September 23, 2014

Professors, Businesses Address Global Food Supply Issues

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Six food industry leaders and more than 60 faculty members have partnered with the newly established Cornell Institute of Food Systems to tackle issues regarding the global food supply over the past four months.

The Cornell Institute of Food Systems Industry Partnership Programs — which launched this summer — connects a wide range of Cornell students and faculty with businesses to create interdisciplinary solutions to problems in the food industry, according to a University press release.

According to Julie Stafford, industry liaison officer for the Industry Partnership Program, the new program seeks to utilize the skill sets of Cornellians and industry professionals to increase the safety and accessibility of the global food supply.

“The institute aims to foster solution-oriented scientific discoveries and advance technologies and strategies that will lead to a safer, more nutritious and more accessible global food supply,” Stafford said.

According to Stafford, the program was inspired by a large demand from the food industry as well as the interest of various Cornell faculty members from a wide range of academic departments — including Food Science, the Dyson School of Business and Biological and Civil and Environmental Engineering.

“Many challenges in the Food System are big and involve many disciplines,” Stafford said. “The institute is a place where different members of the system come together to develop new ideas and … it does not matter what discipline you actually have.”

The diversity of the experts affiliated with the program is what makes Cornell “uniquely” equipped to address these challenges, according to Stafford.

“Faculty [involved in the program] of different disciplines across the campus all share a passion for the Food System,” she said.

Faculty fellows partnered with the program are concentrating on issues within the food system that are aligned with their research interests, Stafford said.

Another faculty fellow — Prof. Oliver Gao, civil and environmental engineering — is addressing food issues related to public health and the industry’s infrastructure.

“We are examining the environmental and economic impact of localizing food supply chains like dairy supply in Northeast U.S.,” Gao said.

According to Stafford, the institute plans to grow by attracting more partners throughout the year.

“This is a year for grow, to get the word out, we have really just started,” Stafford said.

Industry partners who have already signed on include food and beverage company PepsiCo, International Food Network and E. & J. Gallo Winery, one of the world’s largest producers of wine.

According to Stafford, the institute is looking toward having Industry Partnership Program members convene at the Global Summit, the annual forum held at Cornell to discuss the potential effects of advanced technologies and scientific discoveries and continuing to develop the Cornell Institute of Food Systems.