Duke University announced a new center Monday to work on global food policy solutions with $5.9 million in grants.
The World Food Policy Center will be based at Duke’s Sanford School of Public Policy. The new push will be funded by $5 million from the Charlotte-based Duke Endowment, $600,000 from the William R. Kenan Jr. Charitable Trust and $300,000 from the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation.
The center will promote collaboration across different food research areas such as malnutrition, obesity, agriculture, climate change and safety issues related to contamination or bioterrorism.
The center’s reach will be both global and local. It will create a world food policy idea bank that will serve as a network for people to brainstorm. It will also focus its efforts on Durham, examining policies around food access, hunger and food waste in a city that has become known as a restaurant mecca. Duke plans to work with the city and county to try to create a model food system city, which might include a focus on child nutrition.
Kelly Brownell, dean of the Duke Sanford School of Public Policy, said there are players at Duke and outside Duke who could be involved in the new center.
“UNC has a world class school of public health with a number of outstanding people who study nutrition,” he said. “N.C. State has a very fine school of agriculture with many people interested in food policy. There are other resources in the Triangle area that make us probably unique in the country in having so much expertise in small geographic area around issues of food and food policy.”
Beyond the universities, RTI International and agribusinesses such as Bayer and Syngenta could be collaborators. Brownell said he envisions the center as a way to bridge different areas of research.
Universities are putting greater emphasis on questions of how to feed the growing global population and build sustainable food supplies. In 2015, the UN estimated the number of hungry people globally at 795 million, or one in nine people worldwide.
In May, a commission of the Association of Public Land-grant Universities issued a report on a coordinated approach to food and nutrition security, involving public research universities, governments, the private sector and non-governmental organizations.
The Challenge of Change Commission, led by N.C. State Chancellor Randy Woodson, identified seven challenges, such as increasing crop yields, creating equitable food systems and decreasing food waste through better distribution. It called for a number of steps, including better collaboration among researchers in different fields, more capacity for universities to help low-income countries and better use of technology and data or make production more sustainable and efficient.