N.C. A&T’s Liang in $10M USDA-Funded Project to Examine Major Shocks to Food Systems

02/20/2023 College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences, Agribusiness, Applied Economics and Agriscience Education

EAST GREENSBORO, N.C. (Feb. 20, 2023) — A food systems professor at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University will play a key role in a major new interdisciplinary project to examine ways to make the nation’s food systems more resilient to significant disruptions.

Chyi Lyi “Kathleen” Liang, Ph.D., the W.K. Kellogg Distinguished Professor of Sustainable Agriculture in N.C. A&T’s College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences (CAES), is a co-principal investigator on the project that received $10 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The project, led by researchers at Michigan State University, seeks to build local and regional food systems that can withstand multiple simultaneous shocks from extreme weather, foodborne pathogens, diseases such as the COVID-19 pandemic, and other unforeseen and disruptive events that can lead to food scarcity and nutrition challenges.

Researchers will look for weaknesses in existing food systems from production to consumption and examine historic data to predict the interrelated and potentially cascading effects of shocks on the nation’s food supply and supply chains, especially among underserved populations who are already struggling with food and nutrition scarcity. Researchers will devise responses and mitigation strategies that account for food access, food equity, nutrition security and agricultural productivity. They also will develop outreach and extension materials to educate K-12 and postsecondary students, lawmakers and policy makers, businesses, the agricultural community, food consumers and other key stakeholders.

“We want to identify opportunities, challenges and gaps in the current food system and figure out solutions and approaches to make our food system stronger and more resilient,” said Liang, who also serves as co-director for the Center for Environmental Farming Systems. “Our goal is to be able to protect producers and consumers, prevent damage and help them recover as quickly as possible.”

Liang will develop computer simulation models that incorporate artificial intelligence to forecast the potential integrated social, economic and environmental effects of multiple concurrent shocks. The project will focus initially on creating a model for food systems in the Midwest, but Liang said the research team intends to expand its work to other regions of the country.

“Dr. Liang is a nationally recognized scholar who has done cutting-edge research into market and consumer behavior and developed a theoretical framework to re-envision effective food systems,” said Mohamed S. Ahmedna, Ph.D., CAES dean. “She brings many years of experience and a unique skill set to this project, and I’m confident she will be able to incorporate and integrate data from multiple fields to devise new solutions to a critical national issue.”

The five-year project received funding from the Sustainable Agricultural Systems program of the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture. A&T’s portion of the grant is $737,485 over five years.

Other institutions and organizations participating in this project are Indiana University, Purdue University, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Global Food and Ag Network, Mavin Global, Michigan Association of Secondary School Principals and the USDA Midwest Climate Hub.

Media Contact Information: llbernhardt@ncat.edu

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