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ASU alumna opens second community garden

View Source | November 2, 2018

Close-up of white cabbageAfter taking a class on health advocacy in fall 2017, Catherine Daem, now a graduate of Arizona State University's College of Health Solutions, wanted to find a solution to the Valley's local food deserts and swamps by becoming a community garden advocate.

This Saturday, she'll be opening her second community garden plot.

What sets Daem's project apart from other community gardens is the research and solution-oriented approach she has employed, as well as her efforts to involve her colleagues; Students, alumni and faculty will be clearing the plot and planting the garden. The impetus was a video she made last fall about food deserts and swamps in Mesa. It highlights the problem many of our communities experience and the effect on their health.

See Daem's video and read a Q&A about her project on ASU Now.

ASU researcher finds clues to bee survival

View Source | November 2, 2018

beekeeperAccording to new research done at Arizona State University, having the right bees "pick up the food" is how honeybees successfully exploit their environments so colonies thrive. Similar to bosses figuring out which of their employees are the most reliable, bees are excellent at distinguishing which of their comrades are best fit to perform each specific task for the hive

To make the most of their time, animals must decide which of their group members must go explore new places for a new source of food and who should stay at familiar places to collect resources. Bees do this by dividing the work between two groups of individuals: scouts for new places and recruits for the old ones.

Chelsea Cook is a postdoctoral researcher in the School of Life Sciences, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and the lead author on a new paper in the Journal of Animal Ecology about the newly discovered bee behavior. She says that due to a constant stream of information occurring within an environment, some are better than others at focusing on one task at a time.

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Sustainability scientist calls for careful oversight of environmental gene editing

View Source | November 1, 2018

James P. CollinsAround the world, scientists are solving serious issues using modern technology. Whether the solution is genetically modified, malaria-fighting mosquitoes or other gene editing technologies, Arizona State University sustainability scientist James P. Collins is calling for careful risk assessment.

Collins, the Virginia M. Ullman Professor of Natural History and the Environment at ASU's School of Life Sciences, co-authored a paper published in the journal "Science." The authors urgently encourage global governance to review new technologies on a a case-by-case basis — a decision-making process that must include the local communities that would feel the biggest and most immediate effects.

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ASU, UNSW students innovate to create zero waste

View Source | October 30, 2018

Three male ASU students standing and smilingStudents from opposite sides of the world found themselves competing on a unified front to create solutions to divert waste from landfills and drive new businesses.

A diverse group of 70 interdisciplinary students at Arizona State University and UNSW Sydney created teams at their respective universities as they took part in the inaugural PLuS Alliance Circular Economy ResourCE Hack. The innovation hack was designed to find zero-waste alternatives for transitioning to a circular economy. The winning team from each institution was then judged by an international panel of experts to determine an overall “world champion.”

The grand prize was awarded to ASU’s top team, Farmers’ Friend, composed of Jacob Bethem (PhD, sustainability), Andrew John De Los Santos (MS, sustainability) and Sudhanshu Biyani (MS, mechanical engineering). Their solution to reduce food waste involved developing an app connecting micro farmers in developing countries to consumers at places like schools, programs for the elderly, nongovernmental organizations or restaurants using a guaranteed pricing model. The team plans to apply for ASU Entrepreneurship + Innovation’s Venture Devils program in January.

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Biomimicry Center planting inspiration with seed exhibit

View Source | October 26, 2018

whirlybirdStill most widely associated with the invention of velcro, ASU researchers are walking the talk of biomimicry with a newly renovated office space and a new seed exhibit they hope will capture the imagination of innovators seeking solutions for complex human problems.

"Seeds continue to offer a bottomless design and engineering trove for many other innovations," said Heidi Fischer, assistant director at the Biomimicry Center. "We hope that our exhibition can provide new models for some of these innovations."

Titled “Designed to Move: Seeds that Float, Fly or Hitchhike through the Desert Southwest,” the exhibit, opening Oct. 30 in the Design School South Gallery on ASU's Tempe campus is offering viewers an extraordinary look at the beauty of desert seeds as captured through the macro photography lens of Taylor James, an alumni of ASU’s Masters of Fine Arts program.

How NAFTA is affecting the long-term viability of Mexico's water supply

View Source | October 26, 2018

A small fence separates the densely populated Tijuana, Mexico (right) from the United States in the Border Patrol's San Diego sectorRed-tailed hawks can live to be up to 20 years old. If a fledging had caught a thermal in 1994 and spent the next two decades aloft above the U.S.-Mexico border, it would have witnessed some startling changes:

Mexican border cities like Ciudad Juarez and Tijuana ballooning as thousands streamed north to work in maquiladora factories, assembling products like garage door openers to be sold in the U.S. and Canada. Farmland around American cities morphing into suburbs. Mexican land being turned into agricultural fields.

What would not be visible from the air is the depletion of Mexican groundwater to grow the fruits and vegetables sent north.

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The importance of African-Americans to the executive kitchen

View Source | October 8, 2018

Whitehouse KitchenAt an October 5 Food and Thought event sponsored by Arizona State University College of Health Solutions, Author Adrian Miller spoke about the importance of African-Americans to the executive kitchen. Miller, a James Beard Award winner, signed copies of his new book at the event, which also featured food tastings an an audience question-and-answer session.

Miller’s book, "The President’s Kitchen Cabinet: The Story of African-Americans Who Have Fed Our First Families, from the Washingtons to the Obamas," takes a look at some of the most pivotal characters in the White House’s kitchen history, some of which he spoke about at the event hosted by the ASU College of Health Solutions.

The reception also featured some of the recipes included in the book that were prepared for presidents and their families throughout history, including first lady Caroline Harrison’s deviled almonds and a baked macaroni and cheese that was served to Thomas Jefferson.

ASU sustainability scientist developing energy-saving solution for frozen-food storage

View Source | October 2, 2018

Four people in winter clothes hold ice cream inside large refrigerated buildingSometimes something sweet requires serious smarts.

Arizona State University sustainability scientist Kristen Parrish’s work focuses on integrating energy-efficiency methods into the design, construction and operational processes of buildings.

Robert Wang’s expertise in thermal science includes the applications of thermoelectricity, thermal-energy storage and phase-change materials and processes.

Together they are a formidable force in the quest for … well-preserved, quality ice cream.

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ASU researchers exploring how changes in snowpack impact water rights, policy

September 21, 2018

Snowy mountain with forestMountain snowpack is melting earlier, leaving water regulators searching for new approaches and farmers concerned about the risk to their crops. To help stakeholders find solutions, the U.S. Department of Agriculture on Thursday awarded $4.9 million to an interdisciplinary team of researchers from five institutions in three states, including Arizona State University.

Mountain snowpack and rainfall are the primary sources of water for the arid western United States, and water allocation rules determine how that water gets distributed among competing uses. But earlier melting of mountain snowpack is altering the timing of runoff, putting additional pressure on reservoirs to meet the needs of agricultural water rights holders.

Over the next five years, scientists from ASU will join researchers from the University of Nevada, Reno; Desert Research Institute; Colorado State University and Northern Arizona University to use a new $4.97 million grant from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture to explore different aspects of this issue:

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Reforms to US recreational fishing management could generate up to $1 billion in benefits

August 20, 2018

fishing boat sailing out during sunsetRecreational fishing is a culturally and economically important practice around the world. In the United States alone, more than 9.5 million anglers take 63 million fishing trips per year, providing food, leisure and connection to nature while creating opportunities for employment in coastal communities. These leisure trips also contribute to costly overfishing.

Worldwide reforms to fishery management practices could create valuable benefits to anglers and related sectors — benefits that could total one billion dollars in value annually in the U.S., according to a new paper out today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.

The study uses survey data from anglers who fish in the Gulf of Mexico to estimate the potential benefits of management reforms. The results showed that anglers preferred to choose when they could fish; longstanding frustrations over inflexible and shrinking seasons for recreational red snapper fishing in the Gulf of Mexico have fueled political debate and sparked contentious proposals in the region as well as in Congress.

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Former USDA deputy secretary named executive director of Swette Center for Sustainable Food Systems

View Source | August 20, 2018

Kathleen MerriganKathleen Merrigan, former U.S. Deputy Secretary of Agriculture and a leader in sustainable food systems, is the first executive director of the Swette Center for Sustainable Food Systems at Arizona State University. Merrigan also holds the position of the Kelly and Brian Swette Professor of Practice in Sustainable Food Systems with appointments in the School of Sustainability, College of Health Solutions and School of Public Affairs.

The Swette Center was announced in late 2017 after entrepreneurs Kelly and Brian Swette made a major gift to ASU to establish the center and an endowed scholarship. The foremost goal of the Swette Center is to educate the next generation of consumers and decision makers through the first Sustainable Food Systems degree program.

“We are fortunate to have Kathleen lead the center, and there isn't a better place to launch it than ASU,” said Kelly Swette. “There can no longer be an indifference to how and what we eat.”

DJ Donpasta mixes culture and cuisine at ASU

View Source | March 30, 2018

DJ DonpastaDJ Donpasta, also known as Daniele De Michele, is an Italian performance artist and food advocate whose studies in economics drove him to food justice and activism. He performed at ASU as part of a multi-day visit co-sponsored by the Food Systems Transformation Initiative, the School of International Letters and Cultures, the School of Sustainability, the Herberger Institute Enterprise and Entrepreneurship Programs, and Aramark.

For his performance during the "Food Systems & Beyond: Food Reconnection" celebration,  Donpasta prepared plant-based Italian recipes on the patio of Engrained while mixing vinyl and chatting with  ASU students, staff, and faculty about issues affecting global food systems.

“When you start to work with food you start to understand the more important thing is that food is political,” De Michele said. “Food is production in the field, food is the work of the people, food is the health of the child and you can’t think about food if you can’t think of the quality of life of the people.”

Food Systems director calls for lifestyle-wide behavior change for a more sustainable future

View Source | February 20, 2018

Chris WharChris Whartonton, director of the Food Systems Transformation Initiative, gives the latest KEDTalk hosted by ASU's Knowledge Enterprise Development. "We live in a world of wild, damaging, unsustainable excess," he says, and the solution requires a rapid, transformational response. By revealing what is hidden in plain sight, Wharton illuminates a path to health, wealth, happiness and sustainability through values-based behavior change.

Sci-fi can offer a window to our food future

View Source | February 1, 2018

The Minnesota DietThere are plenty of sci-fi stories set in post-apocalyptic scenarios where urban ruins crumble amid mass environmental destruction, and the remaining human communities struggle to find food, water and shelter. Charlie Jane Anders’ short sci-fi story “The Minnesota Diet” is different, and the Food Systems Transformation Initiative (FSTI) director Chris Wharton explains why in a special Future Tense article for Slate.

Anders’ story begins in fictional New Lincoln, a technologically advanced, future urban city seemingly well-insulated from agricultural vulnerabilities—until it isn’t.

Wharton says “The Minnesota Diet” offers opportunities for backcasting and reflection on our current behaviors when it comes to our food system. Anders’ story lends insight into more than just the technological efficiencies required for food production and delivery systems — it invites us to think critically about the choices we make right now with the resources we have today.

ASU Announces New Center in Sustainable Food Systems

View Source | December 7, 2017

Kelly and Brian SwetteWith the aim of finding better solutions to today's food-related challenges, Kelly and Brian Swette have made a major gift to establish the Swette Center for Sustainable Food Systems at Arizona State University.

The new center, housed within the School of Sustainability, will tackle food systems from a holistic standpoint, taking into consideration water and energy use, carbon footprint and nutrition – all with an emphasis on efficiency across the global supply chain. It will also offer the nation’s first degree in Sustainable Food Systems.

