Change Text Size
Email Columns Print page
Columns: The Online newspaper for the University of Georgia community
Show Index
October 31, 2011   Columns Articles | Faculty Profiles | Square meal: Professor helps older adults who do not…
Magnify Lee, Jung Sun-H.Env.Portrait
Jung Sun Lee works to help understand food insecurity in older adults. Her research focuses on older adults who don’t have enough food and possible solutions. She even helps with the Campus Kitchen Project, which give excess campus and local food to  grandparents. Photo by Paul Efland

Square meal: Professor helps older adults who do not have enough to eat

October 31, 2011
Share    

Since joining the College of Family and Consumer Sciences in 2006, Jung Sun Lee has developed new ways of measuring food insecurity among older adults that are now being adopted and used by the state. Lee also has expanded her research, teaching and outreach programs to establish even more ways of helping older adults who do not have enough to eat.

Lee’s research on the Georgia ­Advanced Performance Outcomes ­Measures Project (POMP) demonstrated that by assessing those who were on waiting lists for meal programs such as Meals on Wheels or lunches served at senior centers, important information could be obtained.

In Georgia, for example, Lee discovered that up to 59 percent of those on waiting lists for home-delivered meals were food-insecure. That is, they had limited or uncertain ability to acquire sufficient quantities of nutritious food; they had to dedicate a large percentage of their income to food; or they had to choose between an adequate food supply and other necessities such as medicine or housing.

“No other program or state had collected this type of data previously as part of an administrative program evaluation,” said Lee, an assistant professor of foods and nutrition. “We found that our ways of measuring food insecurity were easily implemented and provided a reliable measure of food insecurity that can detect the benefit of meal program participation as little as four months. Now, we have expanded this research and, through the state aging client information database system, are asking older Georgians who request services about food insecurity.”

In addition to the POMP data, Lee also has obtained Medicare data and merged the two.

“With these complementary data-sets, we can actually estimate the dollar amount food insecure older individuals spend on medication and medical care,” she said. “By identifying unique health care usage patterns, such as whether a food insecure individual fills a prescription on time, we can begin to determine how food insecurity may impact health issues.”

Lee also found that many of those on waiting lists for meal programs may be eligible for programs such as food stamps, but have not applied. As part of a follow-up project, food stamp advocates are being trained to target older adults and encourage them to apply for aid, she said.

In a separate project, Lee and her graduate student conducted interviews with residents of the Athens Housing Authority to better understand how they perceive their “food environment,” which she describes as where residents buy or get their groceries, how often they shop for food and the challenges they face.

“In Athens, it can be difficult to get to a grocery store if you don’t own a car,” she said. “If you have to travel by bus or taxi to buy food, you might buy different items or different amounts of food than you would otherwise.”

One of her interesting research findings has been the lack of understanding many housing authority residents have about the local farmers markets.

“Many of the residents either didn’t know about the farmers markets, or they were interested in going, but thought it was too expensive,” she said. “However, the vendors at the farmers market did a pilot project that doubled the value of food stamps which could make it affordable to many low-income people who want to buy fresh vegetables.”

In addition to her many research projects—and her desire to see changes that benefit older adults who are food insecure—Lee works with UGA faculty and students to teach young children about food and nutrition. She is part of a team that has developed a service-learning course where students travel to five elementary schools to teach students about gardening, food and nutrition.

Finally, Lee is a nutrition adviser to the Campus Kitchen Project at UGA. Although new to UGA, Campus Kitchen has been around for a decade and is currently found on 26 campuses across the nation. At UGA, Campus Kitchen delivers excess food collected from fraternity and sorority houses, local restaurants, UGArden’s student garden and the Food Bank of Northeast Georgia to grandparents who are raising their grandchildren.

In all of her projects, Lee emphasizes the importance of using strong research methodology.

“One of the ways I can contribute to improving food security is through research,” Lee said. “I like gathering the data using a rigorous research design and determining how we can make changes in food and nutrition programs and policy that will help people throughout the nation.”

More from this issue

  • October 31, 2011

    Blood pressure-lowering drug aids recovery after stroke

    A commonly prescribed blood pressure-lowering medication appears to kick start recovery in the unaffected brain hemisphere after a stroke by boosting blood vessel growth, a new UGA study has found. Continue

  • October 31, 2011

    U.S., two Koreas meet at UGA for informal peace talks

    Delegates from North Korea, South Korea and the U.S. reaffirmed a commitment to peace building and reintegration Oct. 20 following four days of Track II talks held at UGA. Continue

  • October 31, 2011

    Hatching new ideas

    After just two days of developing in the egg, a chicken’s heart beats. Students discovered the beating organ firsthand after cracking open eggs to learn about embryo development in “chickenology,” a seminar course offered by the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. Continue

  • October 31, 2011

    Reconstituted PSO Leadership Academy convenes first meeting

    UGA faculty and staff members took part in the Public Service and Outreach Leadership Academy on Oct. 19 for the first of eight sessions taking place through June 2012. Continue

  • October 31, 2011

    For invasive species, it’s better to start upstream

    Researchers have found that a species invasion that starts at the upstream edge of its range may have a major advantage over downstream competitors, at least in environments with a strong prevailing direction of water or wind currents. Continue

  • October 31, 2011

    Comparative lit professor leads African Studies Institute

    Akinloye Ojo has been appointed director of the African Studies Institute in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences. Continue

  • October 31, 2011

    Researchers’ study shows that state’s pre-k program works

    Participation in Georgia’s pre-kindergarten program results in lasting academic achievement through middle school for children who live in poverty, the findings of a longitudinal study by two College of Education researchers suggests. Continue

  • October 31, 2011

    Good times

    The university community is celebrating Homecoming Week with various activities culminating with the Nov. 5 football game against New Mexico State University. Continue

  • October 31, 2011

    Less is more

    UGA scientists have found that smaller, less toxic amounts of chemotherapy medicine given frequently to mice with human prostate cancer noticeably slowed tumor growth. Continue

FOR MORE ONLINE
Columns is produced by the University of Georgia | Division of Marketing & Communications | Feedback