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Master of Environmental Data Science

Assessing Environmental Justice Implications of US Food Production

Boat hauls up net of fish

Group Members: Connor Flynn, Mia Forsline, Scout Leonard, Alex Yousefivand (Vand)

Faculty Advisors: Ben Halpern

Client: National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS)



Technical Documentation 

Final Presentation 


As food systems and food production expand to feed a global population in the coming decades, understanding how resulting environmental pressures impact not only ecology, but also human health and wellbeing is vital to a sustainable and just expansion. Current evidence demonstrates that some food systems disproportionately affect disadvantaged and vulnerable communities, but spatial analyses to fully understand the environmental justice implications of food production are lacking. To help fill this knowledge gap, this project explores the spatial distribution patterns between human welfare outcomes and the environmental footprint of food production in the United States at the county level for 21 different food systems. To do so, we organize, transform, and analyze data from the National Center for Ecological Analysis & Synthesis (NCEAS) Environmental Impact and Sustainability of Global Food Systems working group and County Health Rankings and Roadmaps. Combining this food data with human welfare data, we created: (1) processed datasets, (2) preliminary analyses such as random forest regressions and visualizations such as correlation matrices, and (3) an annotated workflow for replicating this exploration. Ultimately, our products will facilitate continued research to understand the environmental justice implications of food production at various spatial scales. This research can help guide more equitable and sustainable food production policies and management.


NCEAS: Gage Clawson; Haley Epperly; Dr. Caitlin Fong; Dr. Melanie Frazier; Dr. Benjamin Halpern, Executive Director; Nick Outin

Allison Horst, Assistant Teaching Professor, Bren School 

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