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Agriculture and Food

A New Graduate Fellowship Focuses on the Global Reduction of Food Waste

Cal Poly’s Food Science and Nutrition Department has been awarded a nearly $250,000 grant through the United States Department of Agriculture’s National Needs and Postgraduate Fellowship Grants Program to focus on the conversion of agricultural and food waste challenges into opportunities.

The funding will be used over a four-year period to enroll six students in the master’s in agriculture program with a specialization in food science. The students’ coursework will be focused on global issues related to agricultural and food waste. The cross-disciplinary program will involve 11 faculty members from across the university, including food science and nutrition, industrial packaging, animal science, and engineering. Food science Professor Stephanie Jung and Associate Professor Amanda Lathrop will oversee the program.

“This program will expose fellows to an array of academic, intellectual and global themes pertaining to food waste and the ways to overcome the challenges associated with it,” Jung said. “Students will address the economic, environmental and social burden of food waste.”

It is estimated that 40 percent of food produced in the U.S. is wasted each year. In 2015, the USDA launched the first-ever national food loss and waste goal, calling for a 50 percent reduction in food waste by 2030.

“To meet those goals both nationally and outside the U.S., there will be an increased demand by the industry and governmental institutions for food scientists to implement solutions,” Jung said. “As it is now, there are limited training opportunities for food science students in this area. This program will provide the research needed to guide the food industry on possible alternatives to handling food waste and provide trained students with the leadership and technical skills needed to solve those challenges.”

The Cal Poly program will include a mandatory internship with key industry partners and leadership development through undergraduate mentoring and teaching opportunities.

Students with a bachelor’s degree in science such as food science, chemistry, biochemistry and engineering are encouraged to apply. Evaluation of candidates will begin immediately. A stipend of $18,000 per year for two years, plus partial tuition, will be awarded to the selected candidates.