The Food Systems and Security Area of Excellence examines the means and infrastructure in which food is produced, processed, distributed, consumed, and recovered on local and global scales. The food system is often summarized as “farm to fork”. Attention is paid to food’s impact on the health of people and the planet. Creating sustainable and secure food systems is a vital step in solving the issues of hunger and climate change across the globe.

Why does this area of excellence matter in sustainability?

The Food Systems and Security area of excellence in SES matters because: Sustainable planning creates food systems that increase food security and access and enhance farm, community, and societal sustainability. Additionally, community engagement, governance, and intelligent decision making builds food sovereign communities. A systems approach to regional foodsheds helps to reduce food transportation chains, packaging, processing and to restore closed-loop systems through waste reduction. Communities can aim to transition from larger-scale, fossil fuel-oriented, mechanized, industrial agriculture toward more local, lower-input/lower-impact production methods. Furthermore, communities can aim to transition from meat-based toward plant/fungus-based diet, reducing ecological foodprint. Sustainable food systems analyze the inputs and outputs to create a food system that benefits or has minimal negative impact on the community, the farmer, available resources, and the economy.

Key Questions

  • How can a better understanding of the biology, ecology, and technology associated with farm practices improve agricultural sustainability?
  • How can local and regional food systems become more secure relative to climate change?
  • How can local and regional foodshed needs be met in geographic areas that do not have sufficient land, water, etc. resource and/or skilled workforce capacity?
  • What are the major obstacles to achieving greater waste-nutrient recycling in the food systems?
  • What are the major obstacles to achieving food sovereignty?


Wesley Autio (SSA), Sarah Berquist (SSA), Prasanta C Bhowmik (SSA), Elizabeth Brabec (LARP), Amanda Brown (SSA), Nicole Burton (SSA), Renee Ciulla (SSA), Jon Clements (SSA), Carey Clouse (LARP), Daniel Cooley (SSA), Andy Danylchuk (ECo), Lisa Depiano (SSA), Om Parkash Dhankher (SSA), Mark Hamin (LARP), Masoud Hashemi (SSA), Stephen Herbert (SSA), Adrian Jordaan (ECo), Isaac Larsen (GEO), Angela Madeiras (SSA), Elsa Petit (SSA), Jaime Pinero (SSA), Marybeth Rowland (SSA), Susan Scheufele (SSA), John Stoffolano (SSA), Sai Sree Uppala (SSA), Baoshan Xing (SSA)

For more details about our faculty, staff, and researchers engaged in this area, please visit the SES Food Systems and Security Directory page.

*Department of Environmental Conservation (ECo), Environmental Microbiology Group within the Department of Microbiology (Micro), Department of Geosciences (GEO), Department of Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning (LARP), Stockbridge School of Agriculture (SSA)


Project 1: Whole Harvest Project: Capturing more, utilizing more, feeding more people. 

Rachel Berggren, Sustainability Science Master Student

Contributors: UMass Auxiliary Enterprises Sustainability Department, UMass Amherst Dining, UMass Student Farm, UMass Sustainable Food and Farming Program, Westfield State Dining, HCC Dining, HCC Culinary Arts Program, GCC Farm and Food Systems, CISA

This project is a collaborative effort to design systems of communication between stakeholders in the region to develop a response to produce grown in the Pioneer Valley that is not entering the supply chain for a variety of reasons.  Contributors are seeking to understand farm food loss in the Pioneer Valley, and mechanisms through which institutions can provide a market for secondary produce as well as play a role in partnership development, education, workforce development and capacity building in the regional food system.

Project 2: The Impact of Climate Change on Agriculture: Harvard, Massachusetts. 

Daniel Cooley, Stockbridge School of Agriculture.

A collaborative project with the environmental consulting firm Harriman Associates, funded under the Commonwealth’s Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness Program by the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs. The addition of an agricultural component was new to state. A series of workshops engaged citizens of the town, and the product from the project was a 41 pp. report analyzing threats, and recommending actions for mitigation and adaptation.