disparities

Emilee Quinn, MPH
Research Coordinator
University of Washington
Topic of Expertise: Working group coordination, evaluation of public health policy change efforts

Marilyn Sitaker, MPH
Research Scientist
Battelle Centers for Public Health Research & Evaluation
(206) 528-3365
Topic of Expertise: application of systems science methods and theoretical frameworks to study policies that facilitate healthier food and physical activity environments; impact of entrepreneurial food systems innovations on local economies and population health.

Terms of Use

NOPREN Project Period: 2011-2014 NOPREN is funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention under cooperative agreement number 1-U48-DP-001946.  The findings and conclusions are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent that official position of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.