Theses and Dissertations


Sweta Tiwari

Issuing Body

Mississippi State University


Ambinakudige, Shrinidhi

Committee Member

Jialin, Zhang

Committee Member

John, Rodgers

Committee Member

Kathleen, Sherman-Morris

Date of Degree


Original embargo terms

Visible to MSU only for 1 Year

Document Type

Dissertation - Open Access


Earth and Atmospheric Sciences

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D)


College of Arts and Sciences


College of Agriculture and Life Sciences


Department of Geosciences


College of Agriculture and Life Sciences


Food insecurity is one of the biggest challenges facing American society today. Over 13.7 million US households were food insecure in the year 2019 and 19 million Americans lived in food deserts in the year 2015 (USDA, 2020, 2017). Despite food insecurities affecting communities in every corner of the country, there is a dearth of research on food security and food deserts. Therefore, the main objectives of this study are 1) to identify underlying neighborhood characteristics that predict the communities at higher nutritional risk, 2) to analyze the impacts of household characteristics on household food insecurity, and 3) to examine the combined influences of both household and neighborhood characteristics on household food insecurity. Through exploratory factor analysis, eleven socioeconomic characteristics of neighborhoods were systematically grouped into two factors. The first factor represented the neighborhoods with lower socioeconomic status and the second factor represented the declining neighborhoods. Both neighborhoods are less attractive to the big retail stores economically (Bonanno, 2012), and are sometimes subject to malpractice like supermarket redlining (Eisenhauer, 2001).The food desert vulnerability index (FDVI) was created by ranking the variables of factor 1 and factor 2, and the ranking was based on percentiles. This index identified the census tracts of the Southern United States, Maine, Oregon, New Mexico, and Arizona as the socioeconomically vulnerable neighborhoods thereby their possibility of being food deserts. Additionally, analysis of the effect of household characteristics using the regression models suggested that households that were large, minorities, single-parent, male-headed, and lived in the metros, and Midwestern and Southern regions were food insecure. Combined assessment of household and neighborhood characteristics using hierarchical linear modeling revealed that only 2.03 percent of the variance in the household food security score was attributable to differences between counties, thereby implying household food security was mostly dependent on the household’s characteristics. The major limitation of this study is that it does not incorporate the cross-sectional variations in food prices, the role of social capital, and the analysis of the food environment to assess household food insecurity. Research examining the influence of these aspects on household food security would be beneficial.