Farm to Institution

October 27, 2022

Farm to Institute Cover

UConn Undergraduates Hannah Colonies-Kelley and Matt Chen, with ARE Assistant Professor Cristina Connolly, present their findings on UConn’s procurement practices in the report, "Farm to Institution: Highlighting Local Food Procurement at the University of Connecticut". 

Here are some highlights of their findings: 

  • Pre-Covid, nearly 40% of UConn’s food was locally procured. 
  • While students expressed a desire for locally procured products, over 60% were unwilling to pay a premium (defined as a price increase in the meal plan). 
  • Most students are not aware of UConn Dining’s sustainability practices, suggesting a need for improved marketing. 
  • Only 12% of food insecure students were aware of the ability to request dining

You can read their full report on the Zwick Center for Food and Resource Policy Outreach Reports Page

Best Paper Award by AAEA

October 11, 2022

Dr. Xi He

Dr. Xi He

Dr. Xi He, now an Assistant Professor at Virginia Tech’s Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics, and Dr. Rigoberto Lopez have been awarded "BEST PAPER" by the Food Safety and Nutrition Section of AAEA.

The citation:   He, X., R.A. Lopez, and R. Boehm. 2020. “The Impact of Medicaid Expansion on Non-Alcoholic Beverage Choices by Low-Income Households.” Health Economics, 29(11): 1327-1342. November.  

Dr. He completed her PhD in 2019 in the Department of Agricultural Economics at UConn under the supervision of Dr. Rigoberto Lopez.


ARE Students win grant to study UConn local food procurement

April 28, 2022

Students conducting surveyARE seniors Matt Chen and Hannah Colonies-Kelley were awarded an Environmental and Social Sustainability Grant from the Office of Sustainability to study the procurement practices of UConn dining. Through initial interviews with Dining Services personnel, Chen and Kelley learned about UConn’s high levels of local food procurement (approximately 36% pre-pandemic compared to 20% or less at most other institutions) and innovative initiatives to reduce food waste. They are designing a survey to understand students’ food insecurity challenges and awareness of UConn Dining’s sustainability practices, and will be interviewing local agricultural producers. These results will help them develop marketing recommendations for Dining Services, and a report detailing their final results should be forthcoming in July.

You can read more about the grant and Matt and Hannah in UConn Today:

Hannah Colonies-Kelley Senior Spotlight

Matt Chen Senior Spotlight 

PhD Candidate Binod Khanal on Plant-Based Milk

March 9, 2022

PhD Candidate Binod Khanal was recently quoted in an article in The Guardian, “Paying extra for milk alternatives: unfair, illogical- and a little bit racist?”.

““In the long term, the prices for plant-based milk might go down as the size of the industry increases, allowing for more competition in the market,” said Binod Khanal, who researches agricultural economics and consumer behavior at the University of Connecticut. He said the preference for plant-based milk among consumers is largely due to concerns for climate change as well as lactose intolerance, predominantly among the non-white demographic. “

Towe Awarded Grant to Study Water Quality and Economies

January 20, 2021

Charles Towe was awarded a grant for $499,930 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) to study water quality and economics. The grant title is Valuing Rural Stewardship of Riverine Ecosystems: Transfer-Ready Water Quality and Land Cover Co-Benefits, Linked Rural and Urban Economies.

Water quality is the basis for many critical ecosystem services. Runoff of nutrients from the agricultural sector is now the main contributor to the current degradation ofUS waters. Policymakers have found it a challenge to encourage reductions by agriculture for at least two reasons. First, by statute, many agricultural operations are explicitly excluded from regulation. Second, when decision-makers move to set pollution targets it is a challenge to conduct benefit-cost analyses at both the regional and federal levels, exacerbating stasis over the setting of an ambient pollution target that promotes the general welfare.The policy community realizes that estimates of the public value for water quality are critical inputs for robust welfare analyses.Programs for water quality improvement span rural, suburban, and urban communities, and the benefits extend across these same dimensions. To date, much of the focus for water quality changes and benefit calculation has been placed either in urban areas. Given the dominance of non-point sources in our current water pollution portfolio and the fact that the acceptance of, and voluntary participation in, government programs to reduce this pollution is required for further success, a statistically valid and transferable estimate of rural water quality benefits is needed. These estimates are an important input to near-term spending priorities and in the longer term to aid in evaluating the potential for new, perhaps state-level, regulations, or market-based trading mechanisms (environmental markets) to meet water quality targets.Therefore, with the resulting absence of benefits information, it is hard to evaluate an investment in water quality in rural communities and current investment in such areas is likely inadequate. The value of water quality improvement is conditional on the target area of quality-improving management practices and the downstream areas that accrue benefits. Thus, a national or even region-wide assessment of the value of water quality changes with specificity to a local decision-scale is costly. The ecological, land-cover, and social context are critical to value measurement, and comprehensive information requires many valuation studies across a spectrum of locations.Overcoming these challenges requires valuation models that account for social, economic, and environmental context and tradeoffs and are constructed in a fashion that allows estimation of benefits even outside of the studied areas. In this study, we conduct targeted valuation surveys across these dimensions that allow for a benefit estimate of quality improvements along the entirety of the riverine system. These benefit calculations will fill a gap in knowledge and assist policymakers in targeting practice changes that produce the greatest social welfare improvement.

