Multiscale Modeling of the Food System Workshop

When:    Monday 27 April, 2015  - Thursday 30 April, 2015 
Where:    American Institute of Mathematics, San Jose, California

Organized by John Ingram and MCRN co-director Mary Lou Zeeman, this workshop-- sponsored by AIM and the NSF-- is devoted to developing a conceptual model of the U.S. food system, and elaborating a research agenda for continuing model development for world-wide analyses. Participating MCRNers include Sharon Alajajian, Marty Anderies, Hans Engler, Alanna Hoyer-Leitzel, Sarah Iams, Hans Kaper, Kate Meyer and Vanessa Schweizer.

With about 1 billion people hungry, 2 billion with insufficient nutrients and over 2 billion already overweight or obese, malnutrition is affecting the health outcomes of over half the global population. This workshop is therefore part of a larger-scale project to develop a hierarchy of models for food systems around the globe at multiple spatial and temporal levels. The overarching goal is to inform intervention strategies for improving sustainable food and nutrition security for all people.

The workshop brings mathematicians together with researchers and stakeholders from across the food system. The food system includes the entire set of activities by which calories and nutrients are grown and/or harvested, processed, packaged, retailed, prepared and eventually become the food we consume. The importance of transporting, storing and trading activities are also noted throughout the system.

The main topics for the workshop are:

- Mathematical enrichment of a participatory process designed to gather and map stakeholder perceptions and understanding of the food system.

- Development of a conceptual model of the food system as a whole, providing the structural overview and framework for building models with more detail.

- Identifying what data is needed to parametrize and test the models.

The workshop differs from typical conferences in some regards. Participants are invited to suggest open problems and questions before the workshop begins, and these are posted on the workshop website. These include specific problems on which there is hope of making some progress during the workshop, as well as more ambitious problems which may influence the future activity of the field. Lectures at the workshop are focused on familiarizing the participants with the background material leading up to specific problems, and the schedule includes discussion and parallel working sessions.

Note: The participants of the Multiscale Modeling of the Food System Workshop remain active via the MCRN's Food Systems Focus Group at


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