Geography Master’s Student Awarded Ridge Scholarship in Health and Humanities

Lila Osborn

First-year M.S. Geography student Lila Osborn has been named a 2021 Ridge Scholar by the Institute of Health and Humanities. This award recognizes research and creative work on topics at the intersection of health and/or healthcare and the humanities. Lila’s research examines food insecurity in Butte, Montana, with particular focus on factors tied to the city’s unique mining history.

At the base of the Continental Divide and atop vast mineral resources, Butte was once the largest and richest city west of the Mississippi River. Work, everyday life, and local identity in Butte were intimately tied to the mining industry. The city was often referred to as a “wide-open town” for its vibrant nightlife, blend of cultures, and fervent pride for the city and mining. When the Anaconda Mining Company left in the late 1970s and mining operations started to shuttter, Butte began a period of economic decline and population loss. Today, Butte reports notable conditions of unemployment, poverty, and food insecurity. Lila’s research recognizes that food insecurity stems from factors related to poverty and access at individual and community scales. Further, it highlights how the physical environment and geographic context in which people live deeply affect their health and wellbeing. She hopes to understand Butte’s conditions of food insecurity today, how they are related to post-industrial decline, and the history of response and intervention in the problem. With the generous support of the Ridge Scholarship, she looks forward to being able to spend more time in Butte this summer learning, exploring, and helping in all the ways that she can!