Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Food Systems

First Advisor

Emily H. Belarmino


For many Americans, the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic have extended far beyond its overt health risks, spanning from economic shocks to new social realities. Elevated rates of both novel and continued food insecurity during the pandemic have been well-documented, and this burden has not been equally shared. Examination of food insecurity at the present moment offers a unique opportunity to give voice to those affected during this unprecedented time and understand the ability of existing social services to meet increased needs. This research aims to delve into the experiences of individuals at risk for food insecurity. Specifically, (1) to understand experiences and challenges in utilizing federal nutrition assistance programs among participants during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, and (2) to examine associations of program participation with food insecurity, fruit and vegetable intake, and perceived stress. Data for each of these endeavors is drawn from of a survey of 600 Vermont residents conducted in August and September of 2020 designed to assess food security. Although we do not find reduced rates of food insecurity or increased fruit and vegetable intake among federal nutrition assistance program participants, our data suggest that these programs were able to reach those most in need of their services during the tumultuous early months of the COVID-19 pandemic. We also find that program participants perceive value in these programs. Alleviating the experience of food insecurity is a complex task that requires consistent reflection and reexamination of the tools at our disposal particularly under conditions of elevated strain.



Number of Pages

70 p.