The field of nutrition is rapidly evolving into a new paradigm characterized by the complex, adaptive, wicked challenges faced by food systems professionals. Systems approaches are required to manage the complex issues at the intersection of the food system, the environment, and human health. Despite these complex, interlinked challenges, nutrition research and training remain siloed. Given the current landscape of systems problems, new systems-based approaches to research and training are required. Similar to the nutrition ecology framework, these approaches are requisite to the successful management of the health, environmental, economic and societal implications based on complex food system actions. In that vein, this work provides a framework, along with examples of hands-on experiential learning opportunities within a nutrition graduate program focused on systems approaches in nutrition. This is demonstrated through interdisciplinary collaborations across the supply chain and food system. First, we seek to understand supply chain barriers to whole grain availability and access in restaurants. Then, we shift focus to the development of a new sustainable crop, pennycress. Here, we collaborate upstream in the supply chain with plant geneticists to identify genetic targets to improve the quality of raw materials. Then we collaborate with economists to model production economics. Overall, this approach mixes adapted socio-ecological, biological, and economic analyses to provide a more holistic perspective to food systems development. Then we discuss the role of the land grant university in developing sustainable food systems, and we discuss learnings from our interdisciplinary, systems training approach. Finally, based on the work as a whole, we provide recommendations regarding a three-step process to catalyze future systems approaches in nutrition.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. 2020. Major: Nutrition. Advisor: Len Marquart. 1 computer file (PDF); 280 pages.
Interdisciplinary, Cross-Supply Chain Approaches to Food Systems Improvement.
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