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Community & Economic Vitality

After years of decline, many American cities are experiencing growth and renewal. In the first decades of the new century a host of U.S. cities saw increases in urban employment and population along with decreased rates of poverty and crime (McDonald, 2008). For the last three years, data show American cities growing faster than their surrounding suburbs (Voith & Wachter, 2014).

The goal of this project is to understand the many complexities of physical and mental health faced by rural low-income families within the context of their communities. Poverty is disproportionately higher and more persistent in rural areas than in urban areas and problems of unemployment, underemployment, lower wages, and poor health make it more difficult for the rural poor to escape poverty.

This project will study and numerically model road salt impact on water quality in a typical aquifer in eastern Massachusetts. The study area is a public water well field in the Town of Norwell presently instrumented with 3 multiparameter sensors at different aquifer depths and one sensor located in the nearby stream. The well field is within a glacial outwash area with simple subsurface geology and lies a short distance from major road salt sources including MA Rt. 3, a mall, and lies downstream from a road salt storage shed.

The food industry is under transformation due to some important changes in consumer preferences. With a trend towards a healthier lifestyle, food quality, nutrition, and safety are increasingly important to consumers today. There is an increasing demand for more information about the nutritional content of food, for food considered healthy and health-enhancing. However, at the same time, obesity and diabetes rates continue to rise and so do health care costs as a result.

This research considers ways that "social infrastructure" and "green infrastructure" can mitigate the impact of climate change and severe climate emergencies on vulnerable populations in Springfield, Massachusetts and similar cities. While there is ample research on ways to protect vulnerable populations (elderly, low-income, and minority populations) from climate change, very little research addresses the role that social infrastructure and green infrastructure can play.

This project will link fluvial geomorphology to New England-specific climate, landscape, ecology, population, and infrastructure to develop best management practices for flood prevention. Also, it will uncover challenges and constraints caused by distinct jurisdictional and institutional fragmentation, highlighting successful strategies for overcoming these. The extension aspect will take this much-needed scientific and institutional knowledge and disseminate it among towns, government officials, landowners, businesses, environmental organizations, road crews, and others.

Increasing the consumption of fruits and vegetables in young children and reducing childhood obesity is a key national nutrition goal. This project will examine use of  a sensory-affective, comprehensive approach to promote early childhood consumption of locally grown fresh fruits and vegetables. The direct correlation between fruit and vegetable consumption and lowering of obesity is yet to be established in this life-stage. However, the prevalence of obesity has more than doubled among children ages two to five (5.0% to 12.4%).

The UMass Extension SNAP-Ed program is part of a national nutrition education effort funded through the US Department of Agriculture's Supplemental Assistance Program (SNAP). The overarching goal of SNAP-Ed is to provide nutrition education programs and activities that help adults and youth eligible for SNAP to establish healthy eating habits and physically active lifestyles.

Food insecurity, or not having access at all times to enough food for an active and healthy lifestyle, has been linked to a number of poor health outcomes, including low micronutrient intake, poor academic scores in children and adolescents, and overweight and obesity in adults. The federally-funded Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) program provides nutrition education to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients and eligibles and other low-income families.

Rural landscapes around the world face intense development pressures from nearby urban areas. In the United States, rampant, low-density development at the urban fringe consumed approximately 800,000 ha of land in the last decade (USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service 2004). New subdivision developments and new towns are blanketing the landscape, often with little or inadequate provision for green infrastructure. This is certainly the case in New England, one of the nation's most densely populated regions. For example, every day 16 ha.

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