FSRG Members

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.

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

PhD (faculty advisor) is an Associate Professor in the Department of Anthropology, University of Colorado Denver. His research is focused on sustainable livelihoods and microfinance in Bolivia, dietary decision-making, and urban food systems and sustainability. His just-finished project examines the relationship between food security, access to health resources and participation in microfinance programs.   He has done research on medicinal plant use in Chiapas, Mexico, conducted a number of large scale evaluation projects, and a multi-year ethnographic study on the factors that influence diet and physical activity in the San Luis Valley of Colorado. His current research examines the the role of food justice in food security.


Krista Fuentes, MA Candidate, Dept. of Anthropology

Krista received her BA in Anthropology from the University of California, fuentesBerkeley. Krista grew up in California’s Central Valley, one of the world’s most productive agricultural regions. Most recently, Krista taught 6th grade math at a charter school located in the Denver metro area. This experience opened her eyes to the realities of child hunger, diet-related illness, and inaccessibility to quality healthy food. In addition to teaching math, she also taught an elective course on health and wellness. Her research will  examine who is benefiting from local food reform and who is left out. She has developed an acute concern for children’s nutritional health and desire to establish a better food-secure community. She believes a good place to begin evaluating this question is in public institutions, such as schools, hospitals, and universities.


Rebecca Hollmann, MS, Department of Integrated BiologyBECCA HOLLMANN

Becca is a third year Master’s Student in the department of Integrated Biology with the University of Colorado at Denver. She earned her Bachelor’s degree at the University of Denver in Ecology with minors in geography, chemistry and psychology. She is currently studying aquaponics as an alternative food production system and using life cycle assessment (LCA) in order to understand the potential sustainability aspects of adopting these systems. She currently works full time as an Electron Microscopy at Children’s Hospital of Colorado, where she works to diagnosis many diseases. She is hoping to foster excitement and research on this new food production system as a way for many people to produce sustainable, organic, nutritious and local vegetables and proteins.

Jasmin Velez, MA Candidate, Department of AnthropologyJasmin Pic

Jasmin is a Masters candidate in Medical Anthropology at the University of Colorado
Denver. Jasmin earned her Bachelor’s degree at Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania,
where she majored in Anthropology, minored in Psychology and concentrated in Family, Children, and Youth Development. Her interests include environmental sustainability, food justice, food security, and the politics of international food economies- in particular coffee. Her current research focuses on Puerto Rican coffee farmers and identity formation through production.

Liz Sweitzer, MA Candidate, Dept. of AnthropologyLiz Pic

Liz is a graduate student at The University of Colorado Denver in the Master of Anthropology program with a concentration in Medical Anthropology where she is studying how populations supplement their healthcare through physical and nutritional practices. Liz is particularly interested in the use of food and plant material as medicine, the cultural identity of food practices, and community identity through nutrition. She received her BA from University of North Carolina Asheville were she conducted an ethnographic study focused on decision making practices and governing structures within intentional communities.

Sasha Breger Bush, PhD Department of Political SciencesScreen Shot 2015-04-08 at 6.37.24 PM

Sasha Breger Bush is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Colorado Denver.
Sasha teaches and researches in the fields of international political economy, finance, development, and food and agriculture. Her first book, Derivatives and  Development: A Political Economy of Global Finance, Farming and Poverty, was published in 2012 by Palgrave-Macmillan.

Steve Fisher, PhD 

Steve Fisher

Steve has a bachelors in mechanical engineering from University of California Irvine, a masters in civil engineering from Stanford University, and 18 years of experience in civil engineering and environmental studies.He is currently co-chair of the Sustainability Committee of the Colorado Section of ASCE, and serves on ASCE’s national Committee on Sustainability (http://www.asce.org/sustainability). He is using life cycle assessment (LCA) to answer key sustainability questions to potentially guide policy decisions regarding urban vegetable production, and planning and spending of infrastructure. The LCA compares fresh vegetables grown conventionally (large scale commercial) with those grown in smaller, sub-acre settings similar to urban backyards (small scale).

Rebecca Blystone, MA Becky Blystone

Becky has a Masters Degree in Anthropology of Health and the Environment at the University of Colorado Denver. Becky earned her Bachelor’s degree at the University of Georgia, where she majored in Anthropology and Telecommunications.  Her interests lie in community health and engagement, urban food systems, food security, and food justice.

Becky worked for a property management company, participating in urban food garden construction on a number of multi-unit properties. Currently, Becky is working with UC Denver’s Food Systems Research  Group and the Mile High Business Alliance as a   research assistant.  Awarded a grant from the Colorado Trust, these groups are working towards building a sustainable, just, and prosperous local food system for Colorado. This unique partnership is facilitating a multi-step convening process of stakeholder engagement, network building, and problem-solving to establish a healthy and resilient food economy for Colorado.

