Publication Date



Gary Yohe


Economics (ECON)


English (United States)


This thesis addresses issues surrounding urban food insecurity in the United States and considers two potential solutions: urban agricultural production and major federal food assistance programs. Chapter 1 presents a critical assessment of urban agriculture, and in particular the recent shift in focus among many of its advocates towards entrepreneurial urban market farming. After an assessment of the literature in support of the potential profitability of urban agriculture, the chapter presents a case study of Philadelphia to offer a counter-narrative. The results of interviews with urban producers demonstrate that not only is it exceedingly difficult for urban farms to become financially sustainable, but their primarily socially driven objectives—especially their work to combat urban food insecurity—actively conflict with the steps that would be necessary to achieve profitability. Chapter 2 uses an instrumental variables approach to consider the effects of participation in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)—collectively the two largest federal food and nutrition programs—on the variety of fresh produce consumed among eligible urban populations. After providing a background of the two programs and a review of the empirical literature, the paper proceeds with a multi-stage econometric analysis that utilizes combined public and restricted use data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) in conjunction with state level policy data accumulated from a number of sources. Finally, there is a consideration of the results of this analysis and suggestions for further research.

Available for download on Monday, April 15, 2019



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