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The field of food systems focuses on connections among food production, promotion of human health and well-being, and maintenance of the environment. Modern food systems provide unparalleled productivity but are accompanied by unacceptable levels of diet-related health problems, food-borne disease, hunger and agricultural pollution. Meanwhile solutions are critical within the next 40 years to discern how to provide more food without intensifying environmental damage and concurrently coping with climate change. The University of Vermont is uniquely positioned to address these concerns by generating knowledge through transdisciplinary teaching, research and outreach. Already, more than 100 faculty and 400 community partners are engaging with models and methods that show promise for revitalizing agriculture while improving people’s diet, protecting environmental quality, and creating economic opportunity. The following four integrative domains of transdisciplinary research are proposed to more comprehensively pursue the goal of healthier food systems: 1) food, culture and health; 2) energy and food; 3) policy, ecology and land use; and 4) regional food chains. A number of existing public and private resources will be leveraged in support of a food systems spire to: 1) immediately hire a Director and then purse philanthropy for an Endowed Chair in Regional Food Systems; 2) create four to eight faculty positions to address critical transdisciplinary food systems questions; 3) offer annual food systems research planning grants for faculty; 4) host biennial national symposia on food systems research and outreach; 5) establish a regional food systems advisory council to guide and review progress; and 6) launch a campus-wide initiative that links transdisciplinary food systems research with student engagement in all domains of campus life from dining halls to teaching gardens to capstone seminars. A transdisciplinary spire of excellence emphasizing regionally-scaled food systems will position the University of Vermont as a premier 21st century land-grant university.

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