What is “Food Systems”?

The production and distribution of food intersect with some of the most critical issues of our time: health and nutrition, poverty, energy, climate change, biodiversity, water, and labor. The world’s dominant food and agriculture systems are fraught by complex and urgent challenges, including pervasive hunger and malnutrition, as well as obesity, environmental degradation and emissions from farming activities, labor injustices, and extreme inequities in distribution of farm land and food access. Many initiatives and efforts have emerged in recent years, as attempts to address these persistent food-related problems, from local to global levels. Yet, the problems persist, and have escalated in some areas, often due to political and economic causes. Achieving food security, justice, health, and sustainability in food systems, and equitable access to nutritious food, requires significant changes, ideas, and problem-solving by people and organizations in a wide variety of disciplines.

The Challenge

The aim of this category is to encourage the development of innovative solutions or approaches that address challenges in food systems, or that will result in progress or changes to support food security, sustainability and/or justice and health in food systems, and/or equitable access to nutritious food. Proposals may be aimed at campus based program, local/domestic issues or international efforts.

Examples of proposals include (but are not limited to) the following:

  • A public health prevention initiative that aims to improve children’s nutrition and health outcomes or address issues of hunger and/or obesity.
  • A technology or innovation that greatly reduces agriculture’s greenhouse gas emissions and promotes sustainable agricultural practices.
  • A public awareness campaign that highlights labor issues in food systems and aims to improve working conditions for farmworkers.
  • A project that aims to improve storage methods to reduce food loss and food waste for small-scale farmers in the developing world.


The “Food Systems” category is open to all matriculated students across the 10-campus University of California system, as well all matriculated students from Makerere University.

Multidisciplinary teams are strongly encouraged.   For additional information about general contest rules, timing and how to apply, please refer to the Contest Application Requirements.

Past Winners

Bahay Kubo - Gardens of Living Tradition (UC Berkeley)

Bahay Kubo – Gardens of Living Tradition (UC Berkeley)

Low Cost Scientific Data Drones for Enhanced Melon Productivity and Security (UC Merced)

Low Cost Scientific Data Drones for Enhanced Melon Productivity and Security (UC Merced)

Mulungwishi Fertilizer App (Texas A&M University)

Mulungwishi Fertilizer App (Texas A&M University)

More Winners


BFI_logo-copy_200pxBerkeley Food Institute
The Berkeley Food Institute works to catalyze and support transformative change in food systems, to promote diversity, justice, resilience, and health, from the local to the global.

Blum-Center-logoBlum Center for Developing Economies
The Blum Center links world-class faculty, inspiring new curriculum, and innovative technologies, services and business models to create real-world solutions for developing economies.

UCOP LogoUniversity of California, Office of the President
The Office of the President is the systemwide headquarters of the University of California, managing its fiscal and business operations, and supporting the academic and research missions across its campuses, labs and medical centers.

Artwork courtesy of Breakthroughs Magazine, UC Berkeley College of Natural Resources. Photographer: Annabelle Breakey; food stylist Heidi Gintner