The Food Policy, Health, and Hunger Research Program

The UCSF Center for Vulnerable Populations’ Food Policy, Health, and Hunger Research Program, led by Dr. Hilary Seligman and managed by Melissa Akers, is committed to creating communities where healthy food is affordable and easily accessible for everyone. Our research focuses on community-based interventions and policies impacting the food environment and food affordability, leveraging Dr. Seligman’s roles as Senior Medical Advisor and Lead Scientist for Feeding America and as Director of the CDC’s Nutrition and Obesity Policy Research and Evaluation Network (NOPREN).

Obesity and diabetes are the public health epidemics of this generation. Diabetes rates have nearly doubled in the past 20 years, and the CDC projects that 1 in 3 adults could have diabetes by 2050. The burden of these diseases falls most heavily on low-income and minority populations. These diseases are also associated with food insecurity, defined as the limited or uncertain ability to reliably access safe and nutritious food. For the 1 in 8 Americans living in food insecure households, affording healthy foods necessary to prevent and manage chronic disease can be extremely challenging.

The Center for Vulnerable Populations seeks to understand and implement the policy levers that make healthy food choices accessible for everyone. Research conducted by the CVP’s Food Policy, Health, and Hunger Programs has been at the forefront of documenting food insecurity as a major driver of poor health, and of implementing and evaluating programs and policies to address food insecurity as a mechanism to improve health. We also support national initiatives to implement comprehensive food insecurity screening and referral programs into underserved clinical settings.