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American University, CAS Faculty Lead NSF-Funded National Research Network to Address the Challenge of Reducing Wasted Food

$15 million National Science Foundation grant to develop data and solutions for businesses, policymakers, and consumers

Community garden in Baltimore, one of the cities where research will be conducted

As the US moves toward an ambitious goal to significantly reduce food waste by 2030 American University is leading a $15 million, five-year project funded by the US National Science Foundation that will engage communities across the nation. The initiative represents the largest externally funded research grant in American University’s history.

"Food sustainability, climate change, health, justice... this crucial project, led by our own world-class faculty in the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS), brings together so many of the burning issues of our time," stated interim CAS Dean Max Paul Friedman.

Sauleh Siddiqui

In the US, 40 percent of all food produced is never eaten, resulting in lost resources, economic costs to businesses and households, decreased food security and negative climate impacts. “To make sustainable, long-term decisions about local, regional and national food systems, we need better data,” said Sauleh Siddiqui, associate professor of environmental science in CAS and principal investigator on the NSF grant. “Food encompasses health, culture, the environment, and the economy, and intersects with other systems, such as transportation, energy and water. We need to make connections between data from these different sources to improve our food systems and reduce wasted food.”

Under the grant, researchers from American University and 13 other institutions have established the first national academic research network on wasted food. The network will deepen understanding of how the causes of wasted food are interconnected and how they intersect with other regional systems beyond food. Researchers will take a systems approach to improving data on wasted food, with the goal of designing and strengthening sustainable solutions to reducing food waste.

Siddiqui will lead a team of co-principal investigators from across AU and with partners from Johns Hopkins University, Morgan State University, Ohio State University, and the Rochester Institute of Technology. Additionally, researchers from Maryland Institute College of Art, World Wildlife Fund, University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign, University of Albany, Louisiana State University, Pennington Biomedical Research Center, Illinois Institute of Technology, Duke University, and University of California-Davis are taking part.

Learn more about this ground-breaking initiative and read the full announcement.