New Food Policy Research Center to inform policy through science
Faculty and staff members of four University of Minnesota schools and colleges have joined together to create an all-university Food Policy Research Center (FPRC). The effort is designed to provide policymakers and consumers a better, more complete, and holistic view of food policy options through the examination of scientific data and existing policy information.
Led by University of Minnesota professor Will Hueston, the FPRC is comprised of food policy experts from the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, Humphrey School of Public Affairs, and School of Public Health.
Within the FPRC, these experts will capitalize on their combined perspectives to analyze food and nutrition policies affecting farmers, food processors, and consumers while leveraging initiatives in health and sustainability.
“Analysts tend to look at food policy from one angle – the angle that represents their individual expertise – and it’s hard to see anything else,” said Hueston. “As integrated policy research teams, we’ll be working together from all sides to form a more holistic review of food and nutrition policy.”
Informing policymakers and consumers is top goal
The primary goal of the FPRC is to better inform policymakers and consumers of the effects and trade-offs associated with local and national food policy including legislation and regulations. Pulling together current science and expertise from across the University of Minnesota will allow the FPRC to help inform and develop a more robust analysis of policy, while also strengthening educational programs related to food and nutrition policy.
“We want to impact policymakers at the capital and consumers in the kitchen,” said Hueston. “Our findings will impact complex policy decisions by lawmakers and shed light on the confusion people face when making food decisions for their families.”
To support the effort, the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences will provide background on food production and processing issues, the College of Veterinary Medicine will lend expertise on food safety issues involving animal and animal products, the Humphrey School of Public Affairs will provide input on how society manages food-related policies, and the School of Public Health will focus on consumer health.
From this combined knowledge base, integrated faculty and staff policy research teams will assess food and nutrition policy issues ranging from the school lunch program and food processing technology to trade agreements and the impacts of farming practices on the environment and the economy.
To ensure this holistic approach continues, the FPRC’s education program will train the next generation of analysts to approach food policy from biological, public health, environmental, and economic perspectives.
“By exposing students from four University of Minnesota schools and colleges to the integrated efforts of the FPRC, they will be better prepared to work together to synthesize policy information,” said Hueston.
Governance and funding
The FPRC is funded by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, which also supports four other related centers: Center for Agricultural and Rural Development, Iowa State University; Center for Agricultural & Food Industrial Organization – Policy Research Group, University of Nebraska-Lincoln; National Agricultural and Rural Development Policy Center, Pennsylvania State University; and Partnership for Agricultural and Resource Policy Research, University of California, Davis, and Oregon State University.