The Innovation Institute for Food and Health and the Periodic Table of Food Initiative Announce New Project Supported by The Rockefeller Foundation to Improve Understanding of Agricultural Sustainability Practices on Human Health

Davis, California, 08 February, 2024 

The Innovation Institute for Food and Health (IIFH) at the University of California, Davis (UC Davis) announces a nearly $500,000 grant from The Rockefeller Foundation. With support from The Rockefeller Foundation, IIFH, the North American Center of Excellence for the Periodic Table of Food Initiative (PTFI), will leverage newly developed tools from the PTFI and robust life cycle analysis to comprehensively define how agricultural practices (e.g., conventional vs. regenerative) impact the molecular composition of foods, and further, people’s health and well-being. IIFH is a leading food and health research institute working with industry and academic partners to develop solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges in food and health. The Institute works on leading-edge research projects that can result in commercializable products and solutions.

Through this grant the IIFH, directed by Dr. Justin Siegel, seeks to develop a framework to design the most nutritious, delicious, and sustainable, protein-based meals on the planet. In collaboration with the USDA AI Institute for Next Generation Food Systems (AIFS), the IIFH has assembled a team of world-leading scientists including Dr. Keith Baar, Dr. Carlito Lebrilla, Dr. Edward “Ned” Spang, and Dr. Ilias Tagkopolous. This grant will help elucidate the relationship between the food we consume and our health and identify any relationship between agricultural sustainability practices and the nutritional profile of foods. IIFH seeks to deeply understand any potential tradeoffs between human and planetary health, to do so they will evaluate conventionally vs. regeneratively produced foods, conduct clinical trials, and life cycle analyses. This systems-wide approach will allow the IIFH to develop a comprehensive framework that will enable individuals and companies to produce desirable foods that maximize human and planetary health outcomes.

“The IIFH is committed to advancing research that can be translated into commercializable technologies to enable people to eat the foods they love without compromising on cultural preferences, planetary health, or overall personal well-being. This project is allowing us to digitize biology through comprehensive and quantitative molecular elucidation of our food which will allow our stakeholders to better understand and serve their customers. We are thrilled to be working with The Rockefeller Foundation and PTFI to march this important work forward,” said Justin Siegel, Director of the Innovation Institute for Food and Health.

The future of human and planetary health requires a transformation of the current global food systems to create sustainable, equitable, and resilient food systems that can deliver healthy and culturally accepted diets. Diet Related diseases, from undernutrition to obesity, are affecting the world population at increasingly alarming rates. Certain agricultural practices compromise the environment and natural resources that support food quality, security, and nutrition. To create equitable food options that support both human and environmental health, next generation production, processing, and distribution methods will be needed to optimize staple foods to deliver the health benefits we need.

“This work is directly supporting critical efforts to create a more regenerative, nutritious, and equitable food system by directly comparing the nutritional qualities and environmental impacts of regeneratively and conventionally produced foods, various protein sources, as well as whole grains and refined grains,” said Dr. John de la Parra, Director of the Global Food Portfolio at The Rockefeller Foundation. “We are so excited to award the IIFH this grant to develop scientific evidence for nutritious and regeneratively produced meals for the benefit of people and planet.”

With diet related diseases raging worldwide, a concentrated collaborative effort is required to identify and address the challenges faced by consumers and food system stakeholders. The PTFI is working with a globally inclusive network of partners to evaluate and log some of the world’s most commonly consumed foods into a publicly accessible database, with the ultimate goal of allowing everyone to build on this database.

“Our goal at the PTFI is to create a global commons of food biomolecular data that represents the edible biodiversity consumed by people across the planet,” said Selena Ahmed, Global Director of the PTFI.

The data being generated from projects like this, are further enabling the accessibility of information to drive innovation in the food system and allow stakeholders to deliver culturally desirable food products that maximize human and planetary health.


About Innovation Institute for Food and Health:

The Innovation Institute for Food and Health (IIFH) at the University of California, Davis (UC Davis) is a leading food and health research institute working with industry leaders and academic experts to find healthier ways to make the foods people love. The Institute is focused on creating a future where people can enjoy the foods they love, and those foods are both good for them and the planet.

About The Rockefeller Foundation:

The Rockefeller Foundation is a pioneering philanthropy built on collaborative partnerships at the frontiers of science, technology, and innovation that enable individuals, families, and communities to flourish. We make big bets to promote the well-being of humanity. Today, we are focused on advancing human opportunity and reversing the climate crisis by transforming systems in food, health, energy, and finance.

About Periodic Table of Food Initiative:

The Periodic Table of Food Initiative (PTFI) is a global effort to create a public database of the biochemical composition and function of the food we eat using the state-of-the-art mass spectrometry technologies and bioinformatics.

About USDA AI Institute for Next Generation Food Systems:

The USDA AI Institute for Next Generation Food Systems (AIFS) at the University of California, Davis (UC Davis) aims to solve the world’s biggest challenges to crop and food production facing our planet: ensuring a sustainable, nutritious, efficient, and safe food supply while mitigating the impacts of climate change.

Media Contacts:

Marissa Pickard, Innovation Institute for Food and Health, [email protected]

Ashley Chang, The Rockefeller Foundation, [email protected]