GW Funding for Student Project on Sustainable Food

Environmental Health Science and Policy (EHSP) Master of Public Health (MPH) Student Sara Lupolt received $450 from GW’s Center for Civic Engagement and Public Service’s Commitment Maker Challenge for costs associated with the Healthy & Sustainable Food Availability Index she is creating for her Culminating Experience.  She intends for the index to serve as a tool to identify and characterize disparities in the availability of healthy and sustainable food within major grocery store chains in our nation’s capital. 

The project is an outgrowth of the Sustainable Plate symposium held at GW in November 2014, which Lupolt and fellow EHSP Student Katie Merritt aided Kathleen Merrigan, the executive director of the George Washington University's (GW) Sustainability Institute, in putting on.  The event addressed the issue of including sustainability recommendations in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, and on identifying knowledge gaps related to sustainable food systems.

“In addition to providing the American public guidance on making healthy dietary choices, future editions of the Dietary Guidelines may also include guidance on choosing more sustainable foods - foods that are healthier for both people and the environment,” Lupolt explains.  An example she offers is the benefits to the environment associated with choosing an apple that was grown organically or corn that is not genetically modified.

Lupolt has been working with Associate Professor Kim Robien of the Department of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences to create a survey of Washington, DC’s food environment.  This includes collecting information about how choices vary across the capitol and whether more sustainable options are available in all areas and neighborhoods.   

Lupolt hopes to create “a cross-sectional snapshot of grocery stores across DC, to get a sense of the options for both healthy and sustainable foods and how such options vary across the district.”  She says that, to the best of her knowledge, this has never been attempted before. The grant will help her train volunteers to help collect data and pay for their transportation costs.