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New MREC Faculty: Catherine Campbell

In fall 2019, MREC welcomed Catherine Campbell as a new faculty member and statewide specialist based at the research center in Apopka.

Campbell is an assistant professor in the UF Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences with a focus on social science research in community food systems with the goal of better understanding behavior of all people involved in the food system from farm to fork.

Dr. Catherine Campbell is an assistant professor in the UF Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences with a focus on social science research in community food systems.

“My goal is to better understand how the changing dynamics of the state – the increasing population and urbanization – have led to changes in the food system, from producer to consumer,” said Campbell.

With Florida’s rapid population growth, Campbell would like to better understand ways in which integrating food into urban environments can improve health and wellness in Florida’s urban communities.

“I am particularly interested in the social and behavioral factors that motivate food purchasing and consumption behavior, and how systems and environmental changes can be leveraged to change behavior and improve health outcomes,” said Campbell.

The relationship between food systems and community health can be seen ‘as being two sides of the same coin,’ noted Campbell. For example, obesity disproportionally affects low-income and minority populations often located in ‘food deserts,’ as classified by the USDA. Research has shown systemic issues impacts access to food and therefore the health of people in communities, more so than just the number of grocery stores in a neighborhood.

For example, community gardens have recently been used as a tool to strengthen local food systems, increase access to healthy food, act as a place of engagement for neighbors, young and old, and offer community education programs.

Another area of interest is the role ethics play in food systems. Ethical concepts such as justice, fairness and rights are now helping to shape food systems and definitions with value-based judgments incorporated, as led by the American Public Health Association’s Principles of a Healthy, Sustainable Food System project.

“One important way to strengthen your local food system is to ensure that your municipality supports activities that foster a sustainable and resilient food system and community,” said Campbell.

Originally from Virginia, Campbell attended the College of William & Mary for her undergraduate degree and then the University of Florida for graduate school.

In her free time, Campbell likes to make jams, salsas, and pickles, as home food preservation is a great way to save the bounty of Florida’s seasonal agricultural crops and enjoy them year round.

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