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Department of Sociology and Anthropology
University of Mississippi

Anne Cafer

Biography | Research | Publications | CV


Anne Cafer

Director, Center for Population Studies, Assistant Professor of Sociology,

Co-Director, UM Community First Research Center for Wellbeing and Creative Achievement (CREW)

Ph.D, University of Missouri
Community resilience, health and food systems, rural sociology, mixed methods.
Lamar Hall 543  |  662-915-5733

Office Hours
By appointment

Soc 101 Introductory Sociology

Soc 351 Social Change

Soc 353 Community Development

Soc 635 Teaching Sociology

PRCT 541 Wellbeing and Resiliency

Soc 385/SOHE 301 Society and Health Abroad



I grew up in a rural Missouri community just north of St. Louis. I spent much of my time on my grandparent’s farm which was the hub of rural family life. I grew up appreciating nature and the struggle of small-scale farm families to eke out a living while coexisting in harmony with the environment. This fueled my desire to develop better ways of ‘doing’ agriculture at small scales. I attended Northwest Missouri State University as a molecular biology student, determined to develop the next miracle crop. I LOVED biology, but recognized much of what we do in the lab is done in isolation of the end-user—farmers. As researchers we weren’t asking questions about the needs of those who would most benefit from these new technologies. As a result I also added a sociology major; to help me understand the role of social processes in shaping our interactions with the environment. In 2009 I graduated from Northwest with a B.Sc in both biology and sociology.

At the recommendation of my major advisors I sought out anthropology as my next step. It blended my interests in bio-physical and social processes and my new mentor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln was keen to put a student in a new study sight in Ethiopia! While at UNL I was able to work with refugee groups, conduct field research in the beautiful highlands of the Simien Mountains, and continue my pursuit of environmental issues. My time in Ethiopia was transformative in many ways. In these rural villages I saw firsthand the devastating effects extreme poverty can have on both human well-being and the environment. Despite the surplus of agricultural technologies, aid dollars, and information on environmental conservation, these farmers were starving and working an exhausted landscape simply to mitigate the constant hunger. I decided then that in order to truly address environmental issues, I would also have to work on issues of food security and poverty. After graduating with my MA in anthropology in 2011 I pursued a degree program that allowed me the flexibility to pursue these interests.

In the fall of 2011 I enrolled as a doctoral student at the University of Missouri, in the Department of Rural Sociology. At MU I was encouraged work on domestic issues, in addition to my international study, and was given the space to explore the implications of the interactions between national and state-level policy, inequity in food price and access, and federal entitlement systems. Combined with investigation into the emergency food system, this research is a significant component of my scholarly work. I was also able to secure a Borlaug Fellowship in Global Food Security to continue my research in Ethiopia. I returned to those same communities I worked in during my MA and examined intersecting issues of poverty, food security, health, and agriculture from a systems approach. I specifically looked at how the various institutional arrangements at the national, state, and community level shape farmers’ decision making processes and willingness to adopt sustainable intensification (related to conservation agriculture) practices.


My research uses a systems approach (perhaps a legacy from my biology days) to examine social change around food procurement, agricultural systems, environmental sustainability, and health/nutrition at the community level, both domestically and internationally. These problems are complex in nature and require adaptive, context specific solutions, earning them the title ‘wicked’ problems. To examine these problems and work toward sustainable solutions to these problems I consistently work across disciplinary boundaries—engaging plant scientists, geographers, veterinary medicine specialists, economists, and public health professionals. I also have a (growing) interest in scholarship of teaching. I believe my research should inform my teaching, and I consistently work to bring research experiences and findings into the classroom. I also believe students learn best in an active learning environment guided by inquire based teaching. My goal is to help students develop a toolkit which includes critical thinking, logical reasoning, and a sociological imagination, regardless of background. I also teach courses which include a service learning component as a way of helping students develop empathy and practical research skills related to scientific inquiry.

Selected Publications

 *denotes a student or community co-author

Mann, Georgianna, Kim Kaiser, Noah Trapp*, Anne Cafer, Khyla Grant*, Kritika Gupta*, Candace Bolden*. (In press). Barriers, Enablers, and Possible Solutions for Student Wellness: A Qualitative Analysis of Student, Administrators, and Staff Perspectives. Journal of School Health

Coward, Kara*, Anne Cafer, Meagen Rosenthal, David Allen III*, Queenie Paltanwale*. (2021). An Exploration of Key Barriers to Healthcare Providers’ Use of Food Prescription (FRx) Interventions in the Rural South. Public Health Nutrition (online version).

Cafer, Anne, Meagen Rosenthal, Brookshield Laurent, Jennifer Cooper, and Raeda Anderson. (2020). Health Landscapes in the South: Rurality, Racism, and a Path Forward. Study the South, October 27, 2020.

Mann, Georgianna, Anne Cafer, Kim Kaiser, and Kymberle Gordon*. (2020). Community Resilience in a Rural Food System: Documenting Pathways to Nutrition Solutions. Public Health, 186:157-163.

Coleman, Lois*, Martha Bass, Anne Cafer, Allison Ford-Wade, M. Loftin. (2020). Influences on Body Size Perceptions Among African American Women in the Mississippi Delta. American Journal of Health Promotion. (online version)

2017. Rachel Haggard, Anne Cafer, and John Green. “Mississippi Health and Hunger Atlas 2017.” Center for Population Studies, University of Mississippi.

2017. Michelle Kaiser & Anne Cafer. “Exploring Long-Term Food Pantry Use: Differences between Persistent and Prolonged Typologies of Use.” Journal of Hunger and Environmental Nutrition. doi:10.1080/19320248.2016.1157554

2016. Anne Cafer & Michelle Kaiser. “An Analysis of Difference in Predictors of Food Affordability between Rural and Urban Counties.” Journal of Poverty 20 (1): 34-55. doi:10.1080/10875549.2015.1094760

2015. Anne Cafer, Mary Willis, Shimelis Beyene, Martha Mamo. “Growing Healthy Families: A Survey of Household Production, Food Security, and Well-Being in South Wollo, Ethiopia.” Culture, Agriculture, Food, and Environment 37 (2): 63-73. doi:10.1111/cuag.12053

2014. Anne Cafer, Kara Riggs, Fridah Mubichi, and Leah Sandler. “A Socio-Cultural Perspective on Agricultural Development within a Sub-Saharan African Context: Paradigm Shifts and Interdisciplinary Engagement.” Agrarian Frontiers: A Rural Studies Review 2 (1):35-47.

Current Funding

Community Foundation of Northwest Mississippi: Food Is Medicine Initiative in Mississippi, UM CREW. Role: PI (2020). $4,000i.

Anthem: Food Is Medicine Initiative in Mississippi, UM CREW. Role: PI (2020). $20,000j.

Walmart Giving Foundation: HUNGeR in Rural communities (HUNGR): Integrating Health and Food Systems for a Sustainable Food Rx Approach. Role: PI (2020). $442,154k.

Andrew Carnegie Junior Faculty Fellowship: Transcending Vulnerability: Merging Large Scale Data Systems and Case Study Approaches for Innovative Empirical Resilience Modeling in the US. Role: PI (2019). $200,000