Date of Award

August 2021

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Sociology, Anthropology and Criminal Justice

Committee Member

Catherine Mobley

Committee Member

Sarah Griffin

Committee Member

Kenneth Robinson


Food insecurity refers to the inability to access enough food, and enough quality food, to live an active and healthy life (USDA 2019a). In 2019, the U.S. food insecurity rate was approximately 10.5% (USDA 2019a). However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic these national rates increased to at least a peak of 13.9% in 2020 (Feeding America 2021). There are national, state, and local policies, programs, and food systems that aim to address food insecurity (each having varying degrees of success). The context of this thesis focuses specifically on Pickens County, SC. A relatively large county in the Upstate and Appalachia regions of South Carolina, Pickens County normally maintains a food insecurity rate just below the national average. This thesis contributes to the food insecurity literature as a qualitative case study of Pickens County, SC between 2019 and 2021. Through forty-five interviews and four focus groups, the food systems characteristics of Pickens County, SC were identified to assess potential improvements to the local food system. The study results revealed that although some food assistance efforts of the Pickens County food system provide food access, there is room for improvement. Data suggest that Pickens County, SC does not have the public transportation necessary to reduce food insecurity. Further, food assistance efforts in the county would benefit from an increased level of centralization. The findings of this thesis should be generalizable enough to be of use for Pickens County, SC; as well as similar middle-income and semi-urban counties throughout the United States.



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