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Fostering Research & Data Accessibility to Secure a Nutritious Food Supply for the Future

The Issue

While the rates of overweight and obesity are growing in low-, middle- and high-income countries due to overconsumption of calories and physical inactivity, persistent rates of micronutrient deficiencies exist across many populations. These growing public health challenges require unique interventions across many settings.

What We Are Doing

The Agriculture & Food Systems Institute is committed to improving nutrition and health through cross-disciplinary research. We have a particular focus on improving the accessibility of food composition and dietary intake data, open data, and methods harmonization.

Why It’s Important

Stakeholders — including farmers, supply chain actors, governments, and others across the food system — need data to make better informed decisions to ultimately benefit public health.

Program Staff

Rachel Melnick, Ph.D.
Rachel contributes to the development and implementation of AFSI’s current and future applied research and capacity building programs. She is responsible for developing strategies and budgets for these projects, identifying associated personnel requirements, and is accountable for ensuring the program/project meets its stated objectives. She also serves as liaison between AFSI management and staff, implementing partners, and other applicable parties.
Bhavneet Bajaj, Ph.D., PMP
Bhavneet contributes to the continued development and implementation of AFSI’s applied research and capacity building programs related to agricultural and other biotechnologies. Additionally, she manages AFSI’s highly acclaimed open access databases – the Crop Composition Database and the World Nutrient Databases for Dietary Studies. In these roles, she works closely with AFSI’s scientific staff and external partners to ensure that programs are science-focused, have broad participation from multiple sectors and disciplines, and are directed toward concrete and achievable outcomes.

Where We Operate

Collaborators & Partners

  • Crop Composition Working Group
  • International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)
  • University of Arkansas
  • University of Florida
  • University of Illinois
  • USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture
  • World Agricultural Economic and Environmental Services (WAEES)
  • Washington State University
Providing open access, high quality data resources for the agriculture and nutrition communities.

Programs

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Fruit & Vegetable Supply Chains

Improving Climate Adaptation & Mitigation Opportunities

The Agriculture & Food Systems Institute is co-leading a project that will help enhance the productivity, resilience, and sustainability of produce supply chains in the U.S.

LEARN MORE
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Crop Composition Database

Improving Overall Knowledge of Human Nutrition

Our Crop Composition Database is a curated, open resource that provides data on the natural variability of nutrients, anti-nutrients, and secondary metabolites in key crop species. These data can be applied to improve overall knowledge of human nutrition, to inform diets that promote the healthy growth of livestock, and improve food security and nutrition modeling.

VISIT DATABASE
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World Nutrient Databases for Dietary Studies

World Nutrient Databases for Dietary Studies

The Agriculture & Food Systems Institute has compiled a clearinghouse of national, regional, and international food composition databases and tables used for dietary assessments. This interactive, online resource is freely available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

VISIT DATABASE

Our Successes

Outcome

The burden of feeding a growing population while improving health outcomes has reinvigorated the exploration of fortification of staple commodities in many countries. While many commodities, such as wheat, have been successfully fortified and introduced into markets around the world, large scale implementation of rice fortification faces many roadblocks, including taste and consumer acceptability of fortified kernels and difficulty in entering highly fragmented value chains. To better understand the potential for rice fortification (with iron and possibly, additional micronutrients), the Agriculture & Food Systems Institute completed a desk study that focused on key considerations for rice fortification in Sub-Saharan Africa. The resulting report contains information about micronutrient health status, rice production and distribution systems, and potential partners in ten countries in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Outcome

Despite being commonplace today, climate-related food shocks are difficult to predict, and it is challenging to track their wider repercussions. It is widely agreed that the current trajectories of climate change and socioeconomic development will be punctuated by dangerous shocks and extreme event hazards affecting an exposed and vulnerable food system. Co-sponsored by the Agriculture & Food Systems Institute and organized by the Aspen Global Change Institute, the Next-Generation Food Shock Modeling workshop brought together climate, agriculture, health, nutrition, trade, security, and humanitarian aid expertise to advance next-generation tools and decision support systems, with a focus on understanding interactions among complex processes spanning multiple disciplines, systems, and scales.

Discussion topics included recent changes in the global food system, current and shifting probabilities of extreme climate hazards affecting agricultural regions, likely behaviors of key food system players to shocks, and the ramifications for society, including economics, land use, migration, dietary insufficiency, food insecurity, and malnutrition. Participants explored real-time monitoring, probabilistic scenarios, and near-term forecasting of climate shocks, including climate variability and climate changes, and their effects on the food system. The workshop also highlighted ways in which this integrated, multi-disciplinary, and action-oriented research may scale up scientific advances in service to society. A major goal was to develop a framework with elements that may be used for operational response and risk assessment, as well as the testing and prioritization of intervention strategies for food shock risk reduction.

