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K-State Today

March 12, 2015

Global Food Systems update: Research key to meeting future food needs

Submitted by Jeff Wichman

As a land-grant institution, Kansas State University has a long history of addressing hunger and malnutrition on various levels. In 2014, the university launched the Global Food Systems initiative to further focus on challenges associated with feeding an estimated 9.6 million people by the year 2050.

"The global food systems initiative isn't even a toddler yet but we're building on a very rich history and a great foundation of research that's been at the university for some time," said April Mason, Kansas State University's provost and senior vice president, who also is a food science and human nutrition professional. "Kansas State University, being a land-grant, is particularly aware of the importance of research, education and outreach that affects people's lives."

It is important that students and faculty have a broader view that their work is applicable to important strategic challenges of our world today, Mason said. "Kansas State wants to be known as making a difference in the lives of individuals across the globe."

History and location go a long way in explaining how and why the university created the Global Food Systems initiative.

"Kansas State University is centrally located in the heart of agriculture in the U.S.; it's what we do very well and it's an enormous emphasis at the university," said Karen Burg, vice president for research and professor of chemical engineering. "It's not new. It's always been part of the fabric of the university and we're choosing to highlight it."

Data indicates that the world's farmers will need to produce as much food by 2050 as we have produced in all the years before in order to feed the global population.

"I think this is something that we, as a land-grant university, need to be working on constantly and way into the future," Mason said. "This isn't a quick fix. It's going to take lots of different individuals and lots of different disciplines working together, but I don't see us solving the world food issue and then moving onto the next big global challenge quickly."

In early April, the university will announce recipients of the first-ever Global Food Systems innovation grants, which will provide up to $100,000 to faculty for multidisciplinary projects that support the global food system. A total of $500,000 will be awarded to support research on campus.

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