In her work with the FSRG and MHBA, Becky aims to educate herself and others on the intricacies and dynamics of a robust local food economy and how participatory decision-making empowers individuals and communities. Furthermore, Becky seeks to document and understand the processes involved in developing and sustaining a local food economy. Becky hopes to provide a framework for other communities to address the obstacles they face in cultivating their own food system. Throughout this research, Becky strives to enable the health and happiness of communities by increasing their engagement with and access to fresh foods.

Kevin Darcy, PhD Candidate, Dept. of Anthropologykevindarcy
Kevin is a PhD student in the department of anthropology, at the University of Colorado Boulder. He is interested in how the food system impacts food security, nutrition, and the production and distribution of local foods.  In particular, he is interested in the ways in which people navigate the broader political, economic, and social structures in order to increase access of local, nutritious, and affordable food. Kevin plans to work  with vulnerable populations to increase food security and change perceptions about nutrition.

Allison Kent, MS 

Allison earned a Masters Degree in the School of Public Affairs at the University of Colorado Denver studying Public Administration. She is a recently returned Peace Corps volunteer who spent three years as a community health volunteer in a rural mountain village of Ecuador. It was there that she first starting working in the health and nutrition advocacy sector. Her interest in local food systems, sustainability, food security, and food justice has been fostered by her work as a research assistant in the Workshop on Policy Process Research at UC Denver. She is working with a team of professors and PhD students in investigating the United States Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Program (NOP) as it relates to the certification, inspection, and operation of organic farms. The team hopes to gain a better understanding of the perceived appropriateness and effectiveness of the NOP, and to learn more about how the NOP policy design impacts implementation.

Amy DePierre, MS, Environmental Sciences

Amy is working toward her MS in Environmental Science with the department of Geography and Environmental Sciences at the University of Colorado Denver. Amy earned her Bachelor’s Degree from the University ofAmy Depierre Nebraska, Lincoln where she researched and studied Psychology, with minors in Biology and English. Her current research interests involve urban agriculture, responsible residential design and thoughtful living.  Amy is the PR Coordinator for Associates  III Interior Design, a firm dedicated to creating custom environmentally friendly interiors for residential and hospitality clients, as well as the Managing Partner of City Mouse Garden, a 10 member multi-plot community supported agriculture project in Wheat Ridge, Colorado. In its second year, City Mouse Garden is focused on creating living garden classrooms to provide inspiration, sustenance and a nurturing gathering place. As a lab instructor for CU Denver’s Introduction to Environmental Science course, Amy enjoys the full circle of education and is in the process of fine tuning her thesis topic with the goal of graduating one day soon.

Jessica Cook, PhD

Jessica has a PhD in Health and Behavioral Sciences.  She is completing her dissertation research in Delhi, India as a 2013-2014 Fulbright-Nehru Research Fellow affiliated with the School of Human Ecology at Ambedkar University Delhi.  She holds a BLA/MLA in landscape architecture from The Pennsylvania State University and a BA in English: Creative Writing from West Virginia Wesleyan College.
Jessica Cook
Her broad research interest is the relationship between the built environment and health/behavior. She has been involved in research projects focused on understanding and measuring the impacts of neighborhood walkability and access to healthy food and parks on health status of residents in the United States. The majority of her research has involved youth, women, minority groups, and low-income communities.

Her dissertation research explores how social networks of a community of urban farmers in Delhi impact their livelihood adaptation strategies in response to urban development pressures.  Social equity and community engagement are essential components of sustainable urban planning and development but can be challenging to achieve.  This research will provide insight from the ground-up into how social dynamics within a community impact community engagement and empowerment.

Kate Oviatt, PhD Candidate, Dept. of Health and Behavioral SciencesOviatt

Kate is a fifth year PhD student in the Health and Behavioral Sciences program. She received both a BA and MA in anthropology, from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln and University of Colorado Denver, respectively. Kate’s research has primarily been focused on international agricultural practices. As part of her master’s program, Kate traveled to Ecuador to explore sustainable agricultural systems. For her master’s thesis she traveled to Bolivia, and worked with rural farmers to understand the effects of natural hazards on agriculture. Her most recent work has been with urban farmers in Delhi, India, looking at how livelihood practices interact with larger city processes. For her dissertation, Kate is going to work with urban farmers in Quito, Ecuador to explore how urban agriculture contributes to individual and collective empowerment.


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