Published on 11/16/16

UGA's Sustainable Food Systems Initiative awards third round of fellowships

By Merritt Melancon

The University of Georgia Sustainable Food Systems Initiative has awarded three interdisciplinary teams of faculty with the initiative’s third round of Sustainable Food Systems Fellowships.

In 2013, faculty representing several UGA colleges launched the Sustainable Food Systems Initiative, which recognizes that many of the problems facing the intersection of agricultural and natural ecology require interdisciplinary solutions.

One of the grand challenges facing humanity over the next 50 years is increasing the security and resiliency of the food systems,” said Liz Kramer, director of the Natural Resources Spatial Analysis Laboratory and of the Sustainable Food System Initiative. “Building sustainable food production, processing and distribution systems will require integrating a wide range of environmental, economic and social issues.”

These fellowships, which will be given to graduate students beginning in fall 2017, will be paid for by a grant from the USDA National Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA). This is the second NIFA grant that the initiative has received to fund its fellowships. Six master’s degree students have benefited from this program since 2013.

The initiative’s goal is to set up a collaborative framework to enable interdepartmental faculty to collaborate on questions of agricultural production, energy, water, the environment, economics, health, nutrition and social justice.

This year, the selection committee has selected three projects for funding:

  • Robert Bringolf, Warnell School of Forestry associate professor, and Nick Fuhrman, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences assistant professor, will develop a resource program for teaching farmers about sustainable aquaponics systems.
  • Chad Paton, College of Family and Consumer Sciences assistant professor, and Dave Hoisington, senior research scientist and director of the UGA-housed U.S. Feed the Future Peanut and Mycotoxin Innovation Lab, will investigate improving agricultural production methods of increasing vitamin A intake in sub-Saharan Africa.
  • Janani Rajbhandari-Thapa and Donglan Zhan, assistant professors in the College of Public Health’s Department of Health Policy and Management, and Melissa Hallow, assistant professor in the College of Engineering and CPH’s Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, will investigate and model the interaction between consumer behavior and food supply and how that relationship can help support a healthy and sustainable food system in Georgia.

“Since we received the initial grant that set up the Sustainable Food Systems Initiative, we have seen some very successful research projects and some very talented graduate students,” Kramer said. “I believe these projects are proving that the possibilities that come with collaborative research are worth leaving our silos and finding like-minded scientists across campus.”

The current NIFA grant will also help launch a new graduate certificate in Sustainable Food Systems, which is pending approval. The certificate will be housed in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

“We hope to use the certificate to expand interdisciplinary training in sustainable food systems beyond the fellowships and our monthly seminar series,” Kramer added. “In addition, we hope these new programs will help us to reach non-traditional and underrepresented students to explore new areas of interdisciplinary research.

For more information about UGA’s Sustainable Food Systems Initiative and past projects, visit

Merritt Melancon is a public relations manager with UGA's Terry College of Business and previously served as a public relations coordinator for the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and UGA Extension.

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