Jun 25, 2024

Rodriguez awarded Fulbright U.S. Scholar Award to Canada

Mary Rodriguez awarded a Fulbright U.S. Scholar Award.

Mary T. Rodriguez, associate professor, Department of Agricultural Communication, Education, and Leadership, College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences, has been awarded a Fulbright U.S. Scholar Award to research “Enhancing household and community resilience – advancing efforts for sustainable agri-food systems” in Canada from August – December 2024. Rodriguez will conduct community-engaged research with collaborators at the University of Alberta to develop a tool to measure resilience of the most vulnerable groups along the food system and then learn how to strengthen the systems around the groups to provide sustainable interventions and drive systemic change.

“As a Fulbright Canada Research Chair, I will partner with local collaborators (scholars, community members, and local organizations) to co-design a mixed methods case study aimed to explore household and community resilience in the context of the food system. Over the past several years, we have seen a dire need for more sustainable and resilient agri-food systems. Emerging issues such as COVID, climate change, changes in population, etc., have challenged the ability of our agri-food systems to provide our communities with food access and availability. This affects every sector of our population; however, it disproportionately affects our most marginalized communities,” Rodriguez explains.

Both Canada and the United States are striving to develop more resilience in all aspects of the agri-food system from the producer to the consumer. Traditional food insecurity programs tend to focus primarily on production, seeking to directly impact the amount of food produced. However, this approach does not consider the complexities of the household and the communities that are most at risk. Food systems, communities, and household are all complex, adaptive systems. They are made up of other integrated systems, respond to changes in homeostasis, and their complexity creates challenges that addressing one change, causes multiple effects. Therefore, increasing resilience in households and communities is a method to further address another additional aspect of a more sustainable food system.

“Our research focuses on community perceptions of their own resilience to the changes in the agri-food system. Allowing for a contextual definition of resilience will impact the way we measure and support its development within the households and communities. Furthermore, by co-creating and driving development, the community can adapt the initiatives directly to the work they need for their own community needs,” Rodriguez notes

With changes in climate, increases in extreme weather events, market volatility, and other societal issues impacting food production, building producer’s resilience to threats would enhance food system sustainability.

“This Fulbright research will help further strengthen our ability to address the challenges facing the people within the food system. Producers are not the only stakeholders that are affected by shocks to agriculture, forestry, and fisheries. Consumers also need to become more resilient to withstand the unpredictable effects on the food system for which many are underprepared to deal with. Resilience is therefore central to increasing the sustainability of the entire food system,” Rodriguez reports.

With the goal of moving towards a more sustainable food system, Rodriguez believes a systems approach is necessary. “This approach can be a useful tool to explore the impact and power that people can have in issues related to food systems. Applying a systems approach to agri-food systems pushes back against reductionist views of agricultural issues and instead includes the many components within the food system: social, cultural, economic, and environmental drivers.”

Fulbright Program

For more information about the Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program, visit or contact Joanna Kukielka-Blaser.