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Case Western Reserve University researchers trying to find solutions to Cleveland's hunger problems

Posted at 5:29 PM, Aug 21, 2018

The statistics are sad and startling — one out of two children in Cleveland are living in poverty and one out of three people are going hungry.

These are the issues that make Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine researcher Darcy Freedman so passionate about finding ways to curb food insecurity and hunger in low-income neighborhoods.

“These are all changeable things,” Freedman said. “There is no reason why we have the sixth-highest poverty rate. So there is an opportunity to change.”

Freedman, an associate professor in the College of Medicine, is leading a three-year long research project that aims to improve food systems in the city. She recently received a nearly $1 million grant for the work.

Freedman said Cleveland has been innovative in recent years to find ways to bring food to those living in poverty — incentive programs at farmer’s markets, locating farmer’s markets in low-income neighborhoods and developing supermarkets in areas where there is limited access to full-service grocery stores.

But Freedman said those ideas do not seem to be moving the needle when it comes to hunger and poverty in the city.

“So now we really need to think outside the box,” she said. Her project will use computational modeling systems and will work with community partners like Greater Cleveland Food Bank and the Hunger Network of Cleveland.

Jennifer Scofield, CEO of the Hunger Network, said food insecurity is often also coupled with health and economic issues.

The grant was given to CWRU researchers by the nonprofit Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research.

“In reality, our project is a longer-term goal, so we’re looking at what do we need to do to promote change in the next five, ten, 20 years to shift where we are now to where we want to go,” Freedman said.