Regional food system development bolstered by new university research, outreach initiative

There are few things more universal than the need to eat. Where communities get their food, how it is produced, and how people access it are among the issues that a new Michigan State University initiative will address.

The newly-established Michigan State University (MSU) Center for Regional Food Systems will bring together the applied research, education, and outreach expertise of faculty and staff at MSU to advance understanding of and engagement with regional food systems throughout Michigan, the United States and the world.  

The Center’s efforts will leverage the earlier work and partnerships of MSU’s former C.S. Mott Group for Sustainable Food Systems and the MSU Student Organic Farm, as the two organizations come together to create the center under the leadership of Michael W. Hamm, C.S. Mott professor of sustainable agriculture and MSU AgBioResearch scientist. 

“The center will build on MSU’s long history of fostering partnerships that link research with communities, as it aims to increase opportunities for farmers, consumers, and everyone in between to participate in a healthy, more regionalized food system,” said Hamm. “For us, a ‘region’ can be anything from a metropolitan area to a state to an area like the Great Lakes Region.”

AffiliatedMSU faculty and staff in agriculture, health and nutrition, economics, sociology and other disciplines will contribute their expertise to the center’s research, education and outreach on food systems issues from agricultural production and marketing techniques to healthy corner store initiatives in low-income areas. To date, the Center for Regional Food Systems has engaged more than 50 MSU faculty and staff from a dozen academic departments and five colleges, along with MSU AgBioResearch scientists and MSU Extension specialists as affiliates of the center.

“The center will positionMSU to take a leadership role in studying – and bolstering – regional, community-based food systems, within Michigan and around the world,” said Doug Buhler, interim dean for the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. “Regional food systems and locally grown food have direct implications for public health, security, and economies that we are committed to addressing.”  

The center will focus on:

  • Partnering across Michigan to advance the goals of the Michigan Good Food Charter.
  • Educating new generations to lead regional food systems research and practice.
  • Cultivating and supporting communities of practice around emerging regional food systems issues and opportunities.
  • Increasing the visibility of and access to MSU resources that support regional good food systems.
  • Expanding the resource base for regional food systems applied research, education and outreach.
  • Developing farmers and farms for regional food systems.
  • Expanding and coordinating engagement of MSU faculty and staff in interdisciplinary regional food systems applied research, education and outreach.

“These Michigan-based initiatives will complement and inform the work that MSU researchers are doing in other regions, nationally and internationally,” said Ian Gray, MSU vice president of Research and Graduate Studies. “We can be proud of the strong leadership role Michigan State University researchers have taken in studying and applying their knowledge to one of humanity’s most basic challenges.”

Funding to support the launch of the Center has been provided by MSU and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

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