Improving Food Security to Increase Resiliency to COVID-19 for Latinx Populations (2020-2021)

This project team took on the problem of food insecurity among Durham’s Latinx residents, one in five of whom said they sometimes skipped or limited their meals. In the context of the pandemic, access to sufficient nutritious food took on even greater importance.

Working with Root Causes, an organization run by Duke medical students, the team researched strategies for adapting to COVID-19, such as modes of contactless food delivery. Using surveys and deidentified medical records, team members assessed the impact of Root Causes’ Fresh Produce Program on patient health and food security amid pandemic conditions. Through interviews and a comparative study of food redistribution organizations, the team identified (and continues to identify) local and global best practices in addressing food insecurity as part of the response to the pandemic.

Members of the team have continued their work during the summer of 2021, facilitating a Community Consultation Studio with Triangle area food security organizations in conjunction with Duke’s CTSI Community Engaged Research Initiative (CERI).

Partnering with the Duke Campus Farm, the team also expanded the Fresh Produce Program to around 150 households in Durham, including many high-need Latinx families. Deliveries included fresh food as well as masks, household essentials and educational materials.


Fall 2020 – Spring 2021

Team Outputs

Fresh Produce Program survey data and impact report


Elaijah Lapay

This Team in the News

Elaijah Lapay: 2023 Recipient of the Lars Lyon Community Service Award

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Highlights from the Bass Connections Annual Report: Seven Local Projects

Bass Connections 2020-2021 Annual Report: Selected Highlights

Duke Innovates Together With Our Partners in the Region

Bass Connections Teams Tackling COVID-19 Problems, from Food Security to Voting-by-Mail

Growing in New Ways at Duke Campus Farm

Durham Nutritious Food Bank Sees Surge in Growth during Coronavirus Pandemic

Fresh Produce Delivery Program helps Duke Medical Students Address 'Root Causes' of Medical Problems

Student Spotlight: Elaijah Lapay ’24


Image: Healthy, by Ashley Maceli, licensed under CC-BY-NC 2.0

Fruits for sale.

Team Leaders

  • Elana Horwitz, Duke University School of Medicine–MD Student
  • Hannah Malian, UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health–Graduate Student
  • Catarina Martinez, Nicholas School–Environmental Management–MEM Student
  • Viviana Martinez-Bianchi, School of Medicine-Family Medicine and Community Health

/graduate Team Members

  • Julian Xie, Medicine-MD, Masters of Public Policy
  • Willis Wong, Biomedical Sciences
  • Tamar Chukrun, Medicine-MD
  • Natalie Wickenheisser, Medicine-MD
  • Nidhila Masha, Medicine MD Fourth Year
  • Winston Liu, Neurobiology-PHD
  • Sunny Liu, Medicine MD Fourth Year, Mgt of Clinical Informations

/undergraduate Team Members

  • Elizabeth Berenguer, Cultural Anthropology (AB)
  • Florence Zhao, Biology (BS)
  • Kathleen Waeldner, Cultural Anthropology (AB)
  • Neha Vyas, Neuroscience (BS)
  • Ana Trejo, Int Comparative Studies (AB)
  • Faraan Rahim, Chemistry (BS)
  • Karina Moreno Bueno, Biology (BS)
  • Nayoon Lee, Economics (BS)
  • Emma Herold, Sustainability Engagement
  • Nathan Heffernan, Public Policy Studies (AB)
  • Shreyas Hallur, Public Policy Studies (AB), Statistical Science (BS2)
  • Elaijah Lapay, Program II (AB)

/yfaculty/staff Team Members

  • Jennifer Zuckerman, Sanford School of Public Policy
  • Sarah Armstrong, Pediatrics: Healthy Lifestyles Program
  • Kelly Brownell, Sanford School of Public Policy
  • Rushina Cholera, School of Medicine-Pediatrics: Primary Care Pediatrics
  • Corinna Sorenson, School of Medicine-Population Health Sciences|Margolis Center for Health Policy
  • Elizabeth Shapiro-Garza, Nicholas School of the Environment-Environmental Sciences and Policy
  • Saskia Cornes, Franklin Humanities Institute

/zcommunity Team Members

  • LatinX Medical Student Association
  • Lincoln Community Health Center
  • El Centro Hispano, Durham
  • Root Causes
  • Farmer Foodshare
  • Durham County Food Security Task Force