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From left, Soojin Jun, Kacie Ho and Yong Li

The University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources (CTAHR) was awarded a National Needs Fellowship Program grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

CTAHR’s Kacie Ho, Soojin Jun and Yong Li will use the funds from the grant to recruit six new graduate students—particularly those from Native Hawaiian, Native American and Alaska native backgrounds—to the MS in food science program in CTAHR’s Department of Human Nutrition, Food and Animal Sciences. The recruited students will develop their teaching and leadership skills through student-centered training opportunities. They will also receive advanced training in food science research.

“In order to strengthen the food system and bolster our local food industries in Hawaiʻi, we need to foster and develop the next generation of experts and leaders in food safety, food processing and food chemistry,” said Ho. “These are the people we need to ensure the safety, quality and nutritional density of the foods we grow, process and eat in our state.”

Native Hawaiians are disproportionately affected by food insecurity and other issues in the food system. Yet, they and other Indigenous people are currently underrepresented in the food science workforce.

“We want to make a specific effort to recruit and empower our talented Native Hawaiian students, who might not have thought of getting a higher degree in food science,” said Ho. “We believe if we provide the opportunity, students will rise to the challenge, and will become the experts and leaders in our local and global food systems.”

The grant and overall project goal align with CTAHR‘s new strategic planning and vision, in regards to workforce development and its initiative toward a resilient and thriving food system. These have implications for health as the students will be engaging in advanced food science research to enhance the safety of foods, develop improved food-processing techniques to enhance the quality and nutrition of foods and study the impacts of certain food components on potential health outcomes.

“This grant will help strengthen our food science program and allow us to better develop the future talent we need in our workforce and to support Hawaiʻi’s food system,” said Ho.

For more, visit the CTAHR website.

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