Addressing social-ecological problems through complex systems modeling
Laura Schmitt Olabisi: Michigan State University
Roland Ofori: University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
The world has come to grips with the devastating impact nature can have on human societies as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to limit our economic life. Aside from the COVID-19 outbreak, the world is facing existential challenges due to changing climatic conditions and degrading ecosystems. As the world is forced to accept the basic fact that economic systems are imbedded in the natural environment, knowledge of modeling social-ecological systems has become ever more important in assessing practical ways to achieve a sustainable, just world. This symposium will feature presentations of the diverse complex systems modeling tools for addressing some of the salient problems in ecological economics and social-ecological systems, both in the United States and around the world. For instance, it will include presentations on utilizing system dynamics and agent-based modeling to address sustainability problems in urban food systems, food waste, conservation, and renewable energy development. We will convene an in-person modeling symposium at Michigan State University during the USSEE conference.
MealSim: an agent-based model for evaluating the impacts of school meal policies and student dietary behaviors on food waste
Roland Ofori, Melissa Pflugh Prescott, Mayra Saenz Amaguaya, Shelly Palmer and Iulia Ciubotariu, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
Brenna Ellison, Purdue University
In the United States, about 30-40% of food is wasted annually, totaling some $218 billion in economic costs. Additionally, such a staggering level of waste has detrimental environmental consequences as the scarce resources used in producing the wasted food also go to waste. The National School Lunch Program (NSLP), a food and nutrition assistance program serving about 30 million PK-12 students, presents an opportunity to reduce the high economic and environmental cost of US food waste. Addressing the 14-31% food waste in the NSLP will require a systems approach that accounts for the complexity of school meal programs, a key missing component in the literature. Hence, we developed a conceptual model of the NSLP based on the relevant literature and predicted student food selection, consumption and waste behaviors using econometric models and data from cafeteria experiments to develop MealSim, a data-driven agent-based simulation model of the NSLP, in NetLogo. Based on initial validation results, MealSim has proven to be a useful decision-making tool to assist participating NSLP schools and researchers in identifying optimal school-specific meal policies to reduce food waste.