A Comparative Study of the Impacts of Perceived Food Access and Neighborhood Culture of Health in Roanoke City Communities due to the COVID-19 Pandemic

Author: Kavya Iver
Major: Biochemistry
Approved: Fall 2020
Status: In progress

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the lives of millions around the globe. From the skyrocketing unemployment rates to the overworked hospital systems, adjusting to the new ‘normal’ is definitely going to take some time for people everywhere. This project will focus on whether the perceived access to food and neighborhood culture of health for Roanoke City Public School (RCPS) youth and their families have altered due to the COVID-19 pandemic through data collected from The Roanoke Valley Community Healthy Living Index (RVCHLI). The RVCHLI has focused on creating positive policy change for the residents in the Roanoke Valley through gauging the perceived access to healthy resources for people of all lifestyles. According to the 2018 Census, approximately 20% of the residents in Roanoke City lived in poverty. This has a drastic effect on the lives of the young children that attend RCPS elementary schools (Kindergarten to 5th grade). Children of that age are dependent on parents and/or guardians to provide an adequate source of nutrition and family stability for them to grow and mature. Data from the RVCHLI in the 2019 annual report has shown that approximately 41% of the elementary aged children from RCPS are overweight and obese when compared to the state average of 31%. There are a lot of factors that could contribute to the higher rates of overweight and obesity in Roanoke City youth including resources for healthy eating and neighborhood culture of health. The first semester of this project will focus on preparing and sending out surveys to the families of the RCPS elementary school students for the 2021 school year, and the second semester will focus on analyzing quantitative and qualitative data for a comparative study using past data from the RVCHLI to see the local impacts of the pandemic in at-risk communities.