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UNC to study link between sustainable farming and health
Date:6/5/2008

CHAPEL HILL Would people and their communities be healthier if they still got food from local farms?

A team of University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill researchers has received a grant to study the public health impact of moving toward a local, sustainable food system. The team will establish a Gillings Innovation Laboratory (GIL) through the UNC School of Public Health. The project will be the eighth laboratory established through a generous gift to the School by Dennis and Joan Gillings.

Results of this two year study will improve understanding of the health, environmental and economic issues associated with this growing national trend. Although the research will be done in North Carolina, it will have national and international relevance.

"Among the most pressing public health problems in the U.S. today are obesity, environmental degradation and health disparities," said Alice Ammerman, Dr.P.H., UNC School of Public Health professor of nutrition and director of the UNC Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention. "Contributing in a big way to each of these problems is our current food system, with its heavy dependence on fossil fuels such as fertilizers, pesticides and gasoline for large scale production and long distance transportation of often high calorie, nutrient poor food, from farm to processing facility to table."

"The result is not only damaging to our health and the environment but also devastating to the economic base of rural communities," Ammerman said.

The loss of farmland and livelihood is particularly alarming among small to mid-scale and minority farmers who are transitioning away from growing tobacco, she said. The rural communities in which these farmers live are also facing manufacturing layoffs and plant closures another blow to the local economy.

Ammerman's interdisciplinary team comprises many UNC departments, centers and schools. Collaborators include the School of P
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Contact: Patric Lane
patric_lane@unc.edu
919-962-8596
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Source:Eurekalert

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