Tune in to Focus Carolina during morning, noon and evening drive times and on the weekends to hear stories from faculty members at UNC and find out what ignites their passion for their work. Focus Carolina is an exclusive program on 97.9 The Hill WCHL, sponsored by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Working with the UNC-Chapel Hill Gillings School of Global Public Health, Dr. Alice Ammerman researches innovative ways to solve community-based nutrition challenges.

Dr. Ammerman has been at UNC for more than 20 years, most recently working on school nutrition and sustainable agriculture to address public safety concerns.

“For many years, my research has been trying to find what I call the sweet spot between healthy food access for low income populations and then also economic opportunity in rural communities,” Dr. Ammerman said.

“Rural communities are always at the bottom when it comes to all kinds of health indicators and also economic opportunities. So it’s hard to find something that works for both. If you want to make food affordable for low income people, then it’s hard to get a fair price for the farmers.”

After many different experiments, Dr. Ammerman landed on the idea of a frozen meal that uses local food to support farmers. Often times, this uses food that farmer’s can’t sell anyways.

And such, the Good Bowls project was born.

“So if we can buy it from them for a lower price and then also make it into something that tastes good, then it’s kind of a win-win.”

Good Bowls can be found at Weaver Street Market and the Durham Co-op Market. Dr. Ammerman said that perhaps one day it will end up in Whole Foods as well.

Listen to part one of the interview with Dr. Ammerman:

One of the aspects of healthy food that Dr. Ammerman’s classes study is the trends of diets, such as the Mediterranean diet.

“There’s been a lot of good research that has shown that it really seems very effective in preventing heart disease” Dr. Ammerman said on the topic of the Mediterranean diet. “And now it’s looking like it’s got some benefits in terms of cancer and preventing dementia.”

The research that goes in towards studying different diets also helped with the creation of Good Bowls, which draws inspiration from the Mediterranean diet and many others.

“We’ve tried to appeal to all ends of the economic spectrum to make something that’s appealing. So we use a lot of southern type vegetables, a lot of sweet potatoes, greens, peppers, and things like that. Then we serve it over brown rice, which is not necessarily typically southern, but people don’t even notice when it’s got all this sauce on it. So that’s why we call it the Med-South diet.”

Listen to part two of the interview with Dr. Ammerman: