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Kathleen Merrigan

Kathleen Merrigan

Executive Director, Swette Center for Sustainable Food Systems, Kelly and Brian Swette Professor of Sustainable Food Systems

Swette Center for Sustainable Food Systems
Arizona State University
800 S Cady Mall
Tempe, AZ 85281


  • Senior Global Futures Scientist, Julie Ann Wrigley Global Futures Laboratory
  • Executive Director, Swette Center for Sustainable Food Systems, Kelly and Brian Swette Professor of Sustainable Food Systems
  • Kelly and Brian Swette Professor of Practice in Sustainable Food Systems, School of Sustainability/College of Health Solutions/School of Public Affairs


Kathleen A. Merrigan is an expert in food and agriculture, celebrated by Time Magazine as one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World in 2010. Currently, she serves as the Kelly and Brian Swette Professor in the School of Sustainability and executive director of the Swette Center for Sustainable Food Systems at Arizona State University. From 2009 to 2013, Merrigan was deputy secretary and COO of the United States Department of Agriculture, where she led efforts to support local food systems. She is known for authoring the law establishing national standards for organic food and the federal definition of sustainable agriculture. Merrigan is a board member of Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture, Center for Climate and Energy Solutions and a Trustee of CIFOR and ICRAF. She is a partner in Astanor Ventures and an advisor to S2G Ventures, two firms investing in ag-tech innovation. Merrigan holds a PhD in Public Policy and Environmental Planning from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MPA from University of Texas at Austin, and BA from Williams College.


  • PhD, Environmental Planning and Policy, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Masters of Public Affairs, LBJ School, University of Texas
  • BA, English and Political Science, Williams College


Journal Articles

In Press

Colon-Ramos, U., A. A. Roess, K. Robien, P. D. Marghella, R. J. Waldman and K. A. Merrigan. Food distributed during federal disaster relief response in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria did not fully meet federal nutrition recommendations. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics DOI: 10.1016/j.jand.2019.03.015. (link )

Sandhu, H., A. Müller, P. Sukhdev, K. A. Merrigan, A. Tenkouano, P. Kumar, S. S. Hussain, W. Zhang, W. Pengue, B. Gemmill-Herren, M. W. Hamm, M. Tirado von der Pahlen, C. Obst, K. Sharma, H. Gundimeda, A. Markandya, P. May, G. Platais and J. Weigelt. The future of agriculture and food: Evaluating the holistic costs and benefits. The Anthropocene Review DOI: 10.1177/2053019619872808. (link )


Benton-Short, L. and K. A. Merrigan. 2016. Beyond interdisciplinary: How sustainability creates opportunities for pan-university efforts. Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences 6(2):387-398. DOI: 10.1007/s13412-015-0341-x. (link )


Merrigan, K., T. Griffin, P. Wilde, K. Robien, J. Goldberg and W. H. Dietz. 2015. Designing a sustainable diet. Science 350(6257):165-166. DOI: 10.1126/science.aab2031. (link )

Neff, R. A., K. A. Merrigan and D. Wallinga. 2015. A food systems approach to healthy food and agriculture policy. Health Affairs 34(11): 1908–1915. DOI: 10.1377/hlthaff.2015.0926. (link )

Book Chapters


Dietz, W. H., R. C. Brownson, C. E. Douglas, J. J. Dreyschuer, R. Z. Goetzel, S. L. Gortmaker, J. S. Marks, K. A. Merrigan, R. R. Pate, L. M. Powell and M. Story. 2017. Chronic disease prevention: Tobacco, physical activity, and nutrition for a healthy start. Pp. 111-134 In: Dzau, V. J., M. B. McClellan, J. M. McGinnis and E. M. Finkelman eds., Vital Directors for Health & Health Care: An Initiative of the National Academy of Medicine. National Academy of Medicine. Washington, DC. ISBN: 9781947103016. (link )

Kagan, A. and K. A. Merrigan. 2017. Advancing food equity through local and regional food systems. Pp. 79-92 In: Dumont, A., D. Davis, J. Wascalus, T. Cheeks Wilson, J. Barham and D. Tropp eds., Harvesting Opportunity: The Power of Regional Food System Investments. Federal Reserve Bank of St Louis and the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System. St Louis, MO. (link )

Conference Papers


Merrigan, K. A. 2015. Thinking over time: A 20-year perspective on biotech policy. Pp. 15-24 In: Thompson, G. A., S. E. Lipari and R. W. Hardy eds., NABC Report 27 -- Stewardship for the Sustainability of Genetically Engineering Crops: The Way Forward in Pest Management, Coexistence, and Trade. 27th Annual Conference of the North American Agricultural Biotechnology Council. Ithaca, NY.



Merrigan, K. A., E. G. Giraud and C. Greene. 2021. The Critical To-Do List for Organic Agriculture: 46 Recommendations for the President.. Swette Center for Sustainable Food Systems, Arizona State University. (link )



Schlosser, P., D. White, K. Merrigan, K. Lackner, G. Dirks, R. Aggarwal, N. Berman, C. Boone, H. Eakin, M. Laubichler, B. Sarda and S. van der Leeuw. 2019. Recognizing the urgency of our climate crisis: ASU Global Futures Laboratory response to the IPCC Special Report on Climate Change and Land [Editorial]. Retrieved from link


Merrigan, K. and E. Starmer. 2017. The making of a food movement [Editorial]. Retrieved from link


Glickman, D., J. Moseley, K. Merrigan and E. Simmons. 2016. Opinion: Elevate agriculture, food to a national priority [Editorial]. Retrieved from link

Glickman, D., J. Moseley, K. Merrigan and E. Simmons. 2016. We need a legal, stable agriculture workforce: How do we get there? [Editorial]. Retrieved from link


Merrigan, K. A. and T. Griffin. 2015. Building a case, over time, for adding sustainability to nutritional guidelines [Editorial]. Retrieved from link