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Paul D. Larson, Maria Baranowski, Bob Parsons and Marjorie Bencz

Team led by Asper professor awarded funding to address food system issues

Supply chain, sustainability and nutrition perspectives used to study impact of COVID on food distribution

November 18, 2021 — 

Danone Institute North America, a not-for-profit established by Danone North America, recently announced the five winning teams of the “One Planet. One Health” Initiative – a grant program that promotes resilient and sustainable local food systems. Amongst the five winning proposals is the community-based project titled “Building a post-pandemic sustainable food system: Starting in Edmonton” proposed by Dr. Paul D. Larson, professor of supply chain management and Dr. Robert V. Parsons, sessional instructor, both from the Asper School of Business. This research team also includes Marjorie Bencz, CM, executive director, Edmonton’s Food Bank and Maria Baranowski, MSc, RD, dietitian consultant, Baranowski & Sons Nutrition. Marjorie was invested into the Order of Canada in 2006.

Selected from applicants across the United States and Canada, the 2021 grantees were awarded funding based on the innovation and impact of their projects in addressing the evolving food challenges that have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Each of the five teams receive $30,000 USD in grant funds to develop and execute their community-based projects that will benefit distinct communities in the U.S. and Canada.

The Larson-Parsons project merges supply chain, sustainability and nutrition perspectives to study the food distribution system during and after the pandemic. The purpose is to facilitate urgent movement toward more sustainable food logistics – supply chains that provide nutritionally balanced and culturally appropriate food while working to reduce carbon footprints, along with costs of food distribution.

“We are drilling down with special reference to nutrition. It is one thing to provide folks with sufficient calories, but we also want to look at the nutritional content of that food. We are lucky to have Marjorie and Maria on our team,” said Professor Larson. “In addition to nutrition, we are looking at the carbon footprint embedded in the food and at the cost, because these are non-profits and of course they have a limited budget. Our vision is: to play a small role in making the whole food-banking distribution proposition of higher nutritional quality, lower carbon footprint, and lower cost. That is the dream.”

In addition to the $30,000 in grant funding, the selected teams will participate in a week-long training session in Boulder, Colorado and workshops with Danone Institute North America leaders and partners over the next two years to support the development and implementation of their projects.

Larson and Parsons have also been awarded a $22,850 Partnership Engage Grants (PEG) COVID-19 Special Initiative grant from SSHRC for a complementary project, in partnership with Harvest Manitoba. For more details about these projects, contact Paul Larson by e-mail at paul [dot] larson [at] umanitoba [dot] ca.

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