CSU research team gets $2 million to study Denver food systems

Rural Wealth Creation research team

Members of the Colorado State University Rural Wealth Creation research team

Colorado State University’s food systems research team has received $1 million in support from the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR), a nonprofit established through bipartisan congressional support in the 2014 Farm Bill. The $1 million award is being matched by several other organizations, for a total of $2 million in research funding for the CSU team to address today’s food and agriculture challenges.

FFAR logoThis interdisciplinary team was one of five selected for grants totaling $4.4 million from a FFAR program called Tipping Points. The program’s goal is increasing the nation’s understanding of regional and local food systems, and how targeted interventions can lead to change in communities’ health and food security.

The grant was awarded to a team led by Becca Jablonski, assistant professor in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics. Together, the team will evaluate the potential for Denver- based food policies and initiatives to support farmers, ranchers, regional communities and economies.

The research project will include compiling many sources of primary and secondary data to characterize producers, processors, retailers and consumer behavior in Colorado to build a computational model of the current food system and develop hypothetical intervention scenarios. The $1 million FFAR grant will help connect food security and access efforts with the agri-business, natural resources and economic development communities. This connection will take place through a tool that helps people understand tradeoffs associated with different food policies, programming and initiatives.

“Our team is very excited about the opportunity to leverage consumer interest in Colorado-grown, raised and processed products to support opportunities for improved farm and ranch viability, as well as regional economic development,” said Jablonski . “Through effective and well thought out urban food policies, we believe there are opportunities to support improved food access and food security outcomes, while creating new opportunities for ag businesses and regional community economic development.”

Increasing understanding of how different food systems influence one another will allow communities to develop sustainable, system-level transformations, say FFAR officials. Researchers funded through the Tipping Points program are expected to collaborate across multiple stakeholder groups.

“Multiple interventions working within a local food system have the potential to build upon one another to create a synergistic impact,” said Sally Rockey, executive director of FFAR. “The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research is pleased to support these research efforts to understand how we can bring disparate groups and resources together to deliver better health and promote sustainable transformations to our food systems.”

Other support

The competitive grant required applicants to secure funding to match the $1 million FFAR grant and leverage investments already spent on food and nutritional security programs.

CSU’s FFAR grant is being matched by Colorado Food Policy Network, Colorado Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association, Colorado Potato Advisory Committee, Colorado Wheat Research Foundation, Colorado State University Extension, the City and County of Denver, LiveWell Colorado, Denver Museum of Nature and Science, Denver Urban Gardens, Field to Market, IP3 and Kaiser Permanente.

“Colorado Potatoes is excited to be partnering in this grant. It will provide a better understanding of how Colorado potato producers could create improved relationships with local Colorado communities and provide healthy nutritious potatoes sustainably and with greater efficiency,” said Jim Ehrlich, executive director at the Colorado Potato Administrative Committee. “We work closely with Colorado State University on many research projects and are thrilled to have the opportunity to join the impressive group of partners involved with this grant.”

Learn more about research at Colorado State University.

Catalyst for Innovative Partnerships

The Rural Wealth Creation research initiative is a Catalyst for Innovative Partnerships (CIP) team, a program created by the CSU Office of the Vice President for Research. CIP teams are built on interdisciplinary science for solving complex problems.

Michael Carolan, professor of sociology and associate dean for research for the College of Liberal Arts is also a member of the research effort.

“Support from the Vice President for Research was the catalyst for our team’s ability to think through challenging issues related to food systems, as well as to galvanize agricultural and community partners throughout the state of Colorado,” said Carolan.

Working with researchers in a range of disciplines has allowed the team to find opportunities throughout the food system and to consider social, economic, health, environmental, and natural resource components. Jablonski said food system issues are larger than any one discipline can handle, and therefore, working together allows for a better evaluation of opportunities.

For more information about the team, visit foodsystems.colostate.edu.