MU Students Take 3rd in Global Food Systems Dashboard Competition

University of Missouri students won third place at the Global Food Systems Dashboard Competition this fall. The students competed against not only other students, but various key stakeholders, including civil society workers, industry, NGO and policymakers, in food systems.

Mizzou students who were part of the winning teams included Delanie Vinzant, senior in biological sciences and economics; Brett Taylor, senior in biological engineering; Mercy Nani, PhD student in food science; Evann Twitchell, senior in journalism; Nevin Alexander, senior in biological engineering; and Sintha Santosa, graduate student in natural resources. Competition results were announced during the World Food Prize 2020 events.

The students were chosen from the Zero Hunger Challenge course designed by Kiruba Krishnaswamy, assistant professor of biomedical, biological and chemical engineering and food science. The challenge helps to bring students from multidisciplinary backgrounds together as a team to focus on food and nutrition security. During the course, the teams are formed to develop a research proposal to address the UN’s Sustainable Developments Goal 2: Zero Hunger.

Global Food Systems Dashboard

A total of four teams from the course participated in the competition this year. Out of the Mizzou teams, two teams won third place. The course is open to all students interested in food sustainability.

Students were challenged to compare three to four countries and analyze food system indicators, food system type, maternal and child malnutrition, and accessibility to sustainable nutritious food. They had to learn how to function in multidisciplinary teams while being open to diverse perspectives and approach, Krishnaswamy said. The competition helped improve scientific communication, innovation pitching, critical thinking, and transdisciplinary work.

“Once students graduate, most jobs require working with multidisciplinary teams,” she said. “Providing a safe and supportive platform for students to work in transdisciplinary teams before they graduate provides a unique skillset and experimental learning experience.”

The competition was introduced this year and the dashboard is useful for users to visualize information about the complex food systems across countries and regions. The dashboard has over 150 indicators covering various portions of the food system such as food productions, processing, distribution, food environments and more. It exists to support the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 2: Zero Hunger, which strives to eliminate malnutrition. This tool can be used by anyone interested or involved in the food system.

“We wanted to bring this experience to students at Mizzou,” said Krishnaswamy. With the support from Brady Deaton, chancellor emeritus of the University of Missouri, the Deaton Institute, deans and faculty from CAFNR, College of Engineering and the Honors College, the course was launched in Fall 2019.

“Students have made this a reality. The prize is a testimony for their passion and dedication towards food sustainability.”

The Food Systems Dashboard was developed by Johns Hopkins University and The Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition along with contributors from Harvard University, University of Michigan, Michigan State University and the UN Food Agriculture Organization (FAO). The winners were announced at the 2020 International Borlaug Dialogue at World Food Prize 2020.