Food@MSU announces first round of seed grant recipients

Two research groups receive up to $10,000 to carry out food and community-focused projects

Food@MSU is committed to supporting interdisciplinary approaches to food-related research. One way in which the initiative is growing in 2018 is to support researchers through a seed grant program funded in partnership by the Michigan State University (MSU) colleges of Agriculture and Natural Resources, and Arts and Letters. This seed grant program seeks to aid researchers in combining their different areas of expertise to find new approaches to solving complex real-world issues related to food and community.

Two research groups will be awarded grants of up to $10,000 to carry out food and community-focused projects that incorporate Food@MSU’s mission to explore important topics surrounding food, including its impact on human health, the planet and society.

The first grant awardee is “Improving Data-Driven Approaches to Michigan Food Security and Nutritional Health and Well-Being,” which brings together the team of Dawn Opel, assistant professor, MSU Department of Writing, Rhetoric, and American Cultures; Donnie J. Sackey, assistant professor of rhetoric and composition, Wayne State University; Dawn Contreras, director, MSU Extension health and nutrition programming; and Phillip Knight, executive director, Food Bank Council of Michigan.

"On behalf of Drs. Sackey, Contreras and Knight, we are thrilled to work with Food@MSU and community partners to bring together data initiatives currently underway at MSU Extension and the Food Bank Council of Michigan, as well as nonprofits throughout Michigan," said Opel. "This funding gives us an opportunity to research, test, and implement data-driven approaches for improved health and wellness of all Michiganders."

The second grant recipient is “Resilience in the Field: Urban Agriculture and Local Environmental Governance in the Greater Lansing Area.” The team for this project consists of Lissy Goralnik, assistant professor, MSU Department of Community Sustainability; Stephanie White, assistant professor, MSU Department of Community Sustainability, and city region food systems researcher, MSU Global Center for Food Systems Innovation; Zach Kaiser, assistant professor, MSU Department of Art, Art History, and Design; Zachary Piso, postdoctoral researcher, MSU Department of Community Sustainability; and Julie Lehman, manager, Greater Lansing Food Bank’s Garden Project.

"We’re thrilled to bridge arts, humanities and social science in ways that both celebrate and support the exciting things happening in the greater Lansing food system, including the work our community partner the Garden Project is facilitating in community gardens,” said Goralnik. “This is such a wonderful chance to explore opportunities for resilient governance and include diverse voices in the conversation.”

Both teams will work with Dr. Stephanie E. Vasko, managing director of the MSU Center for Interdisciplinarity and research coordinator for Food@MSU. Each team will have the opportunity to contribute to the initiative’s digital content, as well as events and programming.

“I am looking forward to working with both teams on their projects in my roles with Food@MSU and the MSU Center for Interdisciplinarity,” said Vasko. “It’s a really great time to be pursuing food research at MSU, and the collaboration between the College of Arts and Letters and the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources is to thank for that. Our new seed grant program will be the catalyst for transformative food work, both here at MSU and in our local communities, and hopefully then across Michigan.”

These grants are intended to drive interest in food-related research and community engagement within the Michigan State academic community, allowing university researchers and community partners to create innovative approaches to their projects and position themselves for larger funding opportunities.

The Food@MSU team is looking forward to helping support the current round of seed grant winners and providing additional grants in the future.

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