Swallow Awarded Grant to Study Ecosystem Services

Stephen Swallow was awarded a $50,000 grant from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) to study ecosystem services. The grant title is Ecosystem Services Foundations for Resilient Communities: Agriculture, Land Use, Coasts and Energy for Human Well-Being.

The proposed workshop facilitates discussion amongst experts about the impacts of environmental regulations on the local environmental quality and economic well-being of rural communities. We examine the relationship between agriculture, natural resource conservation, policies, and actions that enhance rural community resilience. The workshop addresses best management practices to improve or mitigate changes in ecosystem services. We focus on rural and rural-fringe community’s efforts that adapt to changing frequencies and magnitudes of natural storms, by creating resilience for built infrastructure in consort with resilient provisions of the ecosystem. The research workshop builds upon a long history of successful annual workshops addressing related themes in natural resource, environmental and agricultural economics and policy. The targeted focus of the workshop is designed to promote in-depth dialogue, debate and policy discussions among a small group of invited speakers, selected presenters and other attendees, with session coordinators chosen for their expertise and relevance of ongoing work. The workshop also follows a plan for dissemination and publishing of research and policy discussion. It enables attendees to learn about and evaluate recent advances in theoretical and empirical research in the area of ecosystem services foundations for resilient communities. The meeting also provides participants a venue to present the policy significance of their work and convey their data needs to relevant agencies. This approach benefits the scientific community as research findings are published in a special issue. Moreover, the workshop informs a wide range of groups, including rural community advocates, environmental advocacy groups, local businesses and technology companies, national and local policymakers, and others.

Connecticut Sea Grant Coastal and Marine Economics Graduate Fellowship Program 2021-22

January 18, 2021

Lindsey kayaking in Long Island SoundThe Connecticut Sea Grant Coastal and Marine Economics Graduate Fellowship Program will enable one selected graduate student per year to conduct independent fundamental or applied economic research for one year under the guidance of their academic advisor. The purpose of the fellowship is three-fold: (1) advance progress towards the coastal and marine goals of the CTSG 2018-23 Strategic Plan through their individual project, (2) learn about CTSG and engage staff on economic aspects of existing and emerging program needs, and (3) promote a real-world professional development opportunity aimed at enhancing the career goals of the fellow.

The program will do so by awarding one CTSG Graduate Economics Fellowship for the 2021-22 academic year. The award will consist of a service-free fellowship providing a $20,000 annual stipend (paid monthly). Preference will be given to applications for which the host department will couple the fellowship with a partial or full assistantship that covers the fellow’s graduate tuition and benefits.

The 2021-22 fellowship is open to graduate students who will be enrolled in an economics-related MS or PhD graduate program in a Connecticut academic institution during the duration of the fellowship (i.e. the fall 2021 and spring 2022 semesters). The fellowship is open to applicants irrespective of their citizenship or nationality, as long as they are enrolled in an eligible graduate program. The successful fellow’s academic advisor must be affiliated with a Connecticut academic institution, with expertise relevant to the proposed research. CTSG is strongly committed to enhancing diversity, equity and inclusivity in higher education and encourages submissions that help achieve those objectives. 

CTSG areas of particular interest 

  • Valuation of ongoing efforts/sectors relevant to Sea Grant activities, such as valuing recreational fisheries in Connecticut, marsh restoration efforts, etc.
  • Valuation of environmental services
  • Economic analyses of climate change impacts on coastal and marine sectors and ecosystem services in Connecticut
  • Economic and societal impacts derived from Sea Grant activities (market and non-market; jobs and businesses created or sustained) 
  • Economic value of coastal and marine habitats and ecosystems.

Submission deadline is Friday, May 14, 2021.

The complete Call and Guidance on how to apply can be found here:

For more information: see, or contact:

Dr. Syma A. Ebbin, research coordinator

Connecticut Sea Grant College Program

The University of Connecticut

1080 Shennecossett Road

Groton, CT 06340-6048

Tel: (860) 405-9278; Fax: (860) 405-9109