Associate Professor

Dr. Meredith Niles is an assistant professor in the Department of Nutrition and Food Sciences at the University of Vermont and also teaches and advises in the food systems program.  She completed her BA in politics with honors in environmental studies at The Catholic University of America, a PhD in Ecology at the University of California at Davis and was a post-doctorate fellow in Sustainability Science at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government. 

Meredith thrives conducting applied research that can help bring together diverse stakeholders- whether on a farm or working with policymakers- to help solve pressing problems facing our world's food system.  Meredith’s work focuses on sustainable food security across three areas: 1) Ensuring sustainable food production by working to understand farmer’s adoption of sustainable practices; 2) Food access and security in a changing world, particularly the impact of climate change and COVID-19; and 3) food waste behaviors and policy.  Currently she has a number of ongoing research projects related to food systems, health and environment from the perspective of people, behavior and policy.

Prior to her academic career, Meredith worked for the United States Department of State in HIV/AIDS public health and for several non-profit organizations.  Meredith is a passionate advocate for open access research to make research more publicly available to maximize the potential of science and its benefits for society. To help realize this goal she currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Public Library of Science (PLOS), one of the world’s largest non-profit scientific publishers.

At UVM, Meredith teaches an undergraduate course in U.S. food policy and politics and a graduate course in Food Systems Science and Policy.  Her teaching is grounded in engaged, hands-on methods, especially to understand and participate in the policy process.

Research and/or Creative Works

Meredith has three primary areas of interest related to sustainable food security, which overlap with several current and future research efforts:

  1. Ensuring Sustainable Food Production: Meredith works with farmers and farm organizations to understand why farmers adopt best management and sustainable practices.  She has worked in this area since her PhD, and has examined farmer’s adoption of climate adaptation and mitigation practices, water management, nitrogen and manure management, and cover crops. 
  2. Food Access and Security in a Changing World: Meredith’s previous and current work examines how climate change will affect food access, especially for low-income populations, women and children.  This work includes frequently linking survey data with climate change data to explore how food security and diet diversity have been affected by climate change and extreme events.  More recently, Meredith is leading a national effort with researchers at UVM and Johns Hopkins University to examine the food access and food security impacts of COVID-19.
  3. Food Waste Behaviors: Meredith has examined the environmental impact of food waste, and primarily focused on understanding why food is wasted and what behaviors households may pursue to minimize food waste under varying policies.

Research Briefs:

The coronavirus pandemic has had a major impact on food systems, including food access and security. 

Below are three briefs that detail these results:

Brief 1: A General Overview of Coronavirus and Food Access and Security in Vermont
Brief 2: The Impact of Coronavirus on Vermonters Experiencing Food Insecurity
Brief 3: Job Disruption and Loss and Food Access During Coronavirus

Further information on the Food Insecurity and Covid-19 Research


Awards and Recognition

Associations and Affiliations

  • Board of Directors, Public Library of Science
  • Board of Directors, Rural Vermont
  • Associations- Ecological Society of America, Agronomy Soil and Crop Science Societies

Areas of Expertise and/or Research

  • Food Systems Sustainability
  • Food Policy
  • Food Security
  • Farmer Behavior
  • Social-Ecological Systems


  • PhD, Ecology, University of California, Davis, 2014
  • BA, Political Science, Honors in Environmental Studies, The Catholic University of America, 2005


  • 802-656-4337
Office Location:

355 MLS Carrigan Wing

Office Hours:

by appointment

Courses Taught