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Virtual SPARKS: Achieving Food Security

The Office of Research and Engagement (ORE) and the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture (UTIA) are partnering to present Virtual SPARKS: Achieving Food Security on Friday, Apr. 23, from 2–4 p.m. Launched in 2017, SPARKS (Seeking Partnerships to Advance Research, Knowledge, and Science) events facilitate new collaborations among faculty and connect disciplines with common interests or research opportunities.

This Virtual SPARKS event will focus on Tennessee’s food security, which is defined as having physical, social, and economic access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food. The United Health Foundation estimates that 12.9% of Tennessee households suffered from food insecurity in 2019, slightly higher than the national average of 12.3%, ranking Tennessee as the 20th most food insecure state in the country.

UT researchers across the campus are tackling the challenges related to individual household food security, community food production, and other community issues. From UT’s One Health initiatives and international perspectives, to research on food retail and urban vs. rural solutions, faculty from multiple disciplines throughout the University of Tennessee and UTIA are working to solve food insecurity throughout Tennessee and beyond.

Following a welcome from UTIA leaders, the SPARKS event will present a series of 16 lightning talks by UT and UTIA faculty and others, as listed below:

  • Extension Family and Consumer Sciences: Transforming Families, Transforming Communities (Christopher Sneed, UTIA Department of Family and Consumer Sciences)
  • Evaluating the Influence of P-EBT on Household Food Sufficiency During the COVID-19 Pandemic (Jackie Yenerall, UTIA Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics)
  • Bats: Agriculture, Conservation, Food, and Zoonoses (Adam Willcox, UTIA Department of Forestry, Wildlife, and Fisheries)
  • Connecting Food Security and Conservation Science (Paul Armsworth, UT Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology)
  • Addressing Food Security Through Community Needs Assessments (Karen Franck, UTIA Department of Family and Consumer Sciences)
  • Vol Dining: Partnering for a Food Secure Campus (Mary Patterson, Aramark)
  • Biofortified Foods: Enhancing Global Food Security and Beyond (Scott Lenaghan, UTIA Department of Food Science)
  • Increasing Healthy Food Access with Shop Smart Tennessee – a Program for Small Food Retail Stores (Cori Sweet, UTIA Department of Family and Consumer Sciences)
  • Social Marketing Using Local Influencers to Increase Fruit and Vegetable Consumption During COVID-19: A Tennessee Case Study (Jennifer Ward, UTIA Department of Family and Consumer Sciences)
  • UT Research Engagement in Food Security and Nutrition (Javiette Samuel, UT Division of Diversity and Engagement)
  • 1890s Multi-State Conference on Food Accessibility: Launching a Virtual Community of Practice (M. Shea Austin Cantu, TN State University)
  • Fresh Pantry: Bringing Food to Where People Need it Most (Betsy Anderson-Steeves, UT Department of Nutrition)
  • Food Insecurity Among College Students (Marsha Spence, UT Department of Nutrition)
  • Elevating Student Voices through Qualitative Research (Ashlyn Anderson, UT Department of Nutrition)
  • The First Six Months: The Initial Impact of the Big Orange Pantry (Abigail Brumfield, UT Office of the Dean of Students)
  • UTIA’s Engagement with Food Security Globally (David Ader, UT’s Smith Center for International Agriculture)
  • Rising Up to the Global Challenge: UT in an Era of Global Engagement and Sustainability (Gretchen Neisler, UT Center for Global Engagement)

Please register by April 19 to attend the event.

For more information on this event, contact Sharon Pound at