The Urban Design Lab (UDL), in collaboration with eight other institutions and the United States Department of Agriculture, has been awarded a $5 million, five-year Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) competitive grant (AFRI) from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). The project is titled “Enhancing Food Security in the Northeast With Regional Food Systems." NIFA identifies Global Food Security as one of its five societal challenge areas, which also include Childhood Obesity Prevention, Climate Change, Food Safety and Sustainable Bioenergy.
The UDL project will study whether greater reliance on regionally produced foods can improve food access and affordability for disadvantaged communities, while also benefiting farmers and others in the food supply chain. “The AFRI team includes some of the premiere food systems scientists and researchers in the Northeast," says Michael Conard, the UDL AFRI project director. “It is looking to develop strong team collaboration and a significant scientific contribution on regional food security.”
The project brings together researchers, educators, entrepreneurs and community leaders from the twelve-state Northeastern U.S. region. It is an ambitious, large-scale undertaking that will shed new light on how the food system can better serve all Americans. This project is a critical component of a far-reaching research effort underway at the UDL focusing on food systems and urbanization. "The unique perspective of the Urban Design Lab lends itself to this pioneering research in food systems," notes Richard Plunz, director of the UDL. "Traditional planning disciplines have tended to ignore food and agriculture as an integral to urban infrastructure. Now we have the opportunity to reconsider this basic component of modern urban life."
The UDL food systems research projects complement other fields of research related to climate change and green infrastructure, forming an interconnected network of innovative projects to rethink the form and function of cities in the 21st century.