SLU researchers tackling problem of food shortage

ST. LOUIS – St. Louis University wants to be a top Jesuit university in the world. They are starting by taking on serious issues; one of them the local and global food shortage.

It’s estimated farmers will need to feed nearly 10 billion people by the year 2050, an increase in global food production of 60 to 100 percent, but with less land to farm.

“This is a place where great ideas come together,” said Ken Olliff, Vice President for Research at SLU. “We're one of the breadbaskets of the country and we have more Ph.D. plant scientists in St. Louis than anywhere in country.”

Olliff said most people have no idea the work that goes into growing or producing food. They also have no idea how many kids are hungry.

“There's something like 170,000 children who are in St. Louis, which we call ‘food insecure,’ they don’t have enough nutrition and food to thrive,” he said.

One thing we can be better with is our food waste. It's the number one source of landfill material. Around 95 percent of the food we throw away ends up in them. SLU wants to tackle this issue.

“I have heard the phrase that St. Louis needs two great research universities,” Olliff said. “This is an opportunity for us to put together our experts and bring region in for conversation on how best we can help.”

In addition to discussing the role water plays in agriculture and having enough drinking water, the summit is dealing with the vital role bees play in our environment and how good a job St. Louis is doing at recognizing that role.

“We have seen a massive bee failure around the world and, to state the obvious, bees are critical to agriculture because of the role they play in pollination,” Olliff said.