Honors Theses

Date of Award

Spring 5-2023

Document Type

Undergraduate Thesis


Sociology and Anthropology

First Advisor

Anne Cafer

Second Advisor

Meagen Rosenthal

Third Advisor

Catarina Passidomo

Relational Format



Food insecurity has strong links to worsened overall health outcomes, specifically, increased prevalence of chronic conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and obesity. Food insecurity in developed nations is primarily characterized by reduced access to nutritionally dense foods. This problem is especially prevalent in the Mississippi (MS) Delta region, where greater than two in five people are food insecure and community health outcomes are among the worst in the nation. Recent literature has placed emphasis on solutions to urban food insecurity, but urban resolutions cannot be fully extrapolated to rural food systems, where insecurity is characterized by a multifactorial lack of access to food markets. Rural southern Italy is socio-economically and geographically similar to rural northwest Mississippi, but has significantly better food security and health outcomes. This research, in an effort to identify potential solutions to the challenges faced by rural communities related to food, compares rural Italian and Mississippi food systems. This study examines the relationships between food producers, processors, and markets to determine from a food systems level how they affect food security. This qualitative study systematically compares regions in Sicily, Sardinia, and Basilicata to rural Northwest MS. Data revealed that the presence of robust supports in the form of agricultural subsidies and formal network creation enables agricultural fluidity, market access, easy information sharing and access. Higher densities of food importers and intermediaries also offer contract flexibility for smaller producers, increasing market access. Rural Italians have developed a social network that involves trading foods, as well as sharing equipment and labor, enabling widespread access to local food, reducing capital requirements, and circumventing producer constraints. The MS Delta has a similar barter network for securing transportation, which suggests potential for extrapolation to improve food security-based mechanisms via Italian norms. This research suggests state and federal-level horticultural capacity building and formalized networking opportunities for small-scale producers at the regional level have significant potential for improving local capacity to mitigate food insecurity and subsequently poor health outcomes among historically marginalized communities.

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Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

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Food Security Commons



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