Claire Baney selected for AGEC department’s top undergraduate thesis award

Claire Baney (AgEcon/AgCom dual major; Fishers, Indiana) was selected for the 2022 Deb Brown Award for Outstanding Undergraduate Honors Thesis by the Department of Agricultural Economics at Purdue University. The award winner is selected by the Honors Program Coordinator and Undergraduate Program Coordinator and is in recognition of outstanding undergraduate-led research in agricultural and resource economics. All completed honors thesis are eligible.

The award was established by faculty and members of the department after the passing of Professor Deborah “Deb” Brown to honor her legacy of undergraduate research. Deb Brown took over the agricultural economics honors program in 1990 and was known for spending hundreds of hours assisting her Honors students with their special projects and plans of study. Deb always tried to communicate the excitement of the research process and of scientific discovery to students while holding them to high quality standards.

Claire Baney’s honors thesis project entitled, "Assessing Local Food Access: A Starter Kit for Communities," examines local food access in Anderson, Indiana, focusing on households with limited resources living in ‘food deserts.’ The study combines applied research and Extension education, resulting in a toolkit for Extension professionals and community groups interested in assessing the availability of local food at the community level. On the applied research side, the study employs a mixed-method approach through a survey (available in English and Spanish and online and in paper form at local food pantries) and focus groups. With respect to Extension, the toolkit outlines all of the steps required to conduct this type of study at the local level, including survey instruments, focus group process agendas, marketing materials, example Institutional Review Board applications, and a roadmap for the quantitative and qualitative analysis aspects of the process.

The study was a joint venture between Purdue Extension, the Purdue Nutrition Education Program, and the Madison County Local Food Network. The work was conducted under the direction of Dr. Michael Wilcox, assistant director of Purdue Extension and Extension Specialist, in collaboration with Ms. Chelsie Jaramillo, Community Wellness Coordinator with the Purdue Nutrition Education Program.

Wilcox said of Claire, “Claire is exceptionally empathetic. As a resident of Madison County, Claire wanted to channel her empathy in a way that would help those in need. Her family owns Remedy Farm and practices regenerative agriculture. Claire saw firsthand some of the challenges being faced by Anderson residents and started thinking about the role that local/regional food systems might play in addressing food security issues. We are in the process of completing a food security study in Michigan City and plan to combine the two into a final tool kit that will look at local access to food AND access to local food. Claire’s ingenuity and compassion have fueled this vision from the start. We are excited to go through the process of peer review and publishing the final product through Purdue Extension so everyone can benefit from Claire’s work.”