Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2015

Document Type


Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors



First Advisor

Elisabeth Root

Second Advisor

William Travis

Third Advisor

Victoria Derr


Food insecurity has reemerged as a significant social problem in the United States, despite the fact that we produce more than enough food as a nation to feed all of our citizens. Since the economic recession in 2007, food insecurity has increased, and in recent years has remained at 14.3%. Many strategies have been adopted to address food insecurity in the U.S., some of which are sponsored by the federal government, such as SNAP and the School Lunch Program, while others are donation-driven non-profit organizations, such as food pantries. While there are a number of food support networks that have been established with the intent of decreasing food insecurity, there are still gaps in the food system in which food is wasted and people are hungry. This study explores contemporary food insecurity within Colorado counties, specifically the effectiveness of existing food support networks, the drivers of food insecurity (aside from the factors that are used to calculate the county food insecurity rate), and how effective two local non-profit organizations, Boulder Food Rescue and Denver Food Rescue, have been at addressing hunger and food insecurity in the communities in which they operate. In this study I used both quantitative analyses of Colorado counties as well as qualitative interviews with key players addressing food insecurity. Results demonstrated that the number of food pantries in a county and the presence of a food rescue organization are both positively related to the county's food insecurity rate. As the literature suggests, this indicates that food pantries and food rescue organizations are more likely to locate in areas of high food insecurity. The most statistically significant drivers of food insecurity are the percentage of individuals with a high school diploma (the higher the percentage, the lower the rate of food insecurity) and the number of individuals where English is not their first language (the higher the percentage, the higher the rate of food insecurity). Lastly, both Boulder and Denver Food Rescue have filled an interesting gap in the food system, as both organizations are helping supplement a growing trend of providing fresh and nutritious fruits and vegetables to food-insecure individuals. Furthermore, both non-profits have succeeded at reaching several key traditionally unreachable food insecure populations, such as the elderly and people for whom English is a second language.