Outcome

The Agriculture & Food Systems Institute and the World Bank’s Food and Agriculture Global Practice co-organized the scientific symposium: Protected Production of Fruits and Vegetables for Nutrition Security in Urban and Peri-Urban Environments at the World Bank in Washington, DC. The symposium explored how protected systems for fruit and vegetable production, which range from inexpensive, simple polytunnels to high-cost, high-technology production platforms, might offer viable alternatives to rainfed, open-field cultivation of these high value, nutritious crops. 

An impressive group of international experts shared information, data, and experiences that informed and challenged ideas about how protected cultivation, particularly in low- and middle-income countries, can be most effectively applied to ensure the production of these specialty crops under conditions of climate volatility and constrained natural resource availability. While protected cultivation may not be suitable to all climatic conditions, or all fruit and vegetable crops, both small-holder and higher-tech growers can improve both the quality and quantity of their harvests using techniques that have been researched and properly adapted to local circumstances.

Outcome

The Environment and Production Technology Division, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), and the Agriculture & Food Systems Institute co-organized the symposium Addressing Water Variability and Scarcity: The Role of Agricultural Research at IFPRI’s headquarters in Washington, DC. Presentations focused on new technologies that are being developed and/or applied to mitigate the impacts of water stress on agricultural productivity, as well as the enabling policy environment that is needed to ensure that water-related research and development efforts are effectively deployed and scaled up.

Discover

Publications

Mitigating Sustainability Tradeoffs as Global Fruit and Vegetable Systems Expand to Meet Dietary Recommendations
Environmental Research Letters | May 4, 2021

This paper examines three examples of important F&V—avocados, leafy greens, and tomatoes—to assess the global challenge of meeting dietary recommendations at affordable prices to consumers while sustaining producer livelihoods and minimizing environmental damage.

Climate Indicators for Agriculture
USDA Technical Bulletin | July 29, 2020

This report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture focuses on how agricultural systems are impacted by climate change and offers a list of 20 indicators that provide a broad look at what is happening across the country.

Towards a Multiscale Crop Modelling Framework for Climate Change Adaptation Assessment
Nature Plants | April 15, 2020

An advanced multiscale crop modelling framework will enable a gene-to-farm design of resilient and sustainable crop production systems under a changing climate at regional-to-global scales.

Protocol for US Fruit and Vegetable Crop Modeling
October 1, 2018

The goal of this protocol is to assess the climate change impact on fruit and vegetable production and potential adaptations, including possible shifts in production area in the United States.

Using ICT for remote sensing, crowdsourcing and big data to unlock the potential of agriculture data
World Bank | June 27, 2017

ICT in Agriculture, Updated Edition is the revised version of the popular ICT in Agriculture e-Sourcebook, first launched in 2011 and designed to support practitioners, decision makers, and development partners who work at the intersection of ICT and agriculture. Dr. Morven McLean, Agriculture & Food Systems Institute, was a co-author of Chapter 15: “Using ICT for remote sensing, crowdsourcing and big data to unlock the potential of agriculture data. This chapter features an innovative practice summary of the Crop Composition Database.

Feasibility Study of Iron Fortification of Rice in Sub-Saharan Africa
July 1, 2017

This report contains information on the current health situation, rice production and distribution systems, and potential partners in ten countries in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Crop Health and Its Global Impacts on the Components of Food Security
Food Security | March 17, 2017

This article attempts to develop a framework that would enable assessment of the impacts of plant diseases, referred collectively to as crop health, on food security via its components. Given the number of components and interactions at play, a systems modelling approach is required to address the functioning of food systems exposed to plant disease risks.

CQuest: Charting a Course for Climate Research in Agriculture Workshop Summary Report
December 1, 2016

This report contains a full session summary, participation and polling information, and the top research targets identified for US Agriculture during C-Quest: Charting a Course for Climate Research in Agriculture. It also includes research needs and polling results for each of the breakout topics.

Assessing Sustainable Nutrition Security: The Role of Food Systems
June 1, 2014

This working paper explores the key domains of sustainable nutrition security (SNS).

Nutrition and Health Promotion in Older Adults
Journals of Gerontology Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences | January 1, 2001

This article is part of a Special Issue supplement of Journals of Gerontology entitled “Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Quality of Life in Older Adults.”

Medical Evaluation of Overweight Children and Adolescents: Reports From Pediatricians, Pediatric Nurse Practitioners, and Registered Dietitians
Pediatrics | January 1, 2002

This article is part of a 2002 supplement in Pediatrics entitled “Treatment of Overweight Children and Adolescents: A Needs Assessment of the Health Practitioners.”

Management of Child and Adolescent Obesity: Attitudes, Barriers, Skills, and Training Needs among Health Care Practitioners
Pediatrics | January 1, 2002

This article is part of a 2002 supplement in Pediatrics entitled “Treatment of Overweight Children and Adolescents: A Needs Assessment of the Health Practitioners.”

Events

Search Resources

Biosafety Capacity Building
Environmental Risk Assessment
Sustainable Nutrition Security
Food and Feed Safety Assessment
Plant Biologicals for Sustainable Agriculture