SMU economists examine fighting hunger through social networks

SMU economics researchers will analyze the roles social networks and isolation play in fighting hunger in North Texas.

Recent studies have found that household economic resources are not the only factor contributing to food insecurity, according to SMU economist Tom Fomby. About 1 in 6 U.S. households are affected by food insecurity, meaning there’s not enough food at all times to sustain active, healthy lives for all family members, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“This study will analyze the role of other factors causing food insecurity, such as urban or rural settings, access to nutrition assistance programs, access to inexpensive groceries, family support and social stigma,” Fomby said.

Fomby, professor of economics and director of the Richard B. Johnson Center for Economic Studies, and Daniel Millimet, SMU professor of economics, are conducting the study. A $120,000 grant from the North Texas Food Bank is funding the research. The study will be complete in March 2014.

Although household income is the single most powerful predictor of food security, poverty and hunger are not synonymous. According to Feeding America, 28 percent of food insecure residents in Dallas County are ineligible for most nutrition assistance programs because they have incomes above 185 percent of the federal poverty level; and the U. S. Department of Agriculture reports that 58.9 percent of U.S. households with incomes below the poverty level are food secure. The reasons for this are not well understood.

“With this research, we expect to better understand the causes of food insecurity in North Texas and improve the assessment of at-risk households,” Fomby said.

The SMU study is one of two major research projects launching The Hunger Center of North Texas, a new collaborative research initiative created by the North Texas Food Bank. The University of North Texas is also collaborating on a study.

“We believe that this research will be groundbreaking,” said Richard Amory, director of research for the North Texas Food Bank. “Nutrition assistance programs tend to approach individuals and households in isolation. Understanding the role that communities play in food security may help us leverage social forces to develop more effective programs and, ultimately, reduce the need for food assistance.”

SMU and the North Texas Food Bank recently formed a partnership, “Stampede Against Hunger,” to build on the University community’s strong support for NTFB, connecting campus groups already working with the food bank, as well as encouraging new types of participation for the campus and alumni community.

The University’s support for the food bank has ranged from traditional food drives and volunteer work in the NTFB distribution center, to research for the food bank conducted by students in the Cox School of Business and the Bobby B. Lyle School of Engineering.

Faculty and students from the Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development volunteer regularly in NTFB nutrition courses, and Fondren Library staff organize a “Food for Fines” drive each year, waiving library fines in exchange for donations of non-perishable food items.

Written by Nancy George, with the NTFB

> Read the full story at the SMU Research blog

For the Record: Sept. 3, 2009

Michael Clarke, International Center, has received a Fulbright Grant to participate in the 2009 Seminar for U.S. Administrators in International Education, to be conducted by the Fulbright Commission in Berlin in October. Only 24 individuals have received Fulbright Grants to participate in the Berlin Seminar.

Beth Newman, English, Dedman College, published “The Vulgarity of Elegance: Social Mobility, Middle-Class Diction, and the Victorian Novel” in Victorian Vulgarity: Taste in Verbal and Visual Culture, edited for Ashgate Press by Susan Bernstein and Elsie Michie. During the summer, she participated in a National Endowment for the Humanities seminar on the Decadent 1890s at UCLA’s Clark Library.

Anthony Cortese, Sociology, Dedman College, published a review of The World of Mexican Migrants: The Rock and the Hard Place by Judith Adler Hellman in The Americas: A Quarterly Review of Inter-American Cultural History, 2009, Volume 6, Number 2:616-17.

For the second year in a row, an SMU data-mining team has placed as one of the top three in the nation in the SAS Data Mining Shootout cosponsored by SAS, Dow and Central Michigan University Research Corporation. The order of finish will be announced at the 2009 SAS Data Mining Conference Oct. 27 at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. Dedman College Economics graduate students Michael Fulmer, Jingjing Ye and Steven Gregory – along with their faculty sponsor, Tom Fomby – will receive all-expense-paid trips to the conference and the award ceremony. In total, 47 U.S. universities and colleges registered, and 28 provided a final submission for judging.

Data-mining champions bring title to SMU

SMU's Data Mining Shootout championsThree SMU graduate students in Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences have been named the nation’s best at sorting and comparing vast amounts of computer data. Economics Ph.D. candidates Stefan Avdjiev, Jayjit Roy and Manan Roy won the 2008 Data Mining Shootout and its $5,000 prize based on their program logic and software solutions for a fictional airline trying to improve customer satisfaction with company responses to weather events.

More than 30 teams from universities and colleges across the country competed in the competition. SMU’s winning team was announced at a conference at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas. It was the University’s first time to enter the competition, said faculty sponsor and economics professor Tom Fomby. “We were not only the newcomers,” Fomby said. “We were the winners.”

