Many students within the Environmental Health Department have expressed an interest in the intersection between food and health. Food impacts the health of both humans and the environment. Although there are many reasons why humans choose their diets, often the lack of resources prevents them from making healthy choices. Students are exploring the public health implications of industrial agriculture versus sustainable agriculture and the health impacts of pesticides.

Examples of faculty research on food:

With funding from the Center for Produce Safety and in collaboration with George Vellidis at University of Georgia and Vincent Hill at CDC, Dr. Karen Levy’s research group has been conducting a series of studies of water quality in irrigation ponds in an agricultural area of southern Georgia. The projects aim to develop best practices for detection of Salmonella spp. in the ponds, and to understand the impact of rainfall and land use on microbial water quality of the irrigation ponds and irrigation water.

Dr. Dana Barr has worked with two migrant farmworker cohorts: one in southern California and one in North Carolina. She has primarily investigated pesticide exposure, the use of personal protective equipment, and behaviors related to these exposures and neurological outcomes. Dr. Barr currently works on the PACE4 Study evaluating behavioral predictors of pesticide exposure in migrant farmers in North Carolina.

Dr. Juan Leon works in Mexico to understand routes of microbial contamination of fresh vegetables and fruits to prevent produce outbreaks. In Bolivia, Dr. Leon is researching if malnutrition worsens the effect of the rotavirus vaccine. In the U.S., Dr. Leon's domestic research includes understanding the prevalence of parasitic diseases among immigrant Latin Americans, such as especially Chagas. Dr. Leon is also working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to understand how Latin Americans in the U.S. access care through the American health system, especially when they are at risk for parasitic diseases.

Food Research Interests

EH 546/GH 580 Environmental Microbiology: Control of Food and Waterborne Diseases Spring
GH 538 Food and Nutrition in Humanitarian Emergencies (Short course) Spring
ENVS 585 Special Topics: Eating in Captivity
ANT 252 Fast Food/Slow Food

Burrowes, Vanessa (2014). “The effect of stages in the food production process on microbial quality of high-risk produce collected near the U.S.-Mexico border.” Advisor: Juan Leon

Pennington, Whitney (2014). “Establishing a method for microbiological evaluation of fresh produce at risk for Salmonella contamination.” Advisor: Karen Levy

Donato, Caitlin (2016). “Development of a produce handling training manual for small scale farmers.”

Moore, Alysa (2016). “Urban farm action plan for the Atlanta BeltLine.”

Fine, Matthew (2016). “Fruits and vegetables on prescription: Bringing prevention into primary care.”

Ross, Alexandra (2014). “The environmental health impacts of food systems: An argument for sustainable agriculture.”