Johnson & Wales University and the University of Rhode Island Awarded $270,000 Research Grant from U.S. Department of Agriculture

Story by JWU Media Relations , on Apr 8, 2022 12:40 PM


PROVIDENCE, R.I. — April 04, 2022 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Higher Education Challenge (HEC) grant program has awarded Johnson & Wales University (JWU) and the University of Rhode Island (URI) more than $270,000 in funding to support food systems research initiatives. The grant will create a Food Systems Faculty Research Fellowship program to strengthen multidisciplinary research experiences for faculty and undergraduate students at both institutions. 

“The funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and an innovative partnership with the University of Rhode Island will facilitate multi-institution research efforts that fruit real solutions to the problems that plague our regional food system,” said Jason Evans, Ph.D., dean of JWU’s College of Food Innovation & Technology (CFIT).  “From the social sciences to agro-ecology, aquaculture, culinary science and food entrepreneurship, new ideas from all disciplines will be required to create a food system that is more resilient and more beneficial to our communities.”

Food, agriculture and related industries are key economic drivers, representing over a $1.055 trillion contribution to the U.S. gross domestic product in 2020. As the demand for food innovation grows, so too does the need for academic research and in-depth exploration of the global food system. A foundational step toward addressing these needs occurred in fall 2021 through the launch of the College of Food Innovation & Technology (CFIT) at Johnson & Wales. CFITs interdisciplinary approach to food prepares students to forge new pathways to sustainable systems, food security, and more efficient food production and delivery systems.

Similarly, URI’s planned Agricultural Innovation & Entrepreneurship Campus will advance research opportunities in controlled environment agriculture. As a land and sea grant institution, URI has a long history in aquaculture and agricultural innovation. The Rhode Island Food Center at URI, a program of the URI Business Engagement Center in partnership with URI’s College of the Environment and Life Sciences and the URI College of Business, serves as a resource where members of the state food system can easily access URI’s agricultural resources, wider food expertise, researchers and students, as well as business support programs. This past January, URI hosted its sixth annual Rhode Island Food System Summit focused on food innovation through sustainable and regional partnerships.

Together, Johnson & Wales and URI’s partnership will further advance the next generation of food system research and industry professionals.

“This USDA funding will allow us to form faculty and undergraduate research teams offering students opportunities through URI’s Sustainable Food Systems programs – including those  agriculture programs that have grown from our land grant traditions as well as JWU’s world-renowned culinary expertise – a truly farm-to-fork experience,” said URI co-project director Becky Sartini, associate dean of academic programs in URI’s College of the Environment and Life Sciences. “We look forward to working together to help solve problems and move our region toward a food system that is more locally based, more sustainable, equitable, and more resilient.”

As part of the Food Systems Faculty Research Fellowship program, JWU and URI faculty are invited to submit proposals for one-year or two-year research projects. Throughout the three-year project term, the institutions will award at least eight (8) faculty research fellowships that provide forty (40) undergraduate students with research experiences. In addition, the research teams will develop food systems curriculum modules to help spur innovation and scholarship within higher education, industry and at the community level.

University faculty at JWU and URI interested in applying for a Food Systems Faculty Research Fellowship can contact dean Jason Evans at to learn more.