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Accelerating Experience in Food Research, Education


By Kelly Hannigan, senior in agricultural communications and journalism

Global Food Systems Initiative gains momentum

The Global Food Systems Initiative, announced by Kansas State University President Kirk Schulz in January 2014, builds on the university's legacy of leadership in food production, food safety and food security. Through a concentrated universitywide research effort, Kansas State University is developing and commercializing new food technologies and innovations, building talent-based networks with the public and private sectors, and training the next generation of researchers for the state's workforce.

"The initiative is aimed at transforming lives toward a world where people no longer face the agony of extreme poverty, malnutrition and hunger," said Dirk Maier, professor of grain science and IGP Institute senior postharvest engineer.

Manhattan is quickly becoming a powerhouse for global food research as the home to the Kansas Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Center for Grain and Animal Health Research, the American Institute of Baking International and the current construction of the National Bio and Agro-defense Facility, or NBAF, all in or near the northern quadrant of the university's Manhattan campus.

"If we do this successfully, we can use the resources we already have on campus to meet our goals of educating others and helping industries improve their capabilities," said John Floros, dean of the College of Agriculture and director of K-State Research and Extension. "I want people to know that this is to help the public. We want to address industry problems of the global food system and make things better. This will provide an even bigger impact beyond our current goals."

The initiative covers the entirety of the food production cycle — from how food is grown, to how it is processed, transported, stored, packaged, marketed and consumed. It also involves every department at the university, including those that study family issues, nutrition, business, health, biology, the environment and more.

"This effort should lead toward Kansas State University becoming the place you go if you want to improve your food system capabilities or to learn more about the global food system," Floros said.

In spring 2015, the university awarded $500,000 in grants to faculty members for research related to the Global Food Systems Initiative. Funding was awarded to nine projects that are multidisciplinary approaches to addressing needs in the global food system and helping create jobs and wealth for the state.

"It is our job to address food system issues for Kansas producers. But when we address items for Kansas, the solution also can be applied globally," Floros said. "Ultimately, this will help Kansas today and tomorrow. This is what we have done since we began as a land-grant university, and this is what we will continue to do. Together, we will innovate the next breakthrough."