Illinois Critical Hub For Food Security: Transportation Infrastructure Helps

First Posted: Dec 18, 2014 06:20 PM EST

New findings published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology show that Illinois is the most critical hub in the network of U.S. domestic food transfers.

According to lead study author Megan Konar, an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering, along with researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, they found that the state plays a significant role in distributing food across portions of the United States. Furthermore, the report showed that the U.S. food network moves more than 400 million tons of food annually. Of that total, more than 70 million tons are transported through Illinois, the most of any state in the nation-or about enough food to feed every Illinois citizen a healthy diet for five and a half years.

"The state's geography and infrastructure, coupled with the large volume of commodities produced by Illinois farms each year, means Illinois is a vital player in the network," said Konar, who is also a visiting scholar at the University of Illinois Institute of Government and Public Affairs. Other important hubs include Louisiana (with its ports in New Orleans) and California, in a news release.

Researchers noted that much of Illinois's transportation infrastructure, including railway, the Mississippi River and the Great Lakes, helps guide food security. However, Illinois has 2,311 structurally deficient bridges and 73 percent of major roads are in poor to mediocre quality. That's why the state's infrastructure plays a critical role in keeping food security stabilized, according to researchers.

"With finite resources available for infrastructure improvements, lawmakers can utilize this evidence to make strategic investments in areas that are most critical," Konar concluded. "Policymakers may want to target Illinois for infrastructural improvements, since it is such a critical node in the nation's food transportation network."

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