College of Vermont Receives Almost $ 400,000 for Critical Video games To Promote Wholesome Ag Science Meals Coverage

An interdisciplinary team of researchers from the University of Vermont is using video game technology to make policy decisions to improve access to healthy foods.

The University of Vermont has received nearly $ 400,000 in funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to encourage an interdisciplinary team to use Serious Game technology and test how policies across the food system are accessible can better support healthy foods.

The two-year grant will support research into the systemic barriers between civic farms and communities with disproportionately low access to fresh whole foods. The cross-campus partnership will use serious games – video games that are not for entertainment purposes – to test how different scenarios might play out in real life.

“Legitimate games can help us find answers to simulated conflict and alternative guidelines without putting people in front of actual conflicts or bad guidelines. That way, we can find ways to create fairer and more equitable solutions, ”said team member Scott Merrill.

The team’s approach is to understand not only the decision making of farmers and traders, but also the larger context in which they take place. The games developed explore how potential policies could provide farmers with more opportunities to feed their local and regional communities. Seeing how abstract guidelines can impact real-world realities can provide leverage for change across the food system.

Led by food anthropologist Amy Trubek, the team includes Scott Merrill, systems ecologist Caitlin Morgan, applied mathematician Eric Clark and health policy expert Julia Wolfson, partner at Johns Hopkins University.

“We were able to create this innovative project because of the strong collaborative spirit between faculties and PhD students associated with the Food Systems Graduate program,” said Trubek.

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