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Food Systems Research Group

The University of Colorado Denver Food Systems Research Group is part of the National Science Foundation funded IGERT multidisciplinary doctoral training project on Sustainable Urban Infrastructure and its partner enterprise, the Center for Sustainable Infrastructure Systems (CSIS) at CU Denver.

We are a multidisciplinary team of students and faculty from engineering, social sciences, policy, and planning. The broad focus of the group is a research-driven examination of urban agriculture as part of the broader food system, as a significant contributor to feeding urban populations, and as a more sustainable approach than the current commodities driven system.

Current focus: The Colorado Food Systems Project


John Brett, PhD, Dept. of Anthropology (Faculty Advisor)

Rebecca Blystone, MS Candidate, Dept. of Anthropology

Jessica Cook, NSF IGERT PhD Fellow, 2013-2014 Fulbright-Nehru Scholar, Dept. of Health and Behavioral Sciences

Zachary Coventry, NSF IGERT PhD Fellow, Dept. of Environmental Engineering

Kevin Darcy, MS Candidate, Dept. of Anthropology

Amy DePierre, MS, Environmental Sciences

Steve Fisher, NSF IGERT PhD Fellow, Dept. of Civil Engineering

Krista Fuentes​, MS Candidate, Dept. of Anthropology

Allison Kent, MS Student, Dept. of Anthropology

Debbi Main, PhD, Dept. of Health and Behavioral Sciences (Faculty Advisor)

Kate Oviatt, NSF IGERT PhD Fellow, Dept. of Health and Behavioral Sciences

Current Research and Projects

Farming the City: Urban Agriculture Potential in the Denver Metro Area
Our current group research project examines the potential for sustainable urban agriculture as a contributor to the Denver metro area food supply.

A case study of urban agriculture: A life cycle assessment of vegetable production
For his dissertation research, IGERT PhD Fellow Steve Fisher is completing an LCA that compares fresh vegetables grown conventionally (large scale commercial) with those grown in smaller, sub-acre settings similar to urban backyards (small scale). Key impacts assessed are water use, fossil fuel use, land use change, emissions, employment, and soil organic carbon.

Urban Agriculture in Delhi, India
IGERT Trainees Jesse Cook and Kate Oviatt travelled to Delhi, India with faculty advisor John Brett during the summer of 2011. The goal of this project was to develop a detailed description of urban agriculture within and around Delhi. This project establishes a baseline understanding of the local context of urban agriculture in Delhi and how it functions as a sustainable livelihood strategy. Jessica has expanded on this pilot project in her dissertation research. Currently living in Dehli as a 2013-14 Fulbright-Nehru Scholar, she is exploring the relationship between social networks and farmers' livelihood strategies when faced with urban development and land scarcity. 

Taking Neighborhood Health to Heart: Exploring Environmental and Social Barriers to Healthy Eating
The goal of this project was to deepen our understanding of food environments by studying the relationship between dietary intake of fruits and vegetables and access to healthy, affordable food. This research project comes out of a larger community-based participatory research initiative designed to collect and disseminate ocal-level health data in five contiguous neighborhoods in northeastern Denver, Colorado.

2012, Cook, J., D. Guenther, E. Ross, S. Lockhart, and D. Main. Taking Neighborhood Health to Heart: Exploring Environmental and Social Barriers to Healthy Eating​. Poster presented at the Environmental Design Research Association 43rd Annual Meeting, Seattle, WA.

For more information about the Food Systems Research Group or to find out about when we meet, please contact John Brett at or 303-556-8497.

For current updates and highlights from our research, check out


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