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Bass Connections 2023-2024: Tracing the Roots of Nutrition Access, Implementation and Policy

Project Description

This project team will support ongoing community-derived goals for the coordination of Durham’s food security organizations. Team members will collect novel data and insights regarding federal program utilization to effectively coordinate efforts among nonprofit, local government, faith-based and medical partners.

The team will operate under two complementary subgroups. One subgroup will focus on understanding the perspectives of community members and entities on how food and nutrition policies are implemented. Team members will look into how Durham and Duke entities have addressed food and nutrition security and broader social determinants of health, as well as these entities’ relationship to federal and state policies. They will seek to understand and compare community-based and engagement programs in Durham, including Root Causes’ Fresh Produce Program and Duke’s Benefits Enrollment Center, trace the motivation and support of these programs, and ascertain willingness and barriers toward federal integration to address hunger and nutrition in Durham.

This analysis will occur through interviews and surveys with approximately 250 Root Causes participants, as well as representative members of other programs. The team will prioritize investigating the extent of inclusion of historically excluded populations in federal, state and local programs.

The second subgroup will focus on gaining a greater understanding of policies surrounding food and nutrition security and social support programs regarding social determinants of health at the federal, state and local level. Working closely with Duke’s World Food Policy Center, Department of Population Health Sciences, the Margolis Center for Health Policy and other campus and off-campus sites, team members will consider public and health-oriented policy. They will focus primarily on the Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Services programs and the potential integration of food-related benefits into Medicaid and health maintenance organizations.

Through literature reviews, site visits to policy-related centers at Duke and Durham, and interviews, team members will prioritize evaluating racial equity in service implementation and investigate the extent to which policies demonstrate innovative and effective methods improving health outcomes of historically excluded populations.

Anticipated Outputs

Literature reviews; qualitative data regarding experiences and perceptions of hunger relief programs; public scholarship on health equity and inclusion for federal, state, and local food and nutrition security programs and other programs addressing social determinants of health; dissemination of findings to public and private sector stakeholders

News Stories

Research Poster

Tracing the Roots of Nutrition Access poster imageStudent Reflections

“During the first semester, I really enjoyed the opportunities to volunteer at the organizations in Durham that we studied. When diving into the operations and logistics of Root Causes, I already had the background knowledge and firsthand experience of volunteering there as well as seeing Duke Campus Farms, so I feel like the entire experience was full circle and allowed me to truly understand the food systems network in Durham.” – Jordan Troob

“Engaging directly with community partners and stakeholders has been incredibly insightful, allowing me to gain a deeper understanding of the complexities surrounding this issue. I found the volunteer activities at Feed My Sheep and Root Causes to be my favorite aspects of the class as it allowed my peers and myself to really interact with community members and organizational leaders. The opportunity to contribute to real-world projects and initiatives aimed at addressing food insecurity has been both rewarding and meaningful.” – Deven Gupta

“My favorite part of the class was definitely designing the survey and even more so looking at the results as it allowed us to put everything, we had learned to create a tangible product. It was also interesting to think about the importance of using precise speech in wording the survey questions to try to make them as fair and neutral as possible. It was also satisfying to look at the results, even though they were not as many as we had hoped, particularly the qualitative responses to the open-ended questions we had asked at the end.” – Husna Khan

“We were able to learn outside of the classroom the second half of the semester, which I truly appreciated. It’s one thing to learn through textbooks and readings but another to observe and interact with the communities our research focuses on.” – Habiba Koureichi



Team Leaders

  • Hannah Lane, School of Medicine-Populations Health Sciences
  • Elaijah Lapay, Trinity College of Arts & Sciences, Undergraduate Student
  • Norbert Wilson, Duke World Food Policy Center, Sanford School of Public Policy
  • Graduate Team Members
  • Isabella Bouklas, Sociology Ph.D.
  • Noah Gibson, Sociology, Ph.D.

Undergraduate Team Members

  • Samantha George
  • Deven Gupta
  • Katherine Hamilton, Public Policy AB
  • Husna Khan
  • Habibatou Kourechi, Public Policy AB
  • Carolina Mendez, Robertson Scholarship-UNC
  • Jordan Troob, Biology

Faculty/Staff Team Contributors

  • Scott Brummel, Science & Society
  • Saskia Cornes, Franklin Humanities Institute
  • Ryan Kane, School of Medicine, General Internal Medicine

Community Team Members

  • Root Causes
  • Durham County Food Security Task Force
  • Farmer Foodshre
  • Lincoln Community Health Center
  • El Centro Hispano, Durham
  • End Hunger Durham
  • Benefits Data Trust
  • PORCH-Durham
  • La Iglesia Emanu8el


Duke Bass Connections