(Right, SMU President R. Gerald Turner, Jayjit Roy, Manan Roy, Stefan Avdjiev and Professor Tom Fomby. Photograph by Hillsman S. Jackson.)

Read more from SMU News.

Faculty in the News: Nov. 7, 2008

Matt Wilson, Political Science, discussed Sarah Palin’s political future with Reuters Oct. 31, 2008.

Brian Stump, Earth Sciences, provided expertise on the Oct. 30-31 earthquakes that shook Irving and Grand Prairie for The Dallas Morning News in an article published Nov. 1, 2008.

Rita Kirk, Corporate Communications and Public Affairs, provided expertise on the use of direct mail in political campaigns – and whether or not it has any effect on potential voters – for The Fort Worth Star-Telegram Nov. 2, 2008.

Tom Fomby, Economics, wrote an op-ed, “Financial Crisis: How Did We Get Here?” published in the Dallas Business Journal Oct. 10, 2008. He was also interviewed for a DBJ article, “Dallas Economist Reacts to Fed’s Bailout Plan,” published Sept. 19, 2008. His recent lecture at Texarkana College on the economic recession was covered in the Texarkana Gazette Nov. 2, 2008.

Cal Jillson, Political Science, provided expertise on how Texas politicians are beginning to position themselves for the 2010 election in The Fort Worth Star-Telegram Nov. 5, 2008. He discussed whether a Barack Obama presidency would be able to deliver on expectations with The Canadian Press Nov. 3, 2008. He also talked about how the 2008 election opened a new front in the “culture wars” with Reuters Nov. 2, 2008.

For the Record: Oct. 30, 2008

Karen Vickery, Learning Therapy, has received a 2008 IMSLEC Innovator Award for Outstanding Educator in a University from the International Multisensory Structured Language Education Council. She was recognized at the IMSLEC Council meeting during the International Dyslexia Association conference Oct. 29, 2008, in Seattle.

Three SMU graduate students in Economics are the No. 1 data-mining team in the nation, as announced by the 2008 Data Mining Shootout sponsored by the SAS Institute, Dow Chemical Company and the Central Michigan University Research Corporation. Ph.D. candidates Stefan Avdjiev, Jayjit Roy and Manan Roy won the competition based on their program logic and software solutions to a complex scheduling problem involving a hypothetical airline company operating at three airports and anticipating weather delays and cancellations. Tom Fomby is their faculty sponsor and adviser.

For the Record: Sept. 5, 2008

Museum depiction of NeanderthalMetin Eren, a graduate student in experimental archaeology, has done a study slated for publication in The Journal of Human Evolution that uses data on how early humans made tools to determine that Neanderthals were smarter than previously believed. Garth Sampson, Anthropology (Emeritus), is Eren’s co-author (along with Aaron Greenspan of Think Computer Corporation) on the paper, titled “Are Upper Paleolithic blade cores more productive than Middle Paleolithic discoidal cores? A replication experiment” (PDF). Read more and find more media coverage at SMU News.

Anthony Cortese, Sociology, presented a paper, “Racial Profiling and Ethnic Stereotyping: Muslim Terrorists and Illegal Aliens,” at a Racial Profiling on Borders conference in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Three SMU graduate students in Economics make up one of three finalist teams in the 2008 Data Mining Shootout sponsored by the SAS Institute, Dow Chemical Company and the Central Michigan University Research Corporation. Ph.D. candidates Stefan Avdjiev, Jayjit Roy and Manan Roy made the top three based on their program logic and software solutions to a complex scheduling problem involving a hypothetical airline company operating at three airports and anticipating weather delays and cancellations.

The team will travel to the 11th Annual SAS Data Mining Conference in Las Vegas Oct. 27-28 for the announcement of the final finish order. Tom Fomby is their faculty sponsor and adviser.

For the Record: April 10, 2008

Tom Fomby, Economics, spoke on the application of cointegration to the analysis of the relationship between influenza and non-perforating appendicitis in the Distinguished Speaker Series at UT-Southwestern Medical Center March 20, 2008.

Kamal Saggi, Economics, presented his research on the relative merits of bilateralism and multilateralism as alternative routes to global trade liberalization at Drexel University’s LeBow College of Business April 9, 2008.

The SMU Office of Public Affairs received three awards in the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) District IV 2008 competition. SMU Research received an Achievement Award (Bronze) in the Visual Design-Illustration category for its 2007 cover; SMU Magazine received an Award of Excellence (Silver) in the Magazine, Four-Color Throughout category; and SMU Forum received a Grand Award (Gold) in the E-newsletter category. The honors were presented at the 2008 CASE District IV conference April 5-9 in Little Rock, Arkansas.