Explaining that the new center will accelerate and expand current efforts, Dean Christopher Boone said, "By combining ASU’s assets as a research powerhouse with the entrepreneurial spirit of our students and the expertise from external partners, these sustainable food systems solutions will have profound and positive implications for livelihoods, human health and ecosystem integrity."

Brian is a member of the Board of Directors of the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability at ASU, as well as an alumnus of the university. In 2012, he and Kelly launched Sweet Earth Natural Foods – a company that sells plant-based, natural and organic fare.

Growing a plant-based brand in the world of 'Big Food'

November 16, 2017

Kelly SwetteAccording to Kelly Swette, CEO of Sweet Earth Enlightened Foods, "The future of food is plant-based and the disruption has begun."

In a November 2017 interview with Nil Zacharias on his One Green Planet podcast #EatForThePlanet, Swette discusses her decision to sell Sweet Earth to food giant Nestlé. She also talks about her goal to make convenient, sustainable and healthy foods the new norm, and how best to market such foods.

Finding fulfillment through food choices

View Source | October 4, 2017

VeggiesWhat we put on our plates affects our overall health, from our individual bodies to the planet as a whole. Christopher Wharton – director of the Food Systems Transformation Initiative (FSTI) – and other researchers from the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability are studying the long-term effects of our diets on happiness, sustainability and ethics.

One ongoing FSTI study is examining food and fulfillment, gauging the motivators and barriers of adopting and maintaining plant-based diets. Though results are not yet in, researchers expect a correlation with long-term happiness because of the knowledge that there are positive health, environmental and other sustainability benefits to adopting a strictly or primarily plant-based diet.

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Agriculture in Arizona faces a warmer future

View Source | March 27, 2017

Rows of green lettuce in a fieldHow might climate change affect Arizona? A decrease in crop yields, for one thing, according to Andrew Berardy – a postdoctoral research associate with the Food Systems Transformation Initiative – and Senior Sustainability Scientist Mikhail Chester.

After studying the food-energy-water nexus that governs agriculture in Arizona, the pair found that the state's yields could drop more than 12 percent per 1 degree Celsius. This would have cascading effects – including more irrigation and increased food prices – that would be felt throughout the region.

In light of roll-backs in environmental protection by the Trump administration, Berardy and Chester advise that farmers upgrade to more efficient irrigation methods like drip irrigation. Their findings were published in IOP Science.

Seeds of opportunity: Are veterans the future of farming?

View Source | December 6, 2016

A group of men in uniform pose for the cameraAs the nation's farming population continues to age and retire without replacements, our shortage of farmers is more grave than ever. Meanwhile, thousands of military veterans are returning home seeking meaningful, peaceful employment.

In order to combat both of these issues, filmmaker Dulanie Ellis suggested veterans take over for retiring farmers – an idea explored in her documentary "Ground Operations: Battlefields to Farmfields."

Sydney Lines, coordinator of the Food Systems Transformation Initiative at ASU, hosted the film screening and subsequent panel discussion in downtown Phoenix. In an interview with ASU Now, Lines expresses her enthusiasm for the concept of veterans replacing retiring farmers. She notes not only the special skills veterans have to fill these rolls, but also the beneficial and therapeutic effects farming has on veterans returning home from war.

Dinner 2040 provides a taste of the future

View Source | November 14, 2016

Diners take notes while eating colorful meal outdoorsHosted by local, organic Maya's Farm in November 2016, Dinner 2040 was a meal served to spark conversation.

The charrette-style gathering – planned by sustainability scientist Joan McGregor with support from the Food Systems Transformation Initiative – put people from diverse backgrounds around the same table. While enjoying equitably-produced dishes, diners like academics, chefs, activists, legislators and others discussed key values related to food and how they can be better implemented going forward.

McGregor hopes that Dinner 2040 events will serve as a template for “future of food” workshops and dinners in communities across North America. She explores food-related values in detail in a October 2016 Thought Leader Series contribution titled "Putting Values on Our Plates."