Food Ecosystems Scholar Community

We have a historic opportunity — and imperative need — to transform our food system.

How are we going to feed future generations? The way we eat is changing. We have to keep up with the new trends, and be ready for big challenges coming our way. 

The Pittsburgh region is rich with farmland, but we still rely heavily on outside resources. By building up our local food system, we can take control of the process — and improve it exponentially. 

Partnering with regional powerhouse Food21, this Scholar Community is transforming our region into a resilient, self-sustaining producer. We're advancing agricultural, engineering, health, and business techniques to equitably grow local food's economic impact. This encompasses our entire food system, from farm to store to your plate.

Audrey J. Murrell, acting dean of the University Honors College, was recently interviewed by WQED Multimedia for a new documentary on the topic of food insecurity. “Starved: Our Food Insecurity Crisis” examined and identified the causes of this societal problem—which has worsened during the pandemic—and affects 300,000 people in Western Pennsylvania.

A boundary-crossing approach

The food system is deeply embedded in our society, and impacts in every aspect of our living — so our academic approach has to be just as inclusive. To be successful, we need to draw from:  

  • Agriculture, engineering, environmental science
  • Data - Monitor the big-picture trends, in partnership with the Western PA Data Center
  • Business - Create new practices to make local food profitable, and shape marketing that appeals to the modern consumer 
  • Economics - Develop an equitable food economy 
  • Public health - Improve health outcomes and access to nutritional, fresh food
  • Inclusivity - Joining with the Berg Center for Ethics and Leadership, build solutions that are equitable and aligned with our values. 
  • Law & policy - Reshape the ways we address food issues
  • Humanities - Change the conversation around food
  • Urban planning and community development

And so much more. The scope of this Scholar Community's research is flexible, and goes where our discoveries lead us.