Partnership will drive next level efforts to reduce hunger, food waste, barriers to food access, and food deserts
Image Credit: National Science Foundation
A University of Maryland team has been awarded $750K to address the complex and interconnected challenges of food and nutrition security here in Maryland. The award is part of an $11M investment through the National Science Foundation Convergence Accelerator program which brings together multi-disciplinary teams to seek solutions to national challenges.
Led by Stephanie Lansing, professor in UMD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (AGNR), the MD based team will create the Mid-Atlantic Food Resiliency Network (MFRN) in an effort to reduce hunger, food waste, barriers to food access, and food deserts. This unique convergence model will meld ideas, approaches, and technologies from a wide field of knowledge across the University of Maryland, including agriculture, business, engineering, information studies, and resident life. This network will be strengthened through an external partnership with the Prince George’s County Food Equity Council.
“Through support from the Convergence Accelerator, we aim to take our research around food and nutrition security to the next level,” Lansing said. “We will integrate many different parts and really hone in on the work that is being done across this spectrum at UMD, which we hope will result in a collaborative, convergence model that can make a real difference here in Maryland, with the ability to replicate throughout the Mid-Atlantic.”
The MFRN comprises Vanessa Frias-Martinez in UMD’s College of Information Studies who will focus on transportation and modeling; Caroline Boules in AGNR, who will help the group understand the needs within urban communities; Hee-Jung Song in AGNR, an expert in consumer-driven education and behavior change; Cheng Gong in UMD’s Clark School of Engineering who will develop quantum materials nanosensors to detect spoiled food and reduce food waste; Lisa Alexander in UMD’s Department of Resident Life, an expert in sustainability programs; Oliver Schlake, a clinical professor in UMD’s Robert H. Smith School of Business that teaches entrepreneurship and ideation; and Sydney Daigle from the Prince George’s County Food Equity Council. As the team leader, Lansing will focus on characterizing food waste and developing strategies to safely move it back into the market.
Phase 1 for the MFRN will focus on research, surveys, focus groups, and intensive stakeholder engagement to fully understand the Maryland landscape. During this phase, the team will develop a phase 2 proposal for next-step actions and participate in a formal pitch that, if funded, would lead to the development of tested models that integrate previously disparate efforts into an actionable program with prototypes and products that are user inspired and will provide avenues to sustain the efforts to increase food security beyond NSF support.
“The Convergence Accelerator is a relatively young NSF program, but our unique program model is focused on delivering tangible solutions to address societal and economic challenges,” said Douglas Maughan, Head of the NSF Convergence Accelerator program. “We are excited to have selected teams focused on developing use-inspired solutions to address complex societal and economic challenges.”