The interdisciplinary nature of food systems

Chloe Wingerter is funded by Rotary District 7090 in New York State in the USA to study for an MBA at the Said Business School at the University of Oxford in 2021-22.




I became interested in food systems from a public-health lens. Prior to pursuing an MBA graduate degree at the University of Oxford, I worked on several projects related to chronic disease, obesity, and food insecurity across the U.S. The few projects that really caught my attention were food-related, whether evaluating a regional food hub or a statewide healthy incentive program. However, the more I explored food systems, the more I saw the connections between food and the environment, local economies, and overall communities. The interdisciplinary nature of food systems, beyond just a health lens, led me on this path of exploring how we can create more diverse, resilient, and regional food systems.

While the expanse and magnitude of food systems means there are many leverage points and interventions, it can also be overwhelming. A food system runs the gamut from production, to processing, transporting, distributing, consumption, and waste. Where does one even begin and intervene? One process that has been gaining traction for those working in systems-thinking is the approach of mapping a system. This activity is the process of mapping all the actors, incentives, drivers, information flows, feedback loops, and other components that allow the participants to identify root causes of a system. Over the course of my year at Oxford, I am excited to engage in an MBA program and a university-wide program that will allow me to practice mapping a system. The Map the System competition, hosted by the Skoll Center for Social Entrepreneurship in the MBA program, is a competition for teams across various universities to map an issue that they are curious to explore further. The Interdisciplinary Food System Teaching and Learning, hosted by Oxford University, brings together students across all different disciplinaries and hosts workshops and learning sessions to better understand the complexities of a food system.

While untangling the complexities and challenges of a food system can be overwhelming, I also find hope and enthusiasm by learning new frameworks and approaches, meeting equally eager and curious peers, and planting new roots (pun intended!) for tackling the issues our current food systems, both locally and